When people outside of your professional circle learn you are a food scientist, food engineer, product developer, QA/QC specialist, or any of the other scientific disciplines along the food system value chain, how often are you asked, “What does that mean?” Probably a lot. Adam Yee, a food scientist and IFT new professional member, contends that 80% of the people he meets do not understand the role food scientists have in delivering safe, nutritious, and delicious food to the world.
This notion and a deep-seated desire to increase understanding of the importance of the science of food led Adam to start the My Food Job Rocks! podcast four years ago. “If I say I’m a software engineer, people instantly get it, but when I say I’m a food scientist, they don’t. My goal when I started the podcast was to humanize the food industry by showcasing the people behind the scenes.”
Each week, Adam interviews experts from across the industry, including product development, food safety, supply chain management, small business, food tech, and leadership, showcasing unique jobs and the path to get there. He also aims to explain the complexities of what goes into our food, which isn’t always easy but is something people are demanding more than ever before. One thing his guests have in common – their passion for what they do.
Adam believes everyone has a personal story about how they got into the food industry and an interesting perspective on the future of food. Adam’s story began at a young age. After years of admiring his grandmother’s ability to recreate dishes she enjoyed, he asked his parents if he could cook dinner for them. Eventually, he received an allowance to feed his family every day. “I think this opportunity allowed me to really dig into what I could do with food,” Adam said. “I could try new foods I wasn’t used to eating, buy spices I couldn’t pronounce, and study additives that I didn’t know about. I watched cooking shows constantly to get better.”
Although his friends and family thought he was headed toward a career as a chef, after doing some research, he found that becoming a food scientist was another avenue to work with food. After earning a bachelor’s degree in food science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he began his career in process development and moved on from there. Today he is working as an application scientist on alternative meat projects at Motif Foodworks, a new food tech startup in Boston. It was his passion for food science and yearning for knowledge that propelled him to start sharing the stories of other people within the science of food community with the masses.
“When you’re a chef, you can maybe feed 150 people in one day. When you’re a food scientist, you have the ability to feed millions and make the food system better than it was yesterday,” Adam said. “Listening to people who are super passionate about what they do explain how their role influences the food system not only energizes me but allows me to understand my role systematically as well. I hope my listeners feel the same way.”
Adam’s love of food science stems from an appreciation of the past and a passion for the future. “When we think about how we’ve evolved as a civilization, Nicholas Appert, Louis Pasteur, and a myriad of other scientists should receive more credit because their work enabled us to preserve food and thrive as a society.”
Among the many things Adam finds fascinating about food science is that we are able to create better and safer products using technology, and in this day and age, the technology keeps getting cooler. We have plant products that taste like meat, pressure systems that kill microbes, and freezers that freezes fish so well you can eat sushi in Ohio. These are things we can do now because of science and technology, and there’s no limit to what advancements lie ahead.
According to Adam, whether you’re a scientist, engineer, chef, business owner, or CEO, it all boils down to this. Great things happen when you tap into your passion.
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A conversation with IFT's senior food safety and traceability scientist Sara Bratager