Chris Warsow’s job title is Executive Chef, but he’s really more of a food scientist. He’s one of the growing number of people in the industry who have studied Culinology®, (a registered trademark of Research Chefs Association.)
“The study of culinology is a hybrid of culinary arts and food science. People in this field have to be experts in chemistry and science and have a strong culinary background. Culinology uses both right brain and left brain skills. You get to be creative and innovative, but also have to know quite a bit of food chemistry as well. It’s a whole other realm that most people have never heard of,” said Warsow.
Warsow works for Bell Flavors & Fragrances, a manufacturer in Northbrook, IL that develops flavors, fragrances and botanical extracts for businesses. “It’s basically taking flavors and amplifying them. For example, I extract the orange rinds and orange oil to bring out the different layers and flavors of the fruit. I capture these natural flavors and add them to a variety of food products,” he said.
The Birth of a Career
Back when he worked in restaurants, he used to make homemade Caesar dressing. One day, he was trying to figure out how to make emulsions. “The emulsion kept breaking down. We were doing everything—chilling the eggs, chilling the bowls— everything. I finally figured out that we should keep everything at room temperature. That’s how I stumbled onto this. I thought to myself that there’s a whole science and career path to this,” he said. So he went back to school to study food science and microbiology.
Since then, he’s since gone on to graduate school and now works as an Associate Professor of Culinology of Southwestern Minnesota State University. “Students can get into research and development or product development. But I advise them to get experience in the back of the house first. Until you cook professionally, you don’t fully understand this job. You have to learn how to build flavors, and get a sense of how things taste,” he said.
Today, he’s doing a lot of traveling and meeting with research chefs. “Product development is driven by chefs in these companies. I enjoy the interaction I have with Chefs, and helping them come up with new concepts. To see the final products at stores and restaurants is exciting,” said Warsow.
One of the challenges of his job is overcoming the public perception that he’s putting chemicals in people’s food. “A good portion of my job is trying to explain that we are using natural ingredients. We help make food safer and more nutritious. We make it taste better,” he said.
At Bell Flavors & Fragrances, he oversees two chefs who share the “same drive and determination as I do. They have science-based minds who like to solve problems. At the same time, they’re foodies.”
He considers himself a foodie as well. “When it comes to my “death row” meal, I’d get pound of fresh Alaskan crab legs and bone-in grilled rib eye Waygo beef with a nice truffle demi glaze,” he said.
Warsow said he has his dream job. “I love my job. It’s something I wanted ever since I was in culinary school. It challenges me on a daily basis,” said Warsow.
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