I am not a chef, I am a food technologist!

There is more to food science.

I have had to say these words so many times in my life. Food technology has proven to be a not so familiar field within the community. There I was in 2016, I have just received my A level results.

 

The hardest question at the time, was what next? The prospects for me were only voluntarily limited to two options, it was either medicine or food.

 

Medicine because I was a good science student and of course a smart student goes for careers like medicine and such. And food because that was passion.

 

But then, also came the debate of college or no college? 7 years of medicine? Is it worth it? In short it was one of the most confusing times of my life.

 

The decision came down to: choosing something I would enjoy doing, so my first choice of study would be food processing technology.

 

Like most people, the only reality of food science I had been exposed to was catering, cooking the food and displaying it with fancy designs.

 

I am ashamed to say I even thought that was what most of my degree would include.  Allow me to shed some light on what exactly it is I do as a profession.

 

A gentle reminder that I am not a chef, I am a food technologist.

 

What is food science?

Food processing technology is the application of science in the processing of food through the use of technology.

 

It involves the nutrition, production, quality control and assurance, preservation and research and development of food products.

 

In addition the mechanics, designing and engineering of machinery used in the food industry based on the chemical, physical and biological makeup of the food itself.

 

For a good portion, one takes a dive in food science and its  depths of food chemistry, nutrition, and microbiology, and rheology, physical and colloidal chemistry.

 

You also learn some engineering, someone has to know  how make and design the machines, therefore one is welded into food engineering, mechanics, workshop technology, AutoCAD perhaps for basics of component designing, as well as system simulations.

 

Furthermore, one learns how the food is processed. Food processing is the application of various processes like canning, bottling, packaging, fermenting freezing, drying (the list is endless) on fresh to turn them to food product.

 

One learns how all major food groups are processed: fruits and vegetables, meat and meat products, fats and oils, beverages, cereals, dairy products, sugar and confectionary.

 

However there are also controls and regulations governing the production and distribution in food industries of food locally and internationally.

 

Therefore, we are soldiered to learn quality assurance and legislation, quality management, industrial process controls and food packaging requirements.

 

At the end of the day a food technologist can venture into any of the related fields above.

 

Food science fields.

From my few years of entering the industrial world I have discovered that locally available fields one could venture into include:

 

  • Quality assurance Personnel in the industry and retail market
  • Sensory Evaluation
  • Research development officer
  • Laboratory Technician for various fields ( quality testing, microbiology, biotechnology)
  • Food Consultant
  • Food Safety Compliance officer
  • Occupational safety, health, environmental Compliance officer
  • Production Manager
  • Teaching and research
  • Food and beverage manager in the hospitality, food and retail industry
  • Food business owner

Or more specialized roles

  • Brewer
  • Miller
  • Sommelier

 

My point- the field is broad and complex, it’s exciting, and definitely unique with wider applications in the international spectrum than imagined.

 

Breaking the norms!

The society has a set of rules, and careers that are deemed to be for successful people (doctors, lawyers, accountants….chefs).

 

In their own right, these are great careers but a small portion of them. Change is the only constant in the world. The world is changing and so are the needs.

 

With upgraded mind-sets lets be bold to deviate from the status quo, and venture into fields that reflect more into who we are not whom society prescribes we should be.

 

We can be successful in our own spaces!

 

Furthermore, the motivation behind this article was to shed light and depth of a food technologists’ field of work.

 

Due to lack of awareness (of course it was not a bit of negligence on my part) I did not have a mentor to enlighten my path of choice when I was choosing a career.

 

Importance of a mentor.

However, I strongly believe mentorship is crucial when choosing any serious decision in life, choosing a career being one.

 

John Maxwell said it right when he stated “one of the greatest values of being a mentor is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination”.

 

Being a mentor not only relays helping others but it means being a leader. I challenge those up the ladder in the food industry to pass the baton forward and inspire young food scientists of the endless possibilities they could venture into.

 

I aspire to be part of the few women currently recognized in the food industry and I truly aspire to be a great mentor to the future great leaders who will follow.

 

l hope a young lady venturing into food science and technology can bundle a point or two on the prospective roles they could be a part of as a food scientist or food technologist.

 

 

 

 

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Tea in 60 is a community that seeks to bring about the much needed practical one-on-one conversations between girls interested in STEM and women already in the field. In one hour, girls in high school, as well as those that are in or have just finished tertiary education will have an opportunity to discuss anything they want in the career of their choosing with a selected mentor.