Face-to-Face: Meet Dale Conoscenti June 2018

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...

Dale ConoscentiDale Conoscenti, R&D manager CRC®, Rhino Foods, Inc.

  1. How did you get your start in the food industry?
    Initially, I worked in my Uncle’s diner in Chicago washing dishes at the age of 14 and then I spent 2 1/2 years working at McDonald’s as a teenager. In my late teens and early 20’s—this was during the early 1970’s—I became curious and obsessed with natural foods and specifically macrobiotics. I studied the philosophy and learned the technique to cook in this discipline. I began to learn how food affects my body and I shared my cooking results with others.

    By the time I was 30 I was ready to make a commitment to attend culinary school in 1985 and it was, and still is, one of the most significant decisions I have made in my life. I loved going to school and learning the why’s and how’s of food. I began the journey of learning about the science of food. It has never disappointed me and I am just as curious and excited today about the continued learning and application of science with food as I was 33 years ago when I started on this path.

  2. What do you love about your job?
    What I like about my job is that it changes daily. I get the opportunity to create new products continually and I like being a problem solver. Being a product developer is a multifaceted job and I love it because I constantly have the opportunity to learn and put into practice what I learn. There is an urgency and speed that is required to develop products and to help solve problems in production environments and I know from time and experience that I am wired to be in this position. Every day I get the opportunity to engage with every layer of the company I work for because R&D is integral to every part of the process of a food company.

  3. What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
    One of the challenges is the speed at which samples and new products need to be turned around for customers, leaving us without the time to improve or tweak those products. There are more and more documents and labels required for products now and that time takes away from development time at the benchtop. Another challenge is being insistent on getting clear direction for the development of a product—sensory attributes, texture, color, size, label requirements, etc. Developing food products is a complicated process from the benchtop to the consumer, so clarity is extremely important to success.

  4. What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
    I think what has developed over the past couple of years with IFT and the Research Chefs Association is RCA Connect and IFT Connect [online networking communities]. I use them both daily and appreciate having the ability to reach out to other food professionals to seek information and solutions to problems I encounter on the job. These are people like me working in food science and food research that do exactly what I do. They have experiences and knowledge that are critical in their processes. Also, I have opportunities to attend food shows, short courses, seminars, online webinars and meetings with suppliers, in addition to being in multiple plants with varying processes.

  5. How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
    This is a difficult question to answer. Over the past 30 years I have experienced a rhythm and flow in the food industry. Every year there are new products, new trends, and new ingredients that enter the marketplace; however, in the last five years or so it seems to be out of control. A new product comes out and sometimes within weeks or months other companies have copied the product and the market is flooded with the same or very similar products. Also, products seem more confusing with no boundary to combinations of ingredients and marketing seems more important than the integrity of a product. Labels and how many different certifications can be on a product seem more important than the product that is in the package. Finally, there appears to be more marketing companies creating products and outsourcing the production. One has to ask him/herself, are they selling a quality product or are they fooling the consumer?

  6. Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
    My favorite food is almost always connected to an emotion. If I am not feeling well or want comfort, I will make a traditional miso soup with wakame and kombu seaweed, two kinds of miso, vegetables, and silken tofu. If I want to feel warm inside—typically in the winter—I will make a soft polenta, sautéed mushrooms, demi glaze, and sprinkled with parmesan reggiano, and if I am feeling a need for protein, I will make a simple grilled medium-rare ribeye, grilled asparagus, and onions and butter wrapped in foil and grilled until golden. If it is a fun dinner night, I may make pizza on the Uuni pizza oven or pork belly tacos with an assortment of condiments.

If you are an IFT member and wish to be profiled, please contact Kelly Hensel at khensel@ift.org or 312-604-0211.