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Explore a career as a research and development chef

In this blog, we talk to a research and development chef at PepsiCo who creates new flavours and foods to be sold in supermarkets worldwide

24 Jan 2023
EIT Food West
6 min reading time

Our EIT Food Day in the Life series is an educational resource aimed at young people and professionals who are interested in the agrifood job market. We profile a wide range of careers in the agrifood sector, interviewing professionals to find out what their job is like, why it is important, and how you could take up the profession.

In this blog edition, we explore a day in the life of a research and development chef!

You will learn:

  • What a typical day is like as a research and development chef
  • The main responsibilities of a research and development chef
  • Why this industry matters to our wider food system
  • How you can take up this career path

Meet Patrick, a principal research and development (R&D) chef at PepsiCo, a world leading fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company that provides millions of people with snacks and beverages every day. PepsiCo leverage nutrition, food science, engineering, and consumer insights to develop convenient foods and beverages as well as cutting-edge packaging an equipment.

At PepsiCo, Patrick helps to develop new and optimised flavours and foods to ensure products are up to date with the latest consumer trends and preferences. Patrick tells us about his job as a research and development chef and how you can train to become one too.

What does a typical day as a Research and Development Chef involve?

Patrick works in the global early-stage innovation and culinary group at PepsiCo. His work involves a lot of research into current food trends and what consumers are eating, to inform the ingredients and flavours he uses to develop and optimise different snacks.

A lot of my work revolves around research, so I’m constantly looking at what’s happening around the world in terms of food trends, what consumers are eating, what’s happening in restaurants, in street food. I’m really trying to take in those experiences in different environments, to then understand what this means for us to translate into foods [for our business]”

In addition to his research, Patrick is inspired by the food trends he sees at the different vendors and restaurants he visits. He takes that inspiration to create snack products that consumers can buy from supermarkets and enjoy on a regular basis.

Why is research and development an important industry to work in? What are the biggest challenges in the sector?

Research and development is an important industry to work in, because we need to know what consumer preferences and demands exist to be able to create delicious food products that consumers will love. In terms of development, the ingredients for a specific food product rarely remain the same, as professionals are tasked with optimising food products to be healthier and to meet evolving taste preferences.

A challenge for Patrick is knowing when it is appropriate to take a consumer trend and develop a new or optimised product to meet that trend. This is because the average consumer may not want a new or altered product.

“When we’re identifying these ingredients or these cuisine trends or these cooking techniques, ultimately, we’ve got to remember that because we see it as a trend doesn’t necessarily mean that the average consumer is ready to take on that trend. The challenge really is looking at when will be the right time for us to start thinking about how we’re going to launch something like that.”

Another challenge for Patrick is developing a snack product that the consumer will want to eat on a regular basis, especially when the snack market is saturated with competing products.

“We’re really trying to create those satiating flavours that people go back to time and time again.

You know when you pick up a crisp, you pop it in [your mouth] and you go ‘oh I’ve got to have another one’”.

What projects does a Research and Development Chef work on? For example, what are you working on at the moment?

As an R&D chef, Patrick works on different projects to create and adapt food products for PepsiCo’s snack product portfolio.

Recently, Patrick has been working with a chef called Quique Dacosta to create three new flavours of Lays crisps for the Spanish market. The three flavours are Wood Roasted Red Pepper & Herb, Slow Cooked Egg, Truffle and Potato, and Beef Sirloin with Red Wine.

“So, this new concept that we’re going to launch into Spain, it’s in conjunction with a very famous chef called Quique Dacosta, who has a famous reputation within Spain and not only just in Spain but throughout the world. We’ve really looked at how we can bring his expertise with our expertise and come together to create these three new flavours [of crisps], that we’re launching into the Spanish market.”

Patrick enjoys having the opportunity to work with other chefs and combining their different expertise, skills and experiences to develop new and exciting products.

How can I get involved in this area? What pathways are there into your role?

According to Patrick, the route into a career as an R&D chef can be varied. For example, someone could train to become a junior chef and then learn the different areas of the job that they enjoy to help them to navigate into a specific role.

Patrick has close to 30 years’ experience as a classically trained chef, having worked in a two Michelin star level restaurant and hotels around the world, before later entering product development in the late 1990s.

For Patrick, his journey to becoming an R&D chef involved working in different areas such as convenience foods and the flavour industry. This is because Patrick found it worthwhile to experience different facets of the food manufacturing industry before deciding that he wanted to be an R&D chef.

“I started in development working in chilled food manufacturing, so across convenience foods for most of the major retailers. I then went into the flavour industry, so working for one of our key seasoning suppliers and then I really started to learn about the science of food.”

For someone starting out in their career, Patrick recommends identifying different chefs that they aspire to and trying to reach out to different chefs to ask for career advice.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to get information about this particular role without speaking to somebody that’s in it. I would say that if you’re looking to get into this role, have a look at some particular chefs within that sphere of development, [such as] R&D and just reach out to them.”

Patrick emphasises that a career in the food manufacturing industry is a growing industry to be in and there is lots of jobs available in different areas of a food manufacturing business.

“Food manufacturing in general is a really good area to be in. It’s a massive growth area. If you think [about it] everybody has to eat, so the opportunities are pretty endless!”

What is the best part of the job?

For Patrick, travelling to experience new restaurants and street vendors is one of the best parts of his job.

“The ability to be able to travel and see new things, experience new things, and just being at the forefront of that is probably the most exciting part of my role.”

Patrick also enjoys seeing the products that he has helped to create on a supermarket shelf.

“You can imagine when you get your first launch on a shelf, you go into the supermarket, and you literally watch people pick up your product and put it in their basket. I mean, for a chef it’s a bit of a Holy Grail!”

Finally, Patricks sums up being a principal R&D chef in three words: engaging, rewarding and rapid.

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About EIT Food’s Day in the series

Our Day in the Life Series is a video series that explores the variety of careers that our agrifood system has to offer. The aim of the series is to raise awareness of the range of high-skilled and highly rewarding jobs that the food and farming sector has to offer and inspire younger generations to consider one of these careers for themselves.

We would like to thank PepsiCo for taking part in our Day in the Life series. PepsiCo is a Partner at EIT Food and involved in several EIT Food community projects.

  • Learn more about PepsiCo here.

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