A Chef Speaks! Q&A with Campbell’s Senior Chef David Landers
Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute merges menu trends with food formulation.
Prepared Foods’ Food for Thought is a feature interview series involving food company R&D professionals, nutritionists, research chefs and other industry executives. In this edition, Food for Thought talks with David Landers, senior chef for Campbell Soup’s Culinary & Baking Institute. Landers and Thomas Griffiths, CCBI vice president, outlined Campbell’s 2014 Culinary TrendScape report in a featured talk at the Research Chefs Association meeting in Portland in mid-March.
Q: Can you tell us a little about Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute? When was it created? Why?
Chef David: A: Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute (CCBI) is a global network of highly-trained, credentialed chefs, bakers and culinary professionals at the Campbell Soup Company. We have chefs all over the world who work hand-in-hand with the business to create and inspire the next generation of Campbell products. Our team also draws upon our expert culinary credentials to help educate our colleagues, customers and our consumers to have a “passion for food.”
CCBI has created by Chef Thomas Griffiths, CMC, soon after he started at Campbell. Chef Griffiths has 15 years of experience as an associate dean and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, providing him with the credentials and experience it takes to build a team like CCBI at Campbell.
Top Trends for 2014
Food waste awareness
New Jewish Deli
Yogurt goes savory
Source: Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute, TrendScape 2014
Q: Who works at CCBI? What are your roles?
Chef David: A major part of our job is bringing in culinary trends through our TrendScape program, our internal way of tracking data and keeping tabs on the latest trends, and sifting through the information to pull out the relevant pieces for each of our brands and businesses.
We are involved with all of Campbell’s brands worldwide and in some cases we have chefs assigned to a specific business, such as Chef Chris Tanner, our executive chef of Soup and Simple Meals. His day-to-day work is on product development for brands such as Prego, Pace, Swanson and the soup brands. We have other CCBI chefs that support Pepperidge Farm, Plum Organics, Bolthouse Farms and V8.
Q: How do describe CCBI’s Culinary TrendScape report? Why create that study?
Chef David: To stay ahead of the culinary curve, our CCBI team of chefs and culinary professionals tap a wealth of research, which includes our own experiences and as well as tracking data from professional sources. We keep tabs on what’s emerging in media and restaurants and travel all over so we are immersed in global cultures and cuisines. We've taken all of this data and launched our first-ever Culinary TrendScape Report that identifies what we see as the top 2014 food trends.
Meet David Landers
Title: Senior Chef, Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute (CCBI), Campbell Soup Company
Responsibilities: Landers leads culinary support for Campbell’s Innovation team, a group of multi-disciplined experts charged with developing concepts for Campbell’s “next-generation” products. He also leads the development and presentation of the CCBI TrendScape report, sharing information on key consumer interests and culinary trends to watch with colleagues enterprise-wide.
Professional background: Landers joined Campbell Soup in October 2011 as managing chef for CCBI. David was responsible for culinary education, planning internal and external events and building the CCBI global network of chefs. Before joining Campbell, Landers worked in culinary product development at The Center for Culinary Development and as a consultant to Fortune 500 food companies in San Francisco. Prior to that, he worked as a product development intern at Firmenich, a flavor development and application company.
Landers began his career working in a variety of culinary roles. He apprenticed in the fine dining French restaurant and banquet department at the Metropole Holiday Inn Hotel in Montpellier, France. He also worked as a pastry and line cook in several US restaurants, including English is Italian, BLT Steak in New York City, and Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant in Napa Valley, California.
Certifications / Associations: Landers is a Certified Chef de Cuisine by the American Culinary Federation (ACF), a high level certification reflecting his skills and experience as a chef and manager as well as passing exams on nutrition, food safety, sanitation and supervisory management. David is a member of the ACF and the Research Chefs Association.
Education: Landers earned his associate of occupational studies degree in culinary arts from The Culinary Institute of America and his bachelor’s degree in food science with a minor in food industry management from Cornell University.
We created the TrendScape Report to share the great information we have already been collecting with our customers and consumers. Having conversations about food is vital to our day-to-day operations within the CCBI team and the report is our venue to do that. The trends listed in the report are the spring board for a conversation about food that we want to have. We are chefs. We love eating and sharing food. While we can’t sit down at the table and share a meal with everyone, we can still share that food experience through this report.
Q: Was it fun to create the report?
Chef David: This is a question I get often. While it is fun to eat, explore, and talk about food it also is something that we take very seriously. When the chefs are in a restaurant conducting trend research we are always analyzing the menu and dishes trying to connect dots and pull out the themes we are seeing across many menus. As with any other research we also spend a good amount of time reading and seeing what other people are saying about food.
Q: Anything surprise you? Anything you learned during the process?
Chef David: The one thing this confirmed for me was how important food is to everyone. As soon as I scratched the surface and started to research, it seemed like there was no end to the amount of information and the passion that people felt about food. It was encouraging and reassuring to know I wasn’t the only one this passionate!
Q: How and when do you interact with Campbell’s traditional product developers and food scientists?
Chef David: I interact with product developers every day and am actively involved with the development of the formulas of the products we are working on. My biggest point of influence is when we are just starting a new development project. We start each project by educating people about the history and cuisine behind the specific variety with examples from the marketplace, restaurants and dishes that we create. From that newly shared knowledge we create the direction for the variety we would like to develop. From that point we work together translating the recipe the chefs created into the formulas that will ultimately be the new product. It is a great process that starts with the chef’s point of view and ensures the right characteristics and attributes make their way through the entire development process.
Q: If we looked in your refrigerator or pantry at home, what’s something we’d be surprised to find?
Chef David: In my pantry at home I think you would be surprised to see all of the different shapes and types of pasta and the large quantity of home-canned tomatoes. My wife and I head to Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market and stock up on the pasta. Then each year in the late summer, we get bushels of tomatoes from the farmers’ market and make canned whole tomatoes. The two of those things together are a go-to meal all year long.
Q: If you were going to compete in a reality food show, what would it be?
Chef David: I have been a big fan of Top Chef for a long time and that is the show I would definitely like to compete in. It may have been a few years since I worked in a restaurant but the Campbell chefs have unique learning opportunities, which might give me an edge.
Just last year, I took an intensive “Cuisine and Culture” course in Brazil to learn as much as I could about the ingredients and food of this influential country. Some of the things I tasted and cooked were completely new to me but now I have incorporated them into my repertoire. I make the Pao de Queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread made with manioc flour, on a regular basis and it is one of the favorites around the kitchens now.
Continually learning and exploring the food world—here and abroad—enables me to develop better products and would allow me to give those other Top Chef competitors a run for their money!