yes, that’s a BDU patterned apron

Over the past year, I’ve been targeting continued education. If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know that I have had a varied background and transitioned into food product development in the past five years.

Air Force –> Thrive Lifestyles (nutrition business) –> teaching nutritional science –> Seattle Culinary Academy –> Modernist Cuisine –> Beecher’s Handmade Cheese –> Lundberg Family Farms

Along this pathway, I’ve met some incredible entrepreneurs, chefs, and dreamers. It’s been wonderful. I’ve now started on a pathway of moving upwards in the product development career path, and I love it.

Lundberg Family Farms

From a casual glance, it seems like I play with recipes all day. A closer look will show that I spend a lot of time crunching numbers in spreadsheets and attending meetings about the numbers crunched in spreadsheets. A portion of my time is spent cooking.

Now, as a culinary crossover and now food science crossover, I carry a unique and nontraditional set of skills into my job. I like to market myself as bringing new skills to a team and automatically thinking outside the box, since I wasn’t trained to think inside it. The internal dialogue often goes a little differently, but I imagine everyone’s does.

from the RCA website

In an effort to fill in some of the gap in food science, I sat for the Research Chef Association Certified Culinary Scientist exam, an exam designed to evaluate and verify one’s knowledge base in both culinary arts and food science. I was sure glad I had gone to culinary school and had also asked questions of mentors and friends! I passed the exam at my first attempt, and that sure felt good!

Andrea and Yvonne (back) prepare samples for a tasting

Lately, I’ve been working on filling in some smaller gaps. I finished an EDX course on statistics – I (heart) Stats, taught by Notre Dame professors – and am completing a DMAIC training course for Quality Engineering. It’s been really great to get my brain back into algebraic math – that took a while – but it’s also been exhilarating to exercise my brain differently. If you haven’t taken an EDX course, you should. It is a program that offers college level courses in topics ranging from Astrophysics to Introduction to Public Speaking. The courses are taught by renowned universities across the globe, and some courses offer certificates of completion, for a small fee. I search it every season for a course or two that I can take to sharpen my knowledge or refresh a past training.

Wine may improve just by sitting around in a bottle (sorry to my sommelier friends for such a dumb analogy), but career improvement takes deliberate steps. This was my first step.

Soon: my next step – mindset changing. Making the leap from young manager to senior manager.

The R&D Team 2014 – Hassan Dwidar, Yvonne Garrett, me, Andrea Zeng