Faces of Food Science

August 13th 2018

Faces of Food Science

If you’re the type that loves insider’s looks then this new series is for you! Christine Rush, McCormick Canada’s Product Development Director for Canada Flavour Solutions, will share her insights into the fascinating world of making food and beverages taste incredible, and talk about the people that make it happen.

In the coming months, we’ll get to hear from Christine and her team of food scientists and technicians on a variety of topics related to the art and science of culinology. But let’s begin at the beginning; let’s take a little time to get to know Christine and the people she works with. Just follow the link to meet one of the faces of food science at McCormick!

Everyone knows McCormick uses the best ingredients and flavourings from around the world. That’s part of what makes us great. At least as important, however, if not more so, are the incredible people on our team. Like the ingredients, they are also among the best in the world.

We’d like you to get to know our people a little better, so we’re launching a fun and fascinating new series featuring McCormick Canada’s Product Development Director for Canada Flavour Solutions, Christine Rush. To kick off the series, we’re going to start with a Q&A session so everyone can get to know Christine.

Christine, how long have you been with McCormick Canada?

I’ve been part of McCormick for just over seven years, with more than 30 years total Product Development experience. I joined McCormick in 2011 as the Senior Manager of Product Development on our Consumer side of the business. I moved over to Canadian Flavour Solutions in 2012.

One of the things I really love about McCormick is that we engage in both sides of the food business; with our own brand on the retail side and with industry customers on the Flavour Solutions side of the business. This provides us with a unique perspective and allows us to fully appreciate and best deliver to our own customers’ positioning and development needs.

Seven years seems like a long time...

Not at all; time flies when you’re having fun! Most of my team have been working at McCormick a lot longer. We have a long average tenure within our team. Once scientists join McCormick, they rarely leave! McCormick is a great company to work for!

Tell us about your team. How many of you are there?

We have 14 people in Product Development, including myself: nine food scientists and four technicians. The team members tend to have their areas of specialization where they really excel. Some scientists focus more on snack seasonings, some on proteins, others on sauces, and some on baked goods. That being said, there is a great deal of overlap in their skill sets and our whole team is set up to work collaboratively and to be able to cover each other off as needs fluctuate amongst projects.

What does it take to be a food scientist at McCormick?

Most candidates have a Bachelor of Science with a focus on Chemistry, Food Science, or Nutrition. There are a number of scientists who also have their master’s degrees. We also consider scientists’ practical industry experience. More than half of our scientists have completed, or will be completing, their Certified Food Scientist designation with the International Food Science Certification Commission.

We are also very pleased to have two team members who are Certified Culinary Scientists through the Research Chefs Association. I like this credential because it marries food science with the culinary aspects of the business. It gives them strong collaboration skills with our chefs, which is a key part of our product development cycle.  

These designations are both excellent credentials that really showcase the ongoing learning and development that is critical to a successful Product Development team.

Does it go without saying that you all love what you do?

It is a fun business! During the development of new products, we have the opportunity to connect cross-functionally with almost every department within McCormick. We are passionate about food and all the new opportunities that come with our roles to showcase our expertise. In order to provide our customers with the great food they deserve, it is crucial that we stay ahead of the industry new product curve. We allocate time to reviewing global innovation, new ingredient developments, restaurant visits and food safaris to try emerging cuisines and identify trends.

Our goal is to help trigger innovation. Whether it’s with new flavours and seasonings, new seasonings in different applications, or innovative ways of executing traditional ideas, we stay open-minded and engaged in the global marketplace. We might try a new meat seasoning and we’re already thinking, “How do we use this in a beverage or even a dessert or ice cream?”

That’s our role: to take an idea and be creative – twist, turn and mould it using food science to keep it safe and functional in different applications. Some product developers are just about the science. The team we have now do not limit themselves to science; they consider a wider context in the business application of their innovation.

Let’s bring it back to you. Do you have a favourite food or flavour?

My favourite foods and flavours change with my mood. I do love our Montreal Chicken seasoning on any protein, but particularly wings. Our Roasted Red Pepper & Garlic seasoning on chicken is to die for. It is both gorgeous and delicious.

When I’m craving sweets, it’s all about caramel cinnamon anything: sauteed bananas or apples, yogurt or ice cream, cakes or cookies… even beer tastes better with a dash of this flavour! But, at 5:30 in the morning it’s the first cup of coffee!

One last question: what kind of person becomes a food scientist?

I would say the food scientists that are the most successful are those that have a love for science and trying and preparing new foods, along with a healthy respect for process. From my perspective, a creative and open mind greatly helps. Something I see time and again is the pride of ownership that exists among food scientists in their creations as they strive to create that next iconic, globally successful product.

For me personally, it started when I was quite young and opened my Easy-Bake oven for Christmas. It came with a full box of cake, cookie and icing mixes to use as directed. But did I just follow those directions? No way. It wasn’t long before I was mixing and matching pouches and adding vanilla, applesauce, and other ingredients I found in our refrigerator.

I also believe I was the only 12-year-old that would look forward to reading the weekly restaurant reviews in the Saturday Toronto Star TV magazine. I would drive my parents crazy wanting to leave suburbia to go and try the new restaurants in the city they featured. That would be my birthday party, taking me and my best friend downtown to one of these new restaurants. When I look back, I should have known this is where I would happily end up!

Christine will be back next issue with more observations and explanations from the world of McCormick flavours!