How to Become a Research Chef

How to Become a Research Chef: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a research chef, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a research chef:


Those who become research chefs are individuals who are successfully able to combine a passion for food, a knack for science, and a flair for creativity. They have culinary skills, although they enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere of a food research laboratory kitchen versus the chaotic atmosphere of a restaurant kitchen.


Those who become research chefs also find this career appealing as it typically offers the chance for national or international success; if they produce a successful food product for a large restaurant chain, they can rest assured knowing vast that multitudes of people will be enjoying it. However, to accomplish this success, research chefs must be well trained in producing delicious foods that can be mass-produced, while maintaining quality, freshness, taste and texture.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a research chef. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Research Chef

Becoming a research chef requires a unique combination of science education and culinary training. A Bachelor’s degree in science with coursework in chemistry, nutrition, or food science is an excellent way to acquire the scientific knowledge base and skill set necessary for a career as a research chef.


Alternatively, to become a research chef in the United States, you can also begin by pursuing culinary training from a school accredited by the American Culinary Federation as well as subsequent certification. 





Research Chef Job Description

Research chefs, also known as product development or food innovation chefs, are responsible for creating new foods for restaurant chains, coffee shops, and food manufacturing companies. Research chefs apply their knowledge of engineering, sensory evaluation, nutrition and chemistry to create appealing food products for consumers; food products which both taste good and will remain that way when they are mass produced.


A research chef is responsible for initiating a concept, creating recipes, cooking samples for testing, enhancing current products and providing input to taste, texture and packaging of food products. 



Research Chef Job Duties

• Collaborate with food scientists to find better ways to retain flavor, freshness, nutritional content and consistency

• Study the shelf life of various food items and ingredients

• Conduct consumer testing regarding interest in potential new products

• Read food-related magazines and industry reports to learn about current trends

• Administer surveys and allow customers to rate how they perceive sample products

• Use survey information such as prices, flavours and portions that consumers prefer to create new food products

• Take precise measurements of the ingredients they use and try alternative ways of cooking items 

• Use the opinions of taste-testers to adjust recipe for new taste group

• Take detailed notes during food product creation process

• Assist the packaging industry in creating food packaging that impedes the growth of bacteria and food borne illnesses

• Meet with in-house financial experts to examine a food product's potential profitability

• Meet with market researchers to determine a food product's potential market appeal



Who Hires Research Chefs?

Research chefs are hired by organizations that formulate and test new food and beverage products and supplies for food distributors or food service establishments. Such organizations include:


• Hotel chains

• Coffee shop chains

• Restaurant chains

• Food and beverage manufacturers

• Private research laboratories contracted by food manufacturers



Experience Needed to Become a Research Chef

Although the qualifications needed to become a research chef vary from employer to employer, you typically need to have a combination of education and work experience.


Experience working in a kitchen under trained chefs, while not necessarily required, is very helpful in qualifying for a job as a research chef. This experience can be acquired by working entry-level cook jobs, sous-chef jobs or internships during school or after graduation.


Working under a few different chefs would be ideal, as you will be exposed to different techniques and creative styles, thus helping to expand your influence base. Working with chefs experienced in different areas not only allows you to learn different techniques, it also allows you to build contacts in the industry.



Research Chef Certification

The Research Chefs Association offers certification to research chefs who have culinary education, 3 to 5 years of experience in both research and culinary arts, and a passing score on the certification exam. 





Research Chef Salary

The salary level of research chefs can vary based on factors such as where they work, their level of education, their level of experience, the specific responsibilities of their job, and many others. Research chefs typically earn more than restaurant chefs, and this can be attributed to the direct application of scientific knowledge in their work activities.


Research Chef Salary United States: According to The Research Chefs Association, earnings of research chefs vary quite widely, although experienced research chef typically earn between $70,000 and $90,000 per year (1999 statistics).


Research Chef Salary Canada: In Canada, there is no specific salary information available for Research Chefs. To get a basic idea of what their earnings are, we can look at the earnings of the closely related career, Food Scientist. Service Canada groups food scientist with Biologists and Related Scientists for economic data. According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group is $56,406 per year.



Skills and Knowledge Needed to Become a Research Chef

In order to be competent in a career as a research chef, you need to posses the right mixture of skills and knowledge.


• Must be able to make food that tastes great and has visual appeal

• Apply to integrate principles of food preservation and mass production in recipe creation

• Understand the technical terms used by scientists.

• Comfortable creating multiple options for a food or beverage product

• Able to find inspiration by following trends in consumer tastes

• Able to use precise measurements without cutting corners

• A desire for quality and consistency in work output

• Able to observe and learn from surveys and the results of experiments, such as the responses that are taken during experiments conducted in sensory labs by food scientists and marketers



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Careers Similar to Research Chef

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Research Chef, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.




Food Chemist

Food Scientist

New Food Product Developer



References: How to Become a Research Chef

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a research chef.


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Chef.” (March 24, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Career Outlook:You’re a What? Research Chef.” (Fall, 2002). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Articles: A Day in the Life of a Research Chef.” Rachel Zemser (March 10, 2014). Food Processing website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Designations:Certified Research Chef.” (n.d.) Research Chef Association website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Research Chef

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Research Chef can be found on our Chemistry Scholarships and Nutrition Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Research Chef: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a Research Chef. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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