Following your time in culinary academy, you have a wide array of career paths to follow. There will always be chefs who work at some gourmet eatery, while others start up their own food truck and some opt to eventually become teachers themselves. However, there is one cooking-related calling you may not have considered: research chef.
“Research chefs design new dishes or improve on existing recipes.”
These professionals look at food in a completely different way from most chefs, working on exciting new dishes that will satisfy future patrons of fine dining. Being a research chef means working on the edge of the culinary world, pushing new ideas and flavors. if that sounds like a path you’re interested in, read on to gain more insight into the exciting lives of research chefs:
Study up on science
Being a research chef requires more education than culinary school. While that schooling will lay the essential foundations of your work, research chefs must also be knowledgeable in fields like chemistry, agriculture biology or even physics. Some research chefs will go as far as begin an undergraduate program after culinary school to improve their science know-how. But even a few classes in these subject areas can be enough to give you the fundamentals you’ll need to succeed.
A day in the life
Though research chefs can work in several different industries, they each have the same core responsibilities. Among the most important of these is improving foods, taking dishes and finding ways to get them to reach their maximum potential. That could mean tweaking the original recipe or bringing in some new ingredients. Some of these chefs work for specific manufacturers, and focus on improving specific spices and sauces. Other tasks of a research chef include developing prototype dishes, attending trade shows, following food trends and giving presentations to other chefs on the value of research.
All the right skills
To be a successful research chef, you need more than just a desire to create and consume new or interesting dishes. There are several unique skills involved, and perhaps the most important is an understanding of the wants and needs of diners.
What do people like or dislike, and how can you use this knowledge to create more enjoyable dishes? As mentioned, scientific knowledge is a huge component of the job, and it’s important to consider how ingredients might react or the perfect ratios of elements when cooking up that new dish. For both of those functions, creativity is essential. The best research chefs think outside the box, using their knowledge and experience to continually push the boundaries of what’s tasty. But just as essential as your creative flair are your organizational skills; without your ability to multitask or track various responsibilities, your new dish is sure to go up in flames.
A network of support
To make the most out of their careers, many professionals will end up joining the Research Chefs Association. Membership in the RCA has a few key benefits, including help with finding career opportunities, ongoing education and training sessions, networking, exploring new culinary traditions and much more. The RCA also offers special certifications, like the Certified Research Chefs and Certified Culinary Scientists, and these can be essential in landing a job or gaining promotions. Chefs need to have a network they can rely on to succeed, and professional organizations are a great starting point.