Face-to-Face: Meet Guy Crosby
Ever wonder if anyone else is facing the same professional challenges as you? Or just looking to connect with some new people in your field? In IFT's Face-to-Face series, we will be introducing you to a different IFT member every month with a fun, insightful Q&A session.
This month meet...
Guy Crosby, Science Advisor at America’s Test Kitchen, Science Editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and Adjunct Associate Professor at Harvard School of Public Health.
- How did you get your start in the food industry?
Shortly after I became interested in chemistry during high school I developed a fascination with the chemistry of food. My focus in college and graduate school was on organic chemistry because back then (the 1960’s) there was little available in food chemistry. While in graduate school, I teamed up with my brother-in-law to experiment with producing potato chips flavored with natural and artificial flavors such as onion and garlic. Unfortunately, he moved away and I became more interested in finishing graduate school. In 1969, my wife and I moved on to a post-doctoral research appointment in California where I became very interested in cooking and wine. While at Stanford University, I obtained a fellowship from the Alza Corporation, a start-up pharmaceutical company, and the next year started working for Alza in Palo Alto. The founder of the company, Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni, a brilliant entrepreneur, soon developed the concept of safe, non-absorbable polymeric food additives, and overnight created a new company to develop the concept. I was one of the first three employees from Alza to join the new company, named Dynapol (for Dynamic Polymers). And that’s how I successfully combined my interest in food chemistry with my first job in the food industry.
- What do you love about your job?
From my early days at Dynapol I moved on to work for FMC Corporation, where I was Director of R&D for the Food Ingredients Division, and then Opta Food Ingredients, where I completed my industrial career as Vice President of R&D. Upon retiring in 2002, I searched for new opportunities and started teaching food science and chemistry, which I found very enjoyable. During this time, I became affiliated with Cook’s Illustrated Magazine as their Science Editor, and then as the Science Advisor for America’s Test Kitchen, the popular cooking show created by Cook’s Illustrated for the PBS television network. We are now nearing the completion of a new book called “The Science of Good Cooking,” which will be published this fall. What I love most about my “job” is the opportunity to learn and apply science to cooking, and to communicate science in a meaningful way to a wide audience that includes students, teachers, home cooks, professional chefs, friends, and family. And of course, I have the pleasure of applying science everyday in our kitchen with my toughest judge, Christine, my wonderful wife of 45 years (She’s the baker and I’m the mess-maker!).
- What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
This is an easy one to answer, but difficult to execute. The toughest challenge is finding the right words to explain science in simple terms that are accurate but easily understandable by a wide audience, using a minimum number of words! Time and space are very limited on television and in the magazine, so it’s essential to be concise, understandable, and accurate. Fortunately, I work with great people who are very skilled editors, writers, and producers that make my job far easier than it would be without them.
- What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
One of the great joys of what I do is learning new things every day. The students at school, and the editors and test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen are constantly asking new questions about the science of food and cooking. During the past year, I have been heavily involved with Cook’s Illustrated writing our new book on “The Science of Good Cooking.” This is my first experience with writing a book, and I have learned a great deal both about writing science as well as creating simple illustrations to explain the science. This experience has helped me gain greater insight into the science of cooking and how to better communicate it to a wide audience.
- How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
It’s clear from our audience of well over a million people that reads Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, Cook’s Country Magazine, and watches America’s Test Kitchen television series that American’s are becoming more interested in learning about the science of cooking. This interest appears to span adults of all ages as well as children. Food appears to be the new vehicle for teaching science and math in a way that people find interesting and even enjoyable. Several years ago I was fortunate to become involved with Sybil Fix in her effort to create the Terra School, which focuses on teaching middle school students entirely around the concept of food. During summer school they study science, math, agriculture, the environment, nutrition, health, history, social and political issues, and much more, all based on food as the unifying element. The Terra School may be the new model for education. I am also an External Advisor for the first-of-its-kind EcoGastronomy Program at the University of New Hampshire. This unique dual major program targets undergraduate students who care about the future of food and the overarching principle of sustainable food systems. These two programs are excellent examples of how food is changing our thinking about education, and how to effectively teach science through food.
- Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
I’m going to give away my New England roots when I tell you it’s fried clams! It’s something I don’t make at home, and don’t eat very often.
If you are an IFT member and wish to be profiled, please contact Kelly Hensel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-604-0211.