Nominations and Elections

2017 RCA Board Election

The deadline to submit nomination applications for the 2017 RCA Board has passed. The ballot for the 2017 RCA Board will be distributed to all RCA members in early November 2016. The ballot will close at the end of November 2016, and the elected candidates will be announced to the membership in early December. View the full RCA Board nominations and election timeline.

RCA Newly Elected Board Members

Stephen Kalil

Chef Stephen is, Director of R&D, Corporate Executive Research Chef, PepsiCo. He is both a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) with the American Culinary Federation and a Certified Research Chef (CRC) with the Research Chefs Association.

In July of 2007, Stephen joined PepsiCo and Frito Lay as their first ever corporate chef. In his role, he leads and inspires product development through the application of Culinology - the blending of culinary arts and food science and technology. Stephen and his team were instrumental in designing a rigorous and efficient process of integrating culinary design with consumer insights, food science, technology and marketing. This process has become known as “iCrave” and is responsible for delivering over 3 billion dollars in innovation, globally, and growing.

Stephen is a past president of the Culinology Education Foundation as well as a past president and strategic advisor to the board of the Research Chefs Association (RCA) for which he received the President’s Award in 2011. He is also a member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF.) He has been honored as a Distinguished Visiting Chef at Johnson & Wales University and has been featured on Bloomberg, Fast Company, the Food Network’s Unwrapped, and in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Culinology, Flavor and the Menu, QSR, Nation’s Restaurant News, and Prepared Foods. He presents at major industry events on the topics of Culinology and food product development.

Jaime Mestan

Growing up in a household that held family food traditions in the highest regard, every dish was a lesson in love and labor. Helping her grandmother roll out the dough for mandel brot, or making sure to carefully drop each handmade kreplach into a steaming pot of golden chicken broth, Jaime Mestan has been cooking all her life. When the time came to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up, she naturally chose the foodservice industry.

While attending Kendall College, Jaime worked as a teaching assistant where she assisted Chef Instructors in managing on campus restaurants and events. After winning first place in The Chef's Of Grey Poupon Competition as well as a $20,000.00 scholarship, she graduated from Kendall with a Bachelors degree in culinary arts and hospitality management. She is currently on the Culinary Advisory Board and is an active member of The Kendall College Alumni Board.

After graduation, Jaime worked for Oprah's personal chef, Art Smith, at Table Fifty-Two in Chicago's Gold Coast. At the suggestion of a former instructor, she made the transition in to Research and Develoment as Assistant Research Chef at Ed Miniat, Inc. Her responsibilities there include working with national chain accounts and creating new menu items and protein concepts. At the advice of her boss, John Draz, she joined the Research Chef’s Association and started the adventure in the world of Research and Development. While participating yearly in the RCA’s Professional Culinology Competition Chef Mestan obtained her Sous Chef Certification through the American Culinary Federation by demonstrating her skill, knowledge and professionalism in the food service industry.

Starting off 2016 with a new position as Director of Bistro Products with Vienna Beef Ltd. her role has expanded to include leadership. She oversees all aspects of the kettle operaton from ingredient sourcing to marketing and product development . With her experience, and with the occasional question sent out on RCA connect, Chef Mestan plans to grow the Bistro Soups & Chili business for many years to come.

None of this would be possible without the Research Chef’s Association. The connections made through that organization are woven into the path taken to get where she is today and continues to lay the foundation for her future success.


To enact change and be a voice for culinology and it’s far reaching importance into the hands and minds of future members to continuously grow the Research Chef’s Association.

Nelson Serrano-Bahri

The RCA has been an integral part of my professional life, career growth and development. I joined while I was a student and was exposed to a world of possibility and a wealth of knowledge and creativity. I was exposed to nuances of the food industry, seasoned professionals, and an array of resources. The RCA has provided networking opportunities to connect and build relationships at the annual meeting and beyond. I can even credit the RCA for helping me find culinary career opportunities.

As a steward and guiding member for the future of the RCA, I would bring a unique perspective and diversity to the board. I am fully bilingual (Spanish and English) and have lived and worked in both the United States and Puerto Rico. I not only understand both languages, but have an intrinsic understanding of both cultures. I bring a diverse work background having worked in both technically driven scientific roles and culinary driven roles, as well as at Fortune 500 versus smaller family owned operations.

My initial goals would be to maintain the high quality services; annual meeting, networking opportunities, resources and learning tools. As well as looking to the future, to envision and plan with the rest of the board how our organization continues to evolve to ensure it maintains its position as the place for Food Industry professionals.

I first heard about the RCA while I was completing my degree in Culinary Nutrition at Johnson and Wales University. During my internship at ConAgra Foods I met Chef Catherine Proper and she shared her experiences with the RCA and encouraged me to get involved. Since then I have had many other professional experiences. As the R&D Chef for Unilever Food Solutions, I led the chefmanship program for scientists; cultivating basic culinary skills and appreciation for culinary arts. Also as part of the role, I served as lab manager for R&D lab and managed overall operations and technicians. During this time, I also served on the culinary board of trustees for Technology Center of DuPage and was a culinary judge for the American Culinary Federation certification.

Currently, I am a member of the RCA Membership Committee and 2017 Annual Meeting Planning Committee. I am the Executive Chef and lead for culinary innovation of Puerto Rico Food Innovations. I manage a team of 15 people focused on retail, foodservice and consulting. And consult with local entrepreneurs and the agriculture sector to develop products that can compete with national brands.

RCA Re-elected Board Members

Jason Behrends

Dr. Jason Behrends is a R&D Director of PDM Business Strategy at the Tyson Foods Discovery Center in Springdale, Arkansas. His responsibilities have included food service product development, cost optimization, innovation, and coordination of specification review amongst Tyson Foods Manufacturing Facilities and migration of specifications into the Global Specification Management (GSM) system. His current role is leading the Product Data Management Team and onboarding of acquisitions into the GSM system. Jason also coordinates the Culinology® internal training program at Tyson Foods to help insure the continued growth of Culinology® as a part of Tyson Foods Culture. During his time at Tyson Foods he has helped grow the Tyson Foods RCA Membership from 60 to 115 Members.

With the passion for Culinary Arts and food, along with the support of Tyson Foods he pursued certification by RCA in 2006 and is one of 55 Certified Culinary Scientist housed in the Discovery Center at Tyson Foods. He believes that through culinary arts and science we can elevate new products to achieve greater consumer acceptability and heighten the experience.

Prior to returning to Tyson Foods in 2011 he was an assistant professor at Mississippi State University in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion. In addition to his extension, research, and teaching responsibilities, he coordinated the Culinology® Program and co-coordinated the Meat Judging Program at MSU. While establishing the Culinology® Program at MSU he had four student Culinology® Teams, of which three competed in the finals at the RCA conferences in 2008, 2010, and 2011.

Dr. Behrends has been involved with RCA since 2007. He currently is serving his second term as an RCA Board Member and second year as RCA Secretary. He also chairs the Education and Conference Programming Committees. Dr. Behrends has served as a speaker at the annual RCA conference in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. He also was a speaker and host at Mississippi State University for a RCA regional function in 2007.


His vision for the RCA Board is to expand the knowledge for the RCA members of what is possible through the cooperation of chefs and scientists. In addition, he hopes to help develop a sharing forum that allows for reciprocation of ideas and thoughts. Being a part of the board would also allow him to share his experience of receiving his certification and the benefits it has afforded him in his career. 

Justin Kanthak

Justin Kanthak is an eleven year member of the RCA. Justin began as a student member with the RCA in 2006, and later joined as a professional member in 2007 through today. He has served on the RCA Certification Committee, the RCA Board of Directors (2014-2016), and the Culinology Education Foundation for the last three years which he now serves as President and Board Liaison. Through the RCA, Justin has been certified as both a Research Chef and Culinary Scientist for the last five years, and is excited to continue to develop himself within the RCA organization.

Justin’s background blends both Culinary Arts and Food Science from the Culinary Institute of America and Iowa State University. Upon graduation, Justin concluded his ten years in restaurants and has grown through multiple positions across the country as a food scientist, corporate chef, culinary manager and national account sales manager. In his free time, Justin enjoys spending time with his family as well as watching baseball and serving on the External Advisory Council for the Iowa State University Food Science Department.


To see the titles of Research Chef and Culinary Scientist become as ubiquitous as Food Scientist in the food manufacturing and the restaurant industry. As we move forward on our path to the next evolution of the Research Chef’s Association, I would envision our organization being the focal point for culinary creativity and thought leadership throughout the food industry. Through this focal point those people whose passion for the future of food can be fostered and shared among those whom share those eternal passions. Over the next five years, through new partnerships, strengthened alliances, and a growing a diverse membership, I see the RCA becoming to collective voice of the future of food.

Anh Nguy

Anh Nguy is a Project Leader in the Culinology® Group of the Customer Solutions & Product Innovation Technical Services at Ingredion Incorporated. As a Culinologist, Anh supports the Go-To-Market Team and other business functions to promote plant based clean label texturizers, specialty sweeteners and nutritional food ingredients in a variety of culinary applications and formulations. She started her career in the poultry industry with Perdue Farms, Inc. where she supervised line productions, managed the Quality Assurance Department to ensure food safety and quality that meet USDA standards at a Live Evisceration Plant and managed projects as a Corporate R&D Food Scientist responsible for product and process improvements at a Further Processing Plant. At David Michael & Co. Anh devoted 11 years in the Technical Services and Applications Department leading projects for dairy, bakery, beverage, and savory applications as a Food Technologist and a Product Development Research Chef.

Anh graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Food Science and The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia with a Culinary Arts degree. She is an active member of the board of directors for the Research Chefs Association with responsibilities as chairs for the Membership and Nomination Board & Development (NBDC) Committees. With her unique vocation Anh was interviewed and featured in The New York Times in November 2015.


I joined RCA because it is invaluable to my career development and it provides a great credential to my company. I have been a member of RCA for 12 years and I look forward to many more years with this great organization. If elected I would continue to work with professional and student members to promote RCA more widely at high school and collegiate levels and help bridge other professional organizations to encourage and identify new members to join RCA. I would also like to continue with my responsibilities as co-chair of NBDC to identify, elevate and develop the best possible candidates for RCA leadership positions.

Barbara Zatto

Barbara Zatto is a current RCA Board member and graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. After graduating with honors, she remained in New York working as a cook under the tutelage of several prestigious chefs. Armed with a culinary arsenal of innovative techniques, she relocated to Seattle where she found a home as an executive chef of a Seattle hotel, and later at a Seattle restaurant which, earned several 3-star reviews from the Seattle Times, and led a team of 20. Later, she transitioned to industrial sales/technical chef with Barry-Callebaut. As a sales leader, she achieved double digit sales growth each year, and worked with R&D teams in the chocolate, pastry, and baking categories. Barbara taught many training sessions on chocolate and basic chocolate making techniques. Barbara became a founding board member of the NW Chocolatiers Guild (2007-2008). She served and facilitated the development of the mission, structure, membership, and bylaws. With other board directors, planned an annual chocolate conference, which currently remains intact. It was then she became interested in Culinology and joined RCA.

In 2009, she accepted a culinary sales position with Mizkan. Barbara hired and managed three broker agencies, managed 12 agents and developed a training program. Her strategic sales plan increased sales 35%. She assisted R&D team with launching new products, and she was instrumental in building successful relationships with industry food technologists and research chefs. Barbara was Director of Culinary from 2011-2016 and focused on working with our largest customers on new product development, ideations, and gold standard recipes. She has contributed to Culinology, Prepared Foods, Food Product Design, and Food Business News. Barbara has sponsored RCA through Mizkan since 2009 through regional events and annual conference sponsorship. Barbara was also on the Puget Sound IFT executive committee, from 2011-2015, and served as regional chair for the RCA simultaneously.

As a current board member, I serve on the marketing committee, leading the social media task force, conference programming committee, annual conference committee, and interact with our student committee. I am currently preparing for the CRC exam.

As a board member, my goal is to be strategic in developing marketing initiatives communicated through social media, and other channels, to extend our reach in the F&B community, identifying opportunities for new memberships, sponsorships, and educational platforms.

My personal strengths are strategic leadership, executing events, and developing functional committees.

Nominations and Board Development Committee

To maintain strong leadership in the Research Chefs Association (RCA), the Nominations and Board Development Committee (NBDC) is charged with identifying and elevating top talent who are willing and able to serve on RCA’s Board of Directors.

Chair Committee Members

Anh Nguy

Dolf DeRovira
Flavor Dynamics

Anne Druschitz, CRC
Edlong Dairy Flavors

Catherine Proper, CEC
Supervalu, Inc.

The Committee's Mission

  • Solicit and recruit candidates based on stated eligibility requirements
  • Evaluate potential candidates against current and future needs of the board
  • Present slate of nominees
  • Assure leadership development
  • Advise president and board of directors of potential appointments in the event of vacancies


You can find more information about the nominations and election process and procedures on the Nominations and Election FAQs page. For more information, contact a Nominations Committee Member or RCA Headquarters.