A research chef may work as a chef, head cook, or food scientist, analyzing and experimenting with cuisine to find ways to improve it and make consumers like it. Research chefs generally have the same education as other chefs, except they earn special certification.
Research chefs use their training in food science and culinary arts to contribute to research and development. They apply their knowledge of chemistry, engineering and sensory evaluation to create recipes and products that appeal to consumers. Research chefs may need anything from on-the-job training to a bachelor's degree.
|Chefs and Head Cooks||Food Scientists & Technologists|
|Required Education||Completion of a post-secondary culinary arts certificate or degree program or apprenticeship, plus professional experience and certification||A bachelor's degree in agricultural science, biology, chemistry or physics|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||9%||5%|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$41,500||$65,840|
*Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Also known as product development or food innovation chefs, research chefs formulate and test new products and supplies for food establishments like hotel chains and restaurants, food manufacturers and other companies associated with the food and beverage industry. Their duties involve generating new recipes that look and taste good and finding substitutes for current formulas that are known to trigger digestive sensitivities. For instance, research chefs might help develop recipes for bread, cookies and other baked goods made with gluten-free ingredients for individuals who have celiac disease.
Research chefs develop new products by conducting consumer testing, observing market trends and modifying recipes. They administer surveys and let customers rate how they perceive sample products including sauces, soups, meats, entrees and frozen food. They record the flavor, portion and price that customers prefer, making tasty and visually appealing food products based on that. They also comply with standards of product labeling.
Research chefs often collaborate with food scientists to help advance the food-processing sector. They find better ways to retain the flavor, freshness, consistency and nutritional content of mass-produced, packaged food products. They assist the packaging industry to devise packaging materials that prevent or eliminate the growth of the microorganisms that cause food borne illness. Moreover, as experts in food preservation, research chefs study the shelf life of various packaged items.
Since there isn't a specific employment category for research chefs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that the job outlook for chefs and head cooks was expected to increase by 9% from 2014 to 2024, while food scientists and technologists were projected to see an estimated 5% rise in jobs during the same decade. The BLS reported that the median salary of food scientists and technologists was $65,840 for 2015, whereas chefs and head cooks made a median income of $41,500 in the same year.
The Research Chefs Association, a network of culinary professionals focusing on food product development, sets qualifying standards for those who would like to become Certified Research Chefs (www.culinology.com). Seasoned chefs who wish to take the certifying exam must meet education and experience requirements, as well as demonstrate familiarity with food research and development.
Research chefs may modify and test food, take surveys, and offer samples to enhance quality, appeal, and taste. They can work for a number of food services, which they need to obtain research chef certification to become qualified.