Research Chefs Get it Right (Eventually)

Restaurant chefs rarely have time to stop and smell the aroma: they're on a manic schedule to put a meal on the table. What's the mellow, meticulous chef to do? Head for the research kitchen. Research chefs are responsible for "food innovation": developing new foods for cafes, restaurant chains, and food manufacturers.

Playing in the Culinary Sandbox

Research chefs get all the culinary fun without the hassle of the restaurant rush. They experiment with subtle degrees of flavor, color, and texture in a quest to find the perfect culinary combination. A fine palate is practically a job requirement; a lemon, for example, isn't just bitter--it can be acidic, sweet, 'peely,' and more.

100 Variations on the Theme of Dinner

In one research chef's words, "we can weave flavors together." That's because research chefs have the luxury of trying different flavor combinations over and over until the recipe comes out just right. For every product that makes it to the market, research chefs test up to 100 recipes. Anne Albertine, culinary researcher for a major restaurant chain, notes that changing an ingredient by even a small degree can make a dramatic impact.

The School of Culinary Perfection

Research chefs typically enter the field with a culinary school education; some even pursue a bachelor degree in food science. Classes in food science and chemistry are crucial to a successful career as a research chef. So are the innate qualities you can't find in a school textboook: patience, attention to detail, and innovative thinking. Salaries depend on the culinary degree, the chef's school, internships, etc., but they are generally among the highest in the field.

If you have a taste for tasting food--over and over again, until it's perfect--enter into the research chef's laboratory kitchen.