Editor’s Note: This special feature focuses on professional chefs from various facets of the foodservice industry. Culinarians answer questions delving into their views of current foodservice developments and how culinary students can obtain positions within different industries. Introduce your students to a plethora of foodservice career options. Click here to view the previous profiles.
In what foodservice area do you work?
Culinary research and development for Rubix Foods, a flavor and ingredient company. As a Research Chef, I am responsible for the culinary application of our products and for creating on-trend concepts. I spend a lot of time researching industry trends that I then communicate to the culinary and innovation teams so we can collectively identify problems and opportunities in the marketplace. These findings serve as a guide to the development of unique applications using our products and a basis for our ideation on future products or platforms that feed consumer demands. Additionally, I partner with the sales team in product presentations with customers and represent Rubix Foods at trade shows.
Where do you see the foodservice manufacturing industry in five years?
COVID accelerated changes in the foodservice industry. Concepts that may have been three to five years out are here today. I see concept development happening specifically for delivery as well as products that make back-of-house cooking easier for a varied skilled-labor market. We will see more automation come forward as well.
Describe two current foodservice manufacturing trends you are seeing today.
Comfort food classics and plant-based products.
What steps would you advise culinary graduates to take in securing a position in today's foodservice market?
There are so many open restaurant positions that you shouldn’t have a problem securing a job. However, you’re all going to be graduating with the same degree so it’s important to diversify yourself. If you want to land a great job, you need an education, experience in the industry, and connections. Put yourself out there and ask if you can spend a day or week working in a kitchen where you hope to learn something. Join organizations and be active in them. Anyone can join the American Culinary Federation, but being active in a local student board position, competing for Student Chef of the Year or being on a Hot Food Team or Knowledge Bowl team puts something on your resume that others will not have.
Cook – get at least a part-time job in the industry while going to school. Make sure this is what you want to do, but also be good at doing it upon graduation through practical application in cooking for the public, not just family and friends. As much as you can afford, eat out at great places, take photos and notes, and try to recreate those dishes at home. Read books and magazines and cook from them as well. The textbooks and learning in the classroom will have you on par with your peers, but the rest will make you excel beyond them and open many more doors for your future career.
If you want to attain a BBA or master’s degree, get some experience under your belt first. Earn the culinary degree, spend at least a year or two in your first position, and then go back into the classroom. You will have so much more confidence and purpose behind getting those higher degrees.
Please describe one surprising event in your professional life that made a valuable impact on your career today.
I once met Chef Tom Griffiths, CMC, VP of Culinary at Campbells Soup Company, during an American Culinary Federation competition. I later attended an ACF meeting at Campbells Soup Company where Chef Griffiths was in attendance. At the end of the meeting, Chef Griffiths asked me if I was interested in a position with the company. I ended up as the Corporate Executive Chef for Campbells Soup for five years.
If I had not introduced myself to Chef Griffiths at that competition and pushed myself to stay connected, I would not be in the position I am today because Campbells was my first foray into Culinary Research and Development. When you see opportunities in life, take them, especially if they are uncomfortable. It is those opportunities that will make you grow the most.
About Christopher Tanner
Christopher Tanner, CEC, WCMC, AAC is a Research Chef at Rubix Foods. He is responsible for leading the company’s culinary research and development program. Previously, he held executive chef positions at various restaurants around the USA and has been in leadership roles with Campbell Soup Company and Griffith Foods.
Chef Chris has a long list of accolades, most recently receiving his Worldchefs Certified Master Chef credential with the World Association of Chefs’ Societies. He also earned the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Cutting Edge Award in 2021 and the ACF Presidential Medallion in 2017. His ACF certifications include Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Educator, Certified Culinary Competition Judge, and Certification Mentor. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Chefs.
Chef Chris has a master’s degree in Gastronomy & Food Studies from Boston University, a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Culinary Administration from State University of New York at Delhi, and an associate degree in Occupational Studies, Culinary Arts from Schenectady County Community College.