Every time you bite into your favorite chain-restaurant burrito or dig into a bag of your favorite chips, you can thank a research chef. Research chefs create new foods for food manufacturers, chain restaurants or shops. Using survey results, studying food and taste trends, or working hand in hand with food scientists, research chefs mix culinary expertise with science. They might travel the country or the world, tasting different cuisines for inspiration.
If customer surveys reveal people want a smokier barbecue sauce, a research chef works with different flavor combinations and ingredients to figure out how to do just that. Later, after a flavor is chosen, the chef's recipe goes to a food scientist, where it's fine-tuned for nutrition and preservatives. Most research chefs are trained in culinary arts, but might have another degree in chemistry or general science.
One research chef, under anonymity, spilled some secrets of the trade. She explained that your "100 percent orange juice" is actually orange juice plus oil from orange peels, combined in different concentrations to please different palates. She also revealed that research chefs could design frozen meals to rival a four-star restaurant's food, but consumers probably wouldn't pay for them. Another secret? Almost every prepared food has monosodium glutamate (MSG) in it. It's everywhere [source: Slaton].