CHICAGO — As consumer demand increases for creative new products, food scientists have a lot to gain from bringing culinary professionals into the commercial R.&D. process. This was the focus of the session “Integrating Culinary Arts and Science into Product Research and Development” at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual convention in Chicago, July 15-18.
Product development and culinary arts are intersecting more and more for a variety of reasons. More chefs are wanting to break into the C.P.G. market to reach a wider audience with their restaurant-inspired products. More food manufacturers are looking for ways to grab consumers’ attention.
“Magic happens at the intersection of different disciplines,” said David Stone, associate professor at Oregon State University and director at the Food Innovation Center, during his presentation with Jason Ball, research chef at the Food Innovation Center.
Chefs can bring several benefits into an R.&D. lab, said Debra Zellner, professor, Montclair State University. They are creative; they ask unique questions.
“They help us find answers to problems in the real world,” she said.
They also come with challenges. In her research experience, Ms. Zellener discussed the ways in which scientists and culinary professionals can sometimes butt heads.
“Chefs like tradition while scientists are skeptics,” she said. But bringing these two groups together can expand each’s perspective on the food development process.
“The asset chefs bring to food scientists is their ruthless problem-solving skills,” explained Ali Bouzari, founder, Pilot R.&D. “They are a problem-solving engine.”
Food scientists can also help chefs break into the C.P.G. world.
“Chefs need help with scaling up their product, with the regulatory environment and labeling regulations as well as working with co-manufacturers, distributors and buyers,” said Peter Kayaian, product development and innovation manager, Momofuku.
In all of these areas, commercial product developers can assist culinary professionals reach a wider demographic with a shelf stable product in the supermarket.
Both of these groups, food scientists and culinary professionals, can help each other adapt to new trends and create products that cut through the noise.