Excalibur’s R&D Chef and R&D Director Marlo Mastalerz is a member of the Research Chefs Association – the leading professional community for food research and development.
We recently sat down with Marlo, who attended the organization’s annual conference, “Savor the Spirit of the RCA” in March and asked her a few questions.
Tell us why you joined the Research Chefs Association.
I have been a member of the RCA for close to fifteen years now. I entered the food industry as a chef, while studying nutrition and furthering my education in food science. It’s always been a professional goal to become a Certified Research Chef and I achieved that in 2008.
It’s incredibly intriguing and exciting that today’s scientists and chefs work together to bridge gaps and create innovative, gold-standard products. My interest in this field only grows stronger as the industry evolves and new products are developed and introduced.
What’s the greatest benefit as a professional to be part of an organization like the RCA?
There are so many benefits. Networking with peers and sharing professional experiences guides your development and education to move forward in your career. The sharing and receiving of industry knowledge is invaluable. The RCA is incredibly supportive of anyone who wants to continue their education, earn scholarships and become certified as either a Research Chef or Culinary Scientist.
The RCA’s annual conference is always a highlight each year. What was everyone talking about at the event in Louisville, Kentucky?
One of the most engaging aspects of the annual conference is traveling to a different city each year. The RCA taps local chefs and culinary experts who are on the leading edge and forefront of trends and techniques. This year, in Louisville, Kentucky, one of the spotlight speakers was Edward Lee, a renowned chef, restauranteur and author, who is well-known for discovering remarkable food in offbeat places.
The conversation was not only on the terrific variety of local fare, but on how today’s chefs can meet consumer demands and their needs related to food allergies and sensitivities. Health-driven eating styles, which is at an all-time high right now, was another hot topic this year.
Did you come back with any takeaways that you want to apply to your work at Excalibur right away?
It’s evident that personal health choices and clean ingredients are growing for consumers. The trend is toward clean label to minimize the ingredient statement and eliminate food additives. This is something Excalibur is already working on and will continue to move toward this year.
A key part of the industry discussion today is plant-based ingredients and products. The spotlight is on the many different proteins available and what we can consider beyond meat. The plant-based protein market accelerates each year and consumers are seriously looking at plant-based meats as viable meal options. Millennials are the largest group of consumers seeking out protein alternatives to animal meat, and are popularizing the health benefits of plant-based proteins and milks.
This focus is where consumers are right now and it drives the research and development we do at Excalibur. As professionals, we strive to meet their demands and work through the challenges.