Event of the Year: Annual Conference 2016

Hi! My name is Michelle and I am a junior culinary science major from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I first found out about the Research Chef Association a few months ago by Googling possible jobs for when I graduate. (The question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was much easier to answer as a kid than it is now). I learned about the Annual Conference through the RCA website and was also highly encouraged to go to it by my advisor. The next step was convincing my parents that I needed to go and it would be worth skipping class and the time and money to make the trip. I told them, “There’s only so much you can learn in the classroom, I need to network with professionals who can confirm I chose the right career path.” It seems today—more than ever—that it’s all about the connections you make.

Expo_Lamb & Harissa

The RCA Conference was a great opportunity for myself and other students to make connections with professionals in a relaxed atmosphere. While I knew student members would be eager to talk to professionals, RCA professionals were actually more interested in connecting with the conference student attendees! (I’ve gone to several career fairs on my campus where it’s intimidating and nerve wrecking. When I tell most of them that I’m majoring in culinary science, they stare blankly at me and ask me what that is.) My RCA Conference experience was the complete opposite. There I felt like I was surrounded by “my people,” and my age was an advantage.

At the RCA Conference there were numerous networking opportunities, informative sessions, good food, the Expo (where there was more good food), and literally what we will eat weeks, months and years from now. At Wednesday’s Opening Reception I met Anne-Marie Ramo and Katherine Langel from CuliNex, the nation’s premier clean label product development consultancy, who enlightened me about their new internship program that hires RCA student member graduates. I attended several breakout sessions that I found most interesting and informative. One of these was the ‘Student-to-Professional Transition’ with representatives from Save-A-Lot, General Mills, and Diversified Foods & Seasonings. At this session they talked about professionalism in our industry, how to reach out to professionals and much more. They were professionals telling students the best ways to make the major move from college to career.

After sampling a wide variety of innovative flavors and textures during Thursday’s Expo, I went to the Student Town Hall Social, where students gathered key business industry insights from Chef Keith Schroeder, CEO and Founder of High Road Craft Ice Cream and 2015 James Beard Award winning author. We were excited he used us student attendees to directly develop globally-inspired ethnic ice cream flavors for one of his actual clients!

Expo, Sweet Potato Jerk Hummus

What’s more, I received the luck of the draw at the Student Town Hall Social when Chef Keith Schroeder blindly chose my business card as winner of the student raffle prize—dinner at the new fine-dining Asian Bistro ChoLon with the RCA President, Catherine Proper. She was kind enough to pay for our dinner, and maybe it was because we were in Denver she went the extra mile to elevate my experience by arranging ChoLon’s chef to give us a full kitchen tour after dessert. Hearing how Cathrine’s professor introduced her to the RCA really resonated with me. Discovering the RCA and the annual Conference was like uncovering a treasure chest. I only wish I would have found it sooner!

It’s no exaggeration to say the future of food is on display at the RCA Conference. If you want or are perhaps interested in someday defining the future of food as a Culinologist, R&D Chef, Food Scientist, Flavor Chemist, Nutritionist, or Food Marketing Director to name a few among many, the annual RCA Conference is the place to go to meet SEVERAL other industry professionals to make connections and secure a future internship or job!

See you at next year’s RCA Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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