Jonathan Valdez is an Air Force officer looking for the next career, and he is (wisely) choosing the food manufacturing industry. He reached out to the Research Chefs Association connect forum, and he simply asked how one gets into the field and whether more schooling would be required. The answers poured in, including a post chez Schaub. 

The conversations that resulted from that chain have resulted in new found friendships and mentors, and I can’t praise a professional organization enough that has individuals and leaders who actively develop the younger ones.

Most of us veterans have to spend some careful time thinking about what we want to do once we get out of the military. It was fairly easy for me; I wasn’t in very long and had chosen a degree that had many different applications, from clinical to food service.

What followed my active duty years were four years of multiple part time jobs, some continued education, and questions about what the heck I was doing. Imagine with me what it feels like to have served as an officer and then to be told by a customer at a cafe that “you should go to school; you’re very articulate.”

Graham Kerr is the one who eventually turned the lights on the path of culinary school, saying that the Seattle Culinary Academy is the school he would choose to study at, if he were to start all over again. (Obviously, I enrolled and studied there)

Modernist Cuisine was where I finally saw physical science and culinary arts come together in a deliberate and gourmet way. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is where I began earning my research chef stripes.

But in all those milestones, the pathway getting to R&D was rocky, dark, and confusing. It also led me to work that I have found myself doing in my spare time – exploring a food concept and playing with a recipe until it is the best I can render it.

Jonathan and I chatted when he first reached out the RCA, and it’s not really “podcast material” but is worth hearing the story of another Airman who has had to figure out his post-military life. So, in honor of Veteran’s Day, exactly 10 years after my final Veteran’s Day Parade, I offer you this conversation with Jonathan and ask you to think about a veteran today.

Update: Jonathan has been accepted to a great food science program and will start soon! Welcome to food science, Jonathan.