Chef Bryan Voltaggio
memberships are not cheap, but some of them can pay for themselves in a matter
of a few really fantastic connections. Others can seem like “pay to play” fees
that give you access to organizations’ lists but no real personal connections.
Arguably, you get out what you contribute, so the more active you are in an
organization, the more rewards you’ll receive.
I’ve been pretty active
on the Research Chef Association forum this past year. Last year, I earned the
Certified Culinary Scientist certification, passing the exam in my first
attempt. I connected with some really cool product developers and chefs,
including one that I “picked up” at the airport shuttle in New Orleans. To be
fair, she and I were both arriving from Seattle, and she looked like she was
probably in town for a conference and not a party. Once she got over how
freakin’ outgoing I was, we hung out several times at RCA New Orleans, and we
have emailed each other all year about a variety of topics.
Another friend is very
active in the forum, often providing referrals and connections to other forum
members for businesses. Her company is a third party contracting R&D
company, so she has connections that often explore categories of food (and thus
suppliers and manufacturers) that are outside single category or single food
type companies, such as mine.
GNT, Culinex, Lundberg
The forum is
interesting because we can ask each other questions that may give a hint about
the projects our companies may be exploring, but we uphold a confidentiality
for each other that seems more unspoken than official. The safety within that
is unique, and it is what pays for the membership investment.
The forum is also a
place where we can ask for advice. I met several fellow veterans on the forum,
and we were united by a forum request for advice. Jonathan, a current US Air
Force officer, reached out to the group to ask for career advice, and several
of us responded directly and through the public space.
I chose to respond
publically about my transition from the Air Force to the restaurant and
eventually to food manufacturing, because I wanted to share my story with the
officer on the forum and with the group. My journey wasn’t fun, per se, but it
was necessary. I’m starting to see how many of the steps that I took have led
me to my current R&D role, but many of them were frustrating.
Chefs at the Aquarium mixer
As a result, I was
surrounded by chefs who wanted to share their stories, reframe some of my
experiences to show me how these steps were needed, and to give some career advice
moving forward. Within just weeks of the first forum conversation, I had struck
up friendships with chefs from whom I have learned some significant lessons and
taken to heart some excellent insights.
One of the chefs who
really took me under his wing quickly was Chef Jeff Cousminer from Stonewall
Kitchen. If you follow the RCA (or read last week’s post), you’ll know that
Chef received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the industry and his
contributions to the organization. As a past president, Chef Jeff has seen and
led much of the growth that you see today and that we younger chefs benefit
from. He is also vocal on the forum and was quick to respond to the group about
career advice.
In addition, he and I
struck up a separate conversation, and he invited me to join a group dinner he
schedules at each conference. Through his dinner, I connected with several other
active chefs who shared great advice and perspectives throughout the session. I
found that being more active and being willing to humble and vulnerable to ask
questions, the chefs felt more free to give advice and welcome me into their

As a flaming extrovert,
I must say that I love the RCA 🙂