By Anne Druschitz
My involvement in the RCA began with Chef John Matchuk. John was my boss at T. Hasegawa, the flavor manufacturer that hired me for my first full time job in R&D. He also was a founding member of the RCA and a graduate of the CIA and Cornell’s Hospitality School. John served on the RCA Board and various committees and was very involved in the Chicagoland region. When I joined T. Hasegawa, he passed the torch and asked me to continue his work locally, though he still served on various committees. John was a social guy and he loved introducing me to all of his RCA friends. Having him take me under his wing was what really introduced me to the spirit of the group. It made me realize the importance of meeting people across the food industry and truly enjoying that opportunity to connect and reconnect at the local and national events that RCA hosts.
Another passion of John’s was RCA certification. He pushed me to attend as many food science courses as I could in preparation for the CRC exam and also supported my efforts to apply for the CRC designation as soon as I was eligible in terms of R&D industry experience. I took the exam during IFT in New Orleans (2005) and passed on my first attempt. As I approach my third opportunity to recertify, I am inspired by all of the friends and colleagues who have also earned this title.
Interestingly enough, the first RCA conference I attended was in San Diego (I think it was 2003?). John made sure I attended the First Time Attendee reception and he went with, telling me it was his favorite event of the conference. Initially, I was confused. He had been going to these for years; he wasn’t a new attendee. However, I soon realized that the mistake was mine. John’s enthusiasm for meeting new people and making sure they were properly welcomed into the fold of RCA was one of his many unforgettable qualities.
Unfortunately, John passed away too soon, in 2010. His legacy and love for this group lives on through the committee work, new member outreach, social gatherings, and epic conferences. I thank my lucky stars and the culinology gods every day for giving me the chance to cross paths with him. As he was so fond of saying: Be well. Eat better!