The Research Chefs Association (RCA) is dedicated to the integration of art and science in the development of new food products.

In 1994, the American Culinary Federation (ACF) was holding its annual convention and chefs involved in product development decided to get together, says Chef Ed Harazak, executive chef at International Food Solutions. “We decided that we needed our own organization because we were spending a lot of our time at the ACF meeting working on projects related to product development.”

The RCA has grown into an international organization that includes food scientists and technologists in product development for the retail and foodservice industries.

A Network of Support

The RCA is the place to network with decision-makers in product development. If you are interested in the trend toward the use of artisan cheeses, the production issues behind foie gras, how to effectively target kids in developing products or the effective use of starch systems, the annual convention is the place to be.

The RCA is also an international organization attracting members from a number of countries. One example is Chef Wendy Baskerville, the product development manager for Tricon Global Restaurants (Canada) Inc. She says, “As an RCA member, I have an incredible resource for gathering knowledge that expands my general technical skills and that speaks to specific development problems whenever they arise.”

A Love of Food and Knowledge

The RCA differentiates itself from similar organizations, such as the ACF and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), by defining itself by its love of food. It has evolved into an organization that benefits people involved in food processing, and its members demonstrate a healthy interest in the culinary arts and in the science of mass production. The RCA realizes that not everyone who has a positive impact on product development will be a chef, but that culinary knowledge is essential in producing the best-tasting products.

The organization has promoted actively the education of its members and presented the first national program for the certification of research chefs in 1999. A Certified Research Chef (CRC) is a chef who has demonstrated knowledge in the areas of food science applicable in product development. In 2000, the RCA announced Rutgers University was developing a course to help CRC candidates prepare for written exams. Titled “The Art and Science of New Food Development,” the first of the technical workshops in the Culinology™ 101 series was offered this fall.

Next March, at the annual convention, a certification program for the title Certified Culinary Scientist (CCS) will be announced. The CCS will be for those individuals who have a technical background, in addition to culinary arts training.

So, whether you are interested in helping to form regional meetings for the RCA or merely showing up to enjoy the annual conventions, the RCA is a great place to learn!

Sidebar: RCA Timeline

1994—The first informal meeting of about 50 chef attendees that would eventually become the RCA was held at the ACF National Convention in San Francisco.1995—RCA's first official reception is held at the ACF convention in New York. Its mission: “To provide the research chef with the forum for professional and educational development, emphasizing the value of the culinary perspective in the development of products and services”.1997—The first RCA annual meeting convenes in Cleveland, in conjunction with the Society for Food Service Research (SAFSR).1999—The third annual RCA/SAFSR convention is held in Chantilly, Va.2000—RCA holds its first convention in New Orleans, where it announces its first national certification program for research chefs (CRC).2001—The RCA and the IFT's foodservice division announce a formal alliance.2002—The RCA convention will be held at the Marriott Hotel, New Orleans, March 21-24, 2002.