Food Careers in Research & Development

While many ICE graduates will go on to command top kitchens across the globe, not all of us will be content stepping into restaurants and controlling the burners.

Last week’s Career Services seminar was added proof that jobs requiring trained chefs do exist outside of restaurant kitchens. From development at leading food supply companies to product creation at top brands, ICE alumni Einav Gefen (Culinary ’99), Susie Donnelly (Pastry ’05) and Tina Bourbeau (Culinary ’93/Management ‘01) introduced students to the many opportunities available in the fields of research and development. Gefen, a corporate chef at Unilever, summed up a mentality shared by all three speakers when she said, “there is life beyond restaurants.”

Institute of Culinary Education alumni

Formerly a culinary chef instructor at ICE, Gefen now works to develop and test new products at Unilever, which includes such brands as Bertoli, Ben & Jerry’s and Knor. She discussed “a whole different world that’s food-related” and highlighted the role of a chef in research and development to include brainstorming new products, creating the “gold standard” (the winning recipe) and acting as ambassadors of culinary quality between the kitchen and the boardroom.

Donnelly, now a product developer at Kraft/Nabisco, echoed Gefen’s beliefs about culinary career opportunities for chefs outside of restaurants, adding that entering the corporate world can actually “make you a better chef by exposing you to the aspect of food science.” And food science can be of particular practical use when it comes to switching from gas burners to microwaves. Bourbeau, who is director of research and development at Fresh Direct, is responsible for developing the brand’s 4-minute meals, which include microwavable entrees and sides from restaurants such as Tabla and Rosa Mexicano. “I deal with high-end restaurant chefs and trying to convince them it’s OK to microwave food,” Bourbeau said, referring to the unlikely mash-up of culinary gourmands and nuking food. Regardless of cooking styles, the culinary career paths of Gefen, Donnelly, and Bourbeau depict the growing opportunities available for trained chefs in the research and development fields. Stay tuned for info on future career seminars or visit Career Services for the latest updates on employment after ICE.

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