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Nominations and Elections
2021 RCA Board Election
Submit your vote by Friday, November 20.
Get to Know the 2021 RCA Board Candidates
There are eight candidates for the 2021 RCA Board. You can vote for no more than seven candidates. From the eight candidates, the seven candidates who receive the most number of votes will be seated on the 2021 RCA Board of Directors.
Please note: Changes cannot be made once you’ve submitted your ballot. Please be sure about your selections before you submit your vote.
Please click on the candidates below to view their submitted bios.
At the age of 24 and still finishing Culinary School, Chef Erich landed the position of Sous Chef for the Tournament Players Club of Michigan/PGA Tour Investments. Chef Erich was elevated to Executive Chef after a year and half and held that positon for six years. During his leadership at the TPC, the Club was honored with four F&B Operation of the Year Awards.
His next stop - Pillsbury/General Mills Company as Senior Corporate Chef working with National Accounts: leading three Chefs working with Contract Management Accounts. Chef Erich developed products, recipes and menu items for leading national accounts. During his time with General Mills, he was honored with a Team Innovator Award for his work with the R&D Team on multiple product platforms.
From General Mills, Chef Erich then joined Sartori Foods leading all things culinary for this artisan cheese company. His work with national accounts was instrumental in Sartori’s growth in that channel.
Four years later he was called to join one of his favorite home town companies, Awrey Bakeries as Director of Culinary. In his three years at Awrey Bakeries, Chef Erich worked with leading national accounts on custom dessert development. Chef Erich developed a line of mini desserts for Awrey Bakeries that won Innovation Awards from Prepared Foods Magazine and Bakery & Snack Magazine both in 2011.
Next up Lactalis Culinary working with iconic brands such as Galbani and President. In the role of Culinary Sales Manager, he worked directly with national account culinary/purchasing teams on their needs for cheese on their menus or in their products produced by key manufacture partners.
Currently Chef Erich works as the Director of Culinary Sales for Sadler’s Smokehouse, LLC. A division of Hormel Foods. Chef Erich leads relationships with national/industrial accounts and works with the R&D/Marketing team on innovative product development. Besides his day to day work with Sadler’s, Chef Erich owns and operates a Culinary Consulting firm called – One Quick Chef, LLC. In this operation, Chef Erich shares his culinary expertise to leading manufactures, emerging brands and to industry start-ups. Chef Erich is a current RCA & ACF Member and previously served three back to back terms on the RCA Board, in addition he is also an Advisory Board Member of his alma mater - Oakland Community College Culinary Institute. He resides in Commerce Township, Michigan with his wife Kim and their two daughters Molly & Erika. An avid foodie, car buff, golfer and music fan; you might find Chef Erich hanging out with his girls supporting their activities or par-taking in one of his favorite activities when he is not building relationships and working on his commitment to his profession.
The future of the RCA lies in the hands of our members….my vision for the RCA is to get more of you involved in our organization. The true potential and success of the RCA will only continue to grow with you the member. This is your organization and my goal is to see more of you on committees, in group’s, at meetings, attending Regional Events, engaged and hopefully interested in running for the board in the future as I am for 2021! Having served 3 Consecutive Terms on the RCA Board previously, you should know as a member you have this opportunity as well! I am running to work on getting more of you our members involved!
We currently are sitting at the cross-roads for the RCA due to the Global Pandemic – we need all of our RCA Team involved regardless of your food industry background in order to move this organization forward! Chefs, Culinologist’s, Scientist’s, Student’s and Sales/Marketing Folks - we need everyone’s input and involvement! The RCA is truly a diverse welcoming organization and we welcome everyone in our industry to be part of this dynamic group – Will you work with me on continuing to move the RCA forward for the future? I hope so!
I’ve always possessed a passion for cooking and science. Upon graduating private school in Boston MA, it was assumed by my parents that I would attend college. Their vision for my life was that I would study premed, follow the same pathway of my siblings and go on to practice medicine. I knew in my mind this would never happen.
I took it upon myself to research a culinary education and possible HRI degree. (My guidance counselor had little knowledge of the CIA or Johnson and Wales.) I applied to the CIA in the spring of 1976, enrolled in the fall of 1977 and graduated with honors in 1979.
I graduated in March which was perfect timing to seek employment on Cape Cod & the islands. I spent the next two years working in hotels and restaurants on Cape Cod and Nantucket island. Little did I know that I was building a network of culinarians who I would become life long friends, associates and impactful food industry leaders.
I departed the cape in 1982 and moved to Boston. My goal was to fire up my career and put some money away for college! I followed one of my mentors to the Bay Tower Room / Club which was managed by the Ritz Carlton, Boston. I worked as a Sous chef under Chef Hanken Blanken. (in the early 80’s all the Chef roles were filled with European trained Chefs. The wave of new American Chefs was just starting to build.) The Bay Tower Room was nicely seated atop 60 State Street tower which happened to also be ITT Sheraton Hotels World Headquarters. During this period I became very involved with the ACF, working towards certification.
I joined Sheraton Hotels in 1983 as a “Task Force Chef.” My roll was to work closely with my colleagues opening new hotels and resorts worldwide. I had the pleasure to open hotels in Rome, Frankfurt, Dallas and Tucson. It was an amazing experience for a young Chef.
I met my wife Lynda while working together to open the Sheraton Tucson El Conquistador. We were married soon after the resort opened. Besides finding my partner for life I also rediscovered my passion for science. I had enrolled at the University of Arizona in order to complete my BS Degree. Here I discovered food science. It was there that I realized that I was a food scientist trapped in a chef uniform! Both worlds collided. For the first time in my career I was able to articulate cooking processes, how, why etc. This knowledge helped bolster my passion for food, pastry and bakery.
We followed Lynn’s career to San Diego CA. She remains working for Sheraton. I took a position at La Costa Hotel and Spa as Ex. Sous Chef. Two years later we moved to Chicago. Lynn became the Global Director of Sales for Sheraton. I joined the Ritz Carton Group as Executive Chef at the Whitehall and Tremont hotels.
In 1989 I took a position with Marriott Hotel as Ex. Chef at the Chicago Marriott Downtown. In 1991 I opened Desserts Etcetera, selling handcrafted pastries and breads to hotels and restaurants. The fall of 1996 I expanded our bakery to Grand Rapids MI. in 2001 I sold the business and joined the Schwan Food Company as Director of R&D for bakery. In 2005 I joined Sara Lee Food Service as Corporate Chef. In 2007 I left there to join Cara Restaurants and Airline Catering in Toronto Canada as VP Culinary innovation. In 2008 in returned to the baking industry at Awrey Bakeries as Director of Culinary. In 2012 I joined JMH Premium as VP Culinary innovation. Most recently I joined Deli Star Corporation as VP Culinary innovation.
While I was not a founding member, I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with the Research Chefs Association for many years and joined the group soon after its inception. Working collaboratively has introduced me to new ideas and unprecedented discovery. I’ve been fortunate to work with many RCA members in different capacities over the years and believe the association is entering a pivotal time for tremendous growth. As Past President with a vision for developing future industry leaders, I hope to inspire and mentor those looking to achieve greatness. Watching the association evolve into what it’s become today has ignited my desire to run for the board of directors to help continue moving the association forward with future thinking. Between our loyal members and strong leadership, I believe that the Research Chefs Association can become the gold standard for innovative, culinary excellence. I look forward to the prospect of rejoining the community of thought leaders and sharing new ideas for generations to come.
BioCian E Leahy
From growing up in Ireland surrounded by a bounty of wonderful ingredients juxtaposed by my father’s operations and engineering role in the food manufacturing, I knew I wanted to work with food. I set my sights on the University of Wisconsin – Madison to pursue a degree in Food Science. It was about halfway through college as lab and hands-on learning increased, I knew I wanted my work with food to be more tangible. I was introduced to a new term or role called the research chef by one of my professors. He suggested looking in this side of the industry through the RCA. I had also begun to work in a restaurant at this time and along with really enjoying cooking and experimenting with recipes a goal was forming.
I graduated from UW-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science in 2002. After graduation, I made the decision to pursue a Culinary degree. Before attending a culinary institution, I began an apprenticeship at a fine dining Italian restaurant in Rockford, Illinois for six months and enjoyed every single minute of it!
Next was Johnson & Wales University in Denver. In between classes and studying, I worked for Epicurean Catering, Cooks Fresh Market as a prep cook and butcher, and Earl’s Restaurant as a line cook. I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts in 2004, and from there I continued to work at Earl’s until March 2005.
I started my professional career as a Food Scientist at Leprino Foods in Denver. Six months later I became Leprino’s first Chef/Research Chef. I grew the team to 5 chefs and built a test kitchen in both Denver and Singapore. I also taught the Product Development course at JWU for a semester.
In 2012, I became the Director of Culinary Applications at Kerry where I led culinary applications and creation for dairy, savory sauce, plant-based protein platforms as well as our food service/chains customers. Currently I am Director of Culinary for our commercial chefs and beverage innovators, a team of eight.
Vision StatementRCA Vision:
As I was pursuing my Food Science degree at University of Wisconsin – Madison, I was introduced to a career path for a research chef by one of my professors. He suggested this path and to get involved with the RCA as he saw my strengths as more creative/innovative versus analytical.
I did some research into the RCA and decided becoming a Research Chef was my calling. I had already worked in a restaurant but felt I needed to get more experience before diving into this path. After graduating in 2002, I made the decision to go to culinary school but started a six-month apprenticeship beforehand. I needed to prove to myself this is something I have passion for and can potentially excel at .
During culinary school, I joined the RCA. I decided to utilize the Membership Directory and connect with Research Chefs to better understand their day-to-day responsibilities and gain advice for becoming a Research Chef….it paid off!
I have stayed very close to the RCA throughout my career. I have been speaking to culinary and food science students at different universities and I find it incredibly necessary and rewarding speaking to the importance of what we do and the opportunities we have.
At Kerry we have been taking many of our scientists through CCS training and our leadership not only understands the importance of this training but also sees the value of R&D’s ways of working and the results.
To date, I believe the RCA has been significantly more beneficial for students and junior culinologists and chefs versus those of us doing this for ten to fifteen years. I also feel the value we bring to our organizations is not always seen or capitalized on and therefore can be a barrier for growth. I would like to see the RCA involve more business and marketing training and higher level thinking along with more hands-on experiences. We are chefs, scientists, marketers, sales, and business developers. We are the growth engine for our companies and our ability to adapt and overcome is what makes us successful, especially in changing, difficult times!
“Our intimate knowledge of our customers’ menus, back-of-house or manufacturing operations and equipment, an understanding of their brand strategy, consumer insights, and the alignment of Kerry’s capabilities allows us to recognize their challenges and provide solution-based opportunities by bringing meaningful and memorable concepts to their menus and brand.” My teams Mission Statement
My food science days began early on, before I even had a clue what the field consisted of. Growing up, I participated in many 4-H cookery contests and won many awards. Beginning at LSU for my undergraduate studies was an intimidating time. I felt pressure to decide a major that would dictate the direction of the rest of my life. My dad worked for the LSU Ag Center and served on committees with a Food Science professor who is the one that can be credited with introducing me to food science my freshman year of college. Before that, I had no idea this was even a major field of study.
From the time I stepped foot in the Food Science building, I was hooked. I was immediately placed on the RCA Culinology team! Little did I know this would begin shaping my career path. I worked in the food product development lab and was an active member of the LSU Food Science Club. As part of the RCA Culinology team, we advanced to the finals my first year. RCA Phoenix was my first ever professional conference. I was mesmerized from the start with how welcoming the industry was and how much I learned at that conference. My undergrad experience pointed me towards graduate school as my next step to further my food science background and gain leadership skills.
I attended graduate school at Kansas State University, where I was heavily involved with mentoring undergrads. I served as a mentor to the food science club and RCA culinology team. Leading the food science club, allowed me to plan tours at local food processors for the undergrads to gain first hand knowledge of the industry. Graduate school helped stretch my leadership skills, realizing how much I enjoyed and was gratified when mentoring the younger generation.
Currently, I am a Senior Food Scientist with Brakebush Brothers in Wisconsin where I work on national chain accounts developing custom chicken products. We can do any variety of grilled or fried chicken. I recently completed my MBA and enjoy tying the business to the science. My education and experiences have cultivated a skill set and enthusiasm for our industry and willingness to grow the RCA organization by serving as a RCA Board of Director.
I am even more passionate about the RCA than I was 2 years ago for my first term! It has been an exciting 2 years with many great changes to the organization. While we have had to be virtual this year, I can’t wait to get back to in-person events in 2021. After all RCA is all about networking and connections. The connections I have made these last 2 years are immense and I look forward to potentially serving the next 2 years. One of my favorite highlights is helping kick start RCA’s Young professional group “RCA Hustlers”. It is nice to have a sound board to bounce ideas around and mentor members in the early stages of their careers.
Mentoring and giving back was one of my main motivators for running for the board of director position. Reserving on the RCA board will allow me to continue to shape the future of blending culinary and food science together. There are many new programs and changes to look forward to in 2021. If Covid did anything positive it forced us to become more innovative in our current surroundings. Innovation is the core of our industry. We truly had to think out of the box to keep delivering content to our members. I think this will be very evident as we look to develop great content for the coming years.
My vision is to further grow RCA’s membership and continue to bring value to the members. The past 2 years I have served as the membership committee chair. We have developed many strategies to grow and provide for our members. I will continue to make it my goals to advocate and grow the content for our members and future members the students. These students will be our future and who we will be working with one day soon!
My goal in the food industry is to be a leader and advocate for food science and culinology. There are so many students out there today who do not know the possibilities of this industry. It is up to RCA to deliver content and grow our foot hold in this great industry. I always say the world is small but the food industry is even smaller!
While attending Kendall College, Jaime worked as a teaching assistant where she supported Chef Instructors in managing on-campus restaurants and events. After winning first place in The Chefs Of Grey Poupon Competition as well as a $20,000.00 scholarship, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.
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 into Research and Development 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 Chefs 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.
In 2016, she began a new chapter as Director of Bistro Products with Vienna Beef Ltd. her role has expanded to include leadership as she is now the Vice President of Culinary and Innovation for all brands under Vienna Beef. Her duties now include, providing strategic culinary leadership to commercial restaurant chains, retail customers, foodservice accounts, and internal product development. Channel cross functional stakeholders - Marketing, R&D and Insights, by prioritizing and directing activities and engaging with external culinary resources to execute projects in order to leverage the influence of food trends, ingredients, concepts and applications. Expose Vienna Beef to a vast array of national restaurant chain operators and consumers while increasing national brand awareness through the integration of Culinary Arts and leveraging the discipline of Culinology, to lead product activation. Drive customer support and engagement while creating partnerships and fostering relationships for mutual long-term success.
None of this would be possible without the Research Chefs Association. The connections she has made and continues to make through this organization are woven into the path taken to get where she is today and continues to lay the foundation for her future success.
A long time ago, around 11 years or so, I was given the task of making phone calls on behalf of the RCA Membership Committee. I had just begun my first job in research and development and jumped into this side of the industry head-first. I had a preprinted script of what I was supposed to say and tried not to veer too far off. As my call list grew, so did the amount of time I spent on the phone talking to fellow RCA members.
“How long have you been a member?” I’d ask with impatient excitement. “Wow! That’s a long time! Tell me, why have you been with the RCA for so long?” This was always my immediate follow up question and without fail I’d hear them shout “Networking! RCA has the best networking opportunities”. This reply became predictable and without fail I penciled in that response before they mentioned it. Why is this important? This is important because 11 years or so later that is still the number one answer we receive when we as our members the very same question.
My relationships have always been great with the members of this organization and it has even led me to author a book supplemental to a company I began that stemmed from the connections I have made and continue to make within the RCA. I have served on many committees over the years but my most beloved, obvious to those that know me, is the Competitions Committee. That amazing group will always have my heart. I came to chair that committee by accident when the chair at the time had to step down due to unforeseen circumstances. Since I had competed in the competition for so many years, if felt like the logical next step to help lead, optimize, and execute. I proudly hang my medals in my home office, which due to COVID, you are now able to catch a glimpse of over my shoulder via Zoom.
I have also had the honor of being the Student Committee liaison which has made the most impact in terms of me being able to give back to the future of the RCA. I’ve hosted and been a part of many Chicagoland regional events over the years and last year was even able to co-sponsor an event on the West coast! My career is what it is because of my passion, tenacious appetite for learning and the Research Chefs Association. I would not be the Vice President of Culinary & Innovation if it were not for this organization. Fast forward and I have served this organization as Member, Committee Member/Chair, Board Member, Secretary, and most recently Treasurer with hopes to become President one day.
With all the uncertainty in the world today, I hope to continue to carry out positive change and be a voice for Culinology® and its far-reaching importance into the hands and minds of future members and to continuously grow the Research Chefs Association.
I worked 17 years for mechanical contracting company. 14 of those years were spent as a supervisor and project manager installing food processing equipment, along with, related piping, controls, etc. When the opportunity to work for Bush Brothers & Company arose, I did not hesitate. The position combined my love of making food (since early childhood) and the processing aspect that had become so familiar to me.
Shortly after, I returned to school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Technology with focus on business and technology at The University of Tennessee.
After graduating, I moved from Engineering to Product Development. Since then, our company has been exploring flavorful new avenues that promote mainstream consumption of vegetable protein…eat more beans! Within my tenure at Bush’s I have gained extensive knowledge in thermal processing, process improvement, and product development. I currently manage the development of several new products via co-manufacturers and suppliers. I am deeply involved with every step from ideation to full production including market research, product development (product and packaging), quality, food safety, and regulatory.
I have served as the Volunteer Section of IFT president twice, receiving the “Outstanding Section Volunteer” award 8 times and a Certificate of Appreciation for leadership and dedication from IFT National. I was an instrumental voice in the decision-making process leading to the recent change in membership options, making it easier to join IFT.
My personal interests include spending time with my daughter (the artist), coaching my son in little league baseball, riding my Street Glide, playing with the culinary arts, and the occasional round of golf.
I joined the RCA a few years ago not fully understanding what RCA was. During the first conference I attended, I fell in love with the concept of Culinology, the variety of members, trend awareness, and the overall environment.
While IFT has an important role and is certainly a place for the science of food, the environment is not always warm and is often specific to regulatory, quality issues, ingredients, and equipment. The science behind making quality food safely is there, but the aspect of making great tasting products while staying on trend is missing. As a developer, I want an equal share of these things.
What I love most about the RCA is the blend of culinary and science (Culinology). I feel a warmness and camaraderie within the RCA and its members. It seems everyone here has a unique story just like me. RCA just “fits” my personality, professional goals as a developer, and curiosity for what comes next.
It would be a great opportunity to bring more science through members and content to this already great group of Chefs and Scientists. My goal is to be able to help everyone make quality, great tasting food that is always safe. I believe my extensive knowledge in processing and food science would support that goal.
I am a current board member and Chair of the Competitions Committee for the 2021 conference.
Nelson Serrano-Bahri was born and raised in Puerto Rico, from an early age he was exposed to the culinary wonders of the island. As he grew, along with cartoons he loved to watch Julia Child on Saturday mornings. Nelson’s interest in the culinary arts continued to grow, as his grandmothers invited him into the kitchen to cook with them. Nelson started to learn the recipes of his diverse family, which have roots in Spain, France and Lebanon. In their small household, they would cook anything from arroz con pollo y habichuelas to tabouli and dolmas.
With his culinary interests piqued, he decided to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts and Nutrition and selected Johnson and Wales University as the place to develop and grow his skills. During his time there he was a teaching assistant, culinary and nutrition resource at Kids First Rhode Island, intern at Marriott International Hotels, and had his first culinary R&D job as a co-op at ConAgra Foods Culinary Center of Excellence. Inspired by his mentors at ConAgra, he decided to pursue a second degree in Food Science and chose Rutgers University as the place to do it. During his time at Rutgers he had various internships with Kraft Foods and did graduate research at the sensory analysis lab.
Nelson graduated Rutgers University with a degree in Food Science and Management Economics. He went on to take a job with Kraft Foods in Chicago as a Food Scientist and Culinary Resource for the Pizza Division. The Pizza Division was acquired by Nestle and through the acquisition he continued his work on Pizza at Nestle. After almost 2 years with Nestle and looking to continue to strengthen and grow his culinary acumen he took the role of North American R&D Chef at Unilever Food Solutions in Chicago.
Coming from a very entrepreneurial family Nelson always had hoped to explore that segment of the industry and in 2015 he launched Puerto Rico Food Innovations, focused on the import and distribution of retail and foodservice premium food products as well as consulting. Currently Nelson is the Innovation and Culinology Manager; Emerging Business for Ingredion, located The Hatchery Chicago. Nelson manages culinary and technical projects focused on helping micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs commercialize their food products.
For me, RCA is much more than just an association, it is family. 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 the honor of serving as a Board Member for the RCA, as well as participating in the Membership and the Conference Planning Committees.
These experiences exposed me to a world of possibility and a wealth of knowledge and creativity. I learned the 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 immediate goal would be to maintain and further develop the high-quality services; the annual meeting, networking opportunities, resources, and learning tools. I would strive to work with the rest of the board to envision ways in which our organization can continue to evolve, ensuring it maintains its position as the place for Food Industry professionals.
Since discovering RCA, it has become an essential part of my professional, and personal, life. RCA and its members have been with me through good and bad, so giving back to RCA is a pivotal goal of mine.
I originally pursued a career in Medicine before falling in love with the Culinary Arts. I come from a line of dentists and attended a prestigious science focused high school in NYC before attending the University of Albany and graduating from Hunter College with a pre-med focused curriculum. I believe that my background and understanding of applied sciences has helped me greatly on the technical side of my career as well as my thirst for knowledge of the how’s and the why’s of food.
During college is when I really started to expose myself to the possibilities of a career in food. I was working in a restaurant part time in various back of the house jobs (dishes, prep and some line work) as well as interning in an ER for my career, and found that I really had the passion for restaurants and just hated medicine but wanted to at least get my bachelor’s degree in case the pet project didn’t work out.
After graduation I really wanted to make sure that I knew what I was getting myself into and applied for an apprenticeship at the Yale Club of NYC. It was a two year apprenticeship where I rotated through all the kitchens and stations of the club. From banquets, upscale ala carte, pastry and buffet I couldn’t get enough of the kitchen. It was a rigorous two years but it prepared me for the challenging career I had chosen for myself.
I enrolled in the CIA in December of 1993, and was a sponge. In a blink of an eye, I graduated with High Honors (second in my class), group leader and speaker at our graduation. I then followed that up with a yearlong stagiere in Paris at the Michelin starred La Table D’ Anvers. Working for the Conticini brothers who were at the forefront of Molecular Gastronomy at the time, I increased my love of science based cooking and challenging the traditional methods while respecting the Grand Cuisine at the same time. After returning to NYC, I methodically continued my ascent in greenmarket based upscale kitchens for the next near decade to learn as much as possible for when I was ready to become a leader. Quatorze Bis, La Colombe D’Or, Ansonia restaurant, Il Cortile and then Executive Sous Chef at JUdson Grill, and finally Exec Chef at Avalon and Neuman and Bogdanoff corporate catering. I followed this up by owning my own restaurant Hickory BBQ Smokehouse in Kingston NY with my brother and dad for the next five years. Developing my own concept was an incredible challenge where I was able to put all my learning to use. I had really climbed the culinary ladder of the independent mostly upscale world but wanted to do more. That’s when I joined the RCA.
I had heard about this organization in 2006 that was tying all these elements of the field together. Molecular Gastronomers, Manufacturing Corporate Chefs, Chain Development Chefs, Food Scientists and I wanted to be a part of it. I turned the reins of the now two restaurants over to my brother who I had basically trained for succession and applied for and was hired in my role at McCain Foods. I wanted to have a say in how America eats, bringing local, seasonal and better ingredients to millions instead of hundreds. Food manufacturers historically were not chef driven and were more marketing driven, thus not really focused on the whole on clean flavors, ingredient decks etc... In my almost 14 year career at McCain I have been able to be a leader within the company on focusing on the food, removing unnecessary ingredients and actually making food that consumers and our customers want. Working with most of the large National chains, I have been able to speak the language of the operator and give them real menu solution. Working as a chief product developer with R&D has helped my teammates appreciate food more and thus creating better go to market products. My job truly is being a creative force for the company and being a high level resource for Marketing, Sales, R&D, Manufacturing and Supply Chain as well as our customer and consumers and I feel it’s time to give back to my craft and help the next generation of young chefs.
I joined RCA back in 2006 when I was still the Chef/Owner of two market driven casual dining BBQ restaurants. I wanted to be part of this growing movement of a more progressive organization where Chefs, Food Scientists, Marketers and other disciplines were guiding the future of American cuisine. I have attended and participated in six National Conventions during this time and have been a featured speaker and presenter at the Regional Educational workshops at CIA Napa last year. It was at this event in talking to and spending time with members of the Board of Directors, RCA leaders and staff where I decided to pursue this opportunity in order to make an impact on our organization.
The RCA to me is all about community. Not just the Corporate chefs and food scientists who are members, but the farmers who grow and raise our food, the marketing teams that create the demand, the manufacturing plants who take those ingredients and make them into end products and supply chain and Sales who take those products into retail and food service outlets. We are also a community of independent chefs and small business operators that are progressive in not just technique but in thinking about the future of food.
There are so many elements and the challenging question is “how do we find common ground for all of the community to fit in?” In the first few years I was a member, I felt that our organization did not do a great job in bringing it all together, but I have seen a great amount of change recently.
I’ve approached the last 14 years of my career as a Corporate Manufacturing Chef the same as I did my first 14 years of my career as an Independent restaurant upscale greenmarket driven Chef, just on a different scale. As chefs and product developers, we are all just trying to bring the best quality food to the table while always thinking of our consumers. We also must pay attention to changing habits, lifestyles and social needs of our customers. That is why I would love to see the RCA focus more on bringing the big and little together. The biggest reason I became a Manufacturing Corporate Chef is to have an impact, I would love to work on a committee to bring chefs from small and big operations together in a truly impactful way to make better food that we all can be proud of. I also think there is more that unites us than what divides us, at the end of the day it’s all about the food.
We also need to have a real pulse on the changing industry as well, movements like “Me Too” and “Black Lives Matter” must be addressed by our organization. I know that RCA is doing a really good job of denouncing hatred but I would really like to spend a lot of my personal capital on being an agent of change. As a Board member I want to work on a grass roots movement in schools; Primary, Secondary and Culinary to give underprivileged students the understanding of what we do, and how they can have a meaningful and fruitful career in food. I think we can work together with their instructors and teachers as well as corporate leaders on internships and apprenticeships that will help level the playing field. Being a board member is a way for me to give back to an industry that has given me so much. I would like my tenure to strengthen the relationship between big and little as well as help make the RCA a model of Corporate/Social responsibility for diversity and Inclusion.
Nominations and Board Development Committee
To maintain strong leadership in 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.
Catherine Proper, CEC
The NBDC 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
For more information, contact a member of the Nominations Committee or RCA Headquarters.