If you have ever dined in a chain restaurant like Boston Pizza or Mcdonalds you might have noticed that these restaurants have the same menu throughout the chains. Every once and a while a new featured item will come to light but who are the individuals who develop these recipes?
Today FoodGrads is exploring another unique profession in the realm of research and development. We are giving you the facts behind Research Chefs and how they combine their culinary knowledge with food science.
Research Chefs perform research and development
Research chefs are individuals that:
Formulate and test new products for restaurant chains, coffee shops, food manufacturing companies and many other places. They combine their culinary training with their knowledge of food science. Research chefs develop new formulas by experimenting with dishes and scaling them up. Sources of inspiration come from consumer testing, industry trends and world travelling. Furthermore, they are trained in sensory analysis so that they can adjust the flavours in a recipe in just the right way.
Overall, research chefs are responsible for creating new and exciting dishes that consumers will enjoy
2. Research Chefs follow trends
Being able to follow trends is an integral part of a research chef’s job. This is because consumer trends dictate what dishes will be popular enough to sell. Research chefs read culinary magazines, cookbooks and follow social media outlets like Instagram. For example, an expected food trend for 2018 according to the Campbell’s Culinary Trendscape is beverages that include ginger, matcha and turmeric. A research chef might develop a turmeric based beverage to serve at restaurant chains across the country.
3. Research Chefs have test kitchens
Research chefs cook in test kitchens similar to those in the home but a little more scientific. These test kitchens are equipped with scientific tools like rheometers and water activity meters. These tools help research chefs to create reproducible dishes. It is essential that dishes can be recreated through out restaurant chains as it is a key to success.
4. Research Chefs work with a lot of departments
Research chefs are unable to perform their jobs alone, they rely on quality control for food safety matters, sales to determine the financial stability of the product and marketing to know if the dish follows market trends. They spend a lot of their time talking with these departments to make sure their dishes are successful. Furthermore, they may travel to restaurants to ensure that the vision of their dishes is correctly being prepared in restaurants.
Additionally, research chefs need to be trained in HACCP/PC as this help to remove bumps that might arise in the development practice. This understanding and knowledge is advantageous because it lowers the reliance in constantly speaking to quality.
5. Research Chefs generally need experience
Research chefs are slightly different than your traditional food scientists because they combine their science education with culinary training. Some of these individuals first work in professional kitchen, working their way up the ranks. They begin in lower positions like line cooks or station chefs and work their way up to higher level positions. These chefs eventually get to a position where they help to develop the items of menu.
Using this knowledge they are able to make the transition to research and development positions which require experience in the kitchen. However, some research chefs have bachelor degree’s in chemistry, nutrition, or food science. Alternatively, some research chefs have formal culinary training from a school accredited by the American Culinary Federation.
6. Research Chefs can join an association
Although it is not required some research chefs obtain certifications with the Research Chef Association. In order to become certified candidates must have a sufficient amount of food service experience and R&D experience. Furthermore, they are required to have a sufficient amount of education and pass the CRC validation exam (over 80% passing score).
Students interested in learning more about research chefs can look into the Research Chefs Association. They offer membership options and even have a blog where students can contribute.
7. Research Chefs need to understand clients
Many research chefs work with clients or customers to develop particular recipes. For example, a client may come to a research chef asking to make a portable lemon cake for a restaurant chain. Sometimes it is difficult for clients to articulate what it is they want due to lack of formal training. That is why research chefs need to have intuition and high-levels of communications with customers.
Furthermore, research chefs needs to understand the production capabilities of the restaurants and production facilities they will be developing food for. For example, a research chef may have the idea to develop a jelly filled dessert but upon further research they discover that the process is highly labour intensive . Although an idea might good on paper they have to take into account other factors and understand when it is time to move away from the idea.
8.Research Chefs have these skills
- Observant- Research chefs need to be observant to food trends that are occurring throughout the industry. They also need to be observant in all their actions, writing down everything they do is an important first step. Keeping an eye for the details helps to streamline their work.
- Creativity- Being creative is not the easiest thing to do but it is an essential skill for research chefs. They are able to take small risks in attempts to create the next successful menu item.
- Solid Culinary Knowledge- Research chefs need to have a strong foundation of culinary knowledge. They also need to understand flavors and textures in a variety of cuisines.
Additional skills which are just as important include tenacity, being detail oriented and problem solving abilities.
Author: Veronica Hislop – Veronica is a Chemistry student studying at Ryerson University and loves looking at the science in the kitchen. She is currently on a path to find her place in the food manufacturing industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavors you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.
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