Jeff Peppet

What happens when a group of prominent chefs get together? Pretty much what you might imagine—a lot of culinary chatter, swapping of ideas and stories, and, yes, cooking.

If you’re in the food manufacturing or culinary world, it’s the kind of opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss. Why? Because this is a chance to be in earshot of real-world chefs and their innovative thinking and insight into consumers and marketplace trends—information you’re not likely to hear otherwise.

That was exactly the thinking behind Givaudan Flavor Corp.’s 2002 launch of its Chefs Council™, a team of nine outside culinary experts who serve as an extension of the company’s internal culinary staff. This dynamic, diverse, and rotating panel of some of the finest talent in the culinary world includes chefs from Europe and the United States, from leading restaurants as well as internationally renowned culinary schools. Unique to the flavor industry, the Chef ’s Council is designed to focus on culinary trends, stimulate creativity, and enhance innovation in the development of new culinary concepts.

As packaged foods and foodservice companies vie with their competitors to be first to market with the next “on trend” product, the need for creativity and culinary innovation is intense. In their pursuit of “marketplace winners,” they are turning to their key suppliers as sources of creativity, as well as using their own internal expertise. Givaudan, a worldwide supplier of flavors to the food and beverage industries, has been proactively establishing programs to partner with its customers to provide such value-added services.

Most food trends first appear at high-end restaurants, the result of chefs experimenting with new ingredients, recipes, and products. The Chefs Council includes chefs who are owners and managers of their own restaurants, where they are essentially creators of “new food trends” and drivers of gold standards and premium culinary ideas. Other chefs on the Council come from culinary schools, including the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

These chefs are by nature very creative and enthusiastic about new recipes and combinations of ingredients and are constantly trying new things day in and day out. All of this talent comes together on the Council, and the combined intelligence helps the food world think in new and exciting ways when it comes to product development.

Food and foodservice companies—and, of course, consumers—aren’t the only ones to benefit. The Council enriches what Givaudan provides its customers by bringing additional creativity and inspiration to Givaudan’s own internal teams. Traditionally, the company used its Culinary and Applications groups to develop unique applications to help customers commercialize new products and line extensions. The Chefs Council adds a new dimension by capturing an outside perspective and view from the marketplace, insight not experienced at the bench, and using it to complement and round out Givaudan’s internal culinary expertise.

Even the chefs themselves have plenty to gain from their participation. Besides the camaraderie and collaboration with their peers, they get exposure to the science and technology of food and flavors, an area they don’t work in very often. Additionally, many have little or no experience with packaged goods or large-scale foodservice and are intrigued by the opportunity to influence how consumers think about food and how products go to market.

Current activities of the Chef ’s Council include a concentration on global and regional culinary trends, product ideation, concept development, creation of gold standards, consumer insight, culinary trek opportunities (trips to the kitchens, restaurants, and street markets where food trends begin), custom programs for customers, and internal training and development.

Planned for 2003 is a two-day workshop among top chefs and Givaudan’s culinary staff, flavorists, and marketing professionals. They will discuss food trends and ingredients, develop new ideas for beverages, sweet goods, and savory products, shop for ingredients, and prepare creations. The goal is concept development and ideation that can help with customer projects.

Also planned are an internal training program for Givaudan personnel on selected culinary topics and a cooking contest in which CIA students compete to create new culinary products, as a means of providing future chefs with a broad depth of knowledge about flavors.

As the food world evolves, the Chef ’s Council will evolve with it. New chefs will be added, new events planned, and new opportunities made possible for the chefs and companies that participate—all leading ultimately to new and exciting products for consumers.

Global Director, Marketing Communications
Givaudan Flavors Corp.
Cincinnati, Ohio