08 October 2012

Kristen, Food Technologist

Last year I wrote a blog post about my brother-in-law that generated a comment about how interesting my family is.  I realized that it's so true!  My family is super interesting.  Each Monday I'll be interviewing a family member (or dear friend).  I hope you enjoy these Meet Me Monday posts.

Today's interview is with my friend, Kristen.

Where do you live?
Physically, New England. But my heart belongs to any mountainous area - the ones that stick out paticularly to me are: 1 - Stanley of Idaho, 2 -  Grindelwald of Switzerland, 3 - and of course my own Wasatch Mountain Range in Salt Lake City of Utah.

What are your hobbies or special interests?
I really enjoy music - I took piano lessons growing up and for the amount of lessons I had, I really should be on a higher skill level than I am. I wish I would have practiced more. Hindsight. . . I also enjoy singing in groups, but I'm a big brat when it comes to "Ward Choir" - basically, you won't see me in one. I bought a Groupon (my guilty pleasure) for 8 musical lessons - I'm in the middle of these right now and my instrument of choice is guitar.

My strong affection towards large rocks comes with a love for the outdoors. I decided over this past Memorial Day that I, along with my dog, are going to become a member of the not terribly elite New Hampshire 4000' club. Bagged 3 of the 48 so far. Let me know if you want to join me for any hikes!

Not only trekking do I love, but there's something about being on a boat that I can't get enough of. I haven't had the pleasure of finding a friend with a watercraft and tow rope here in New England. If you want to help me remedy this please do.

What is your current profession?
My exact job title is, "Food Technologist". I technologize for Nestle in the Buitoni branch of the Prepared Foods Division. This means a great deal of Pasta.

What made you choose that line of work?
I love food, I love science. Food + Science = Food Science. I also am decent at math. . . But, if you want the longer story, here goes: My high school physics teacher encouraged our small class of 'AP' students to become engineers, "You are our future! You're the smart ones that will shape tomorrow!" Well, I didn't have any preconcieved notion about what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I applied for all the engineering scholarships and picked the department that offered me the most compensation. Civil & Environmental Engineering it was.

It wasn't until my second semester that I would take an actual CEE course. Just the intro. I'm not sure what finally made me snap - maybe it was the 7:30 am class in the freezing, bomb shell of a classroom (seriously, not even one bar on the cell phone!), or doing my entire group project by myself, or maybe it was the book we were required to read about the construction of the Panama Canal that mentioned Malaria at least once per page, perhaps the instructor starting off each lecture drilling into our minds that, "YOU are responsible for the lives of people that use your structures - here's an example of something that went horrendously wrong", possibly even receiving my graded papers back from my assigned TA that used a purple sparkly pen that left glitter ALL over any other contents of my bag - but I eventually decided that Civil Engineering was definitely NOT for me. 

I spent another year in school, still on track with the science and math that goes along with engineering, but not really feeling like anything was a good fit. I had always felt very comfortable in the kitchen and so seriously contemplated culinary school. The summer after my Freshman year of college, I went off to work on a Dude Ranch. I served meals to the guests - very glamorous, I know - and as a result worked with the chefs very closely. I saw the hours (and general demeanor) they kept and didn't want to spend my life that way either. But I was still attracted to the idea of food and had enjoyed the online nutrition classes I had taken to fullfil some general requirments. "Sure, I'll be a dietitian, that sounds like a good job." However, the University of Utah offers no such degree. I swear, you can major in bowling there, but no nutrition based program. 

I explored the neighbor to the South and the neighbor to the North. Being from Utah, I had enough LDS friends, I didn't really need to go to South. Before taking the plunge though, I visited with an advisor at the Northern school and looking over my transcripts she observed, "You look like you like math and science. If you enroll in the Food Science program you're guaranteed a scholarship." I didn't really know what food science was, but the core classes aligned with the dietetics program. Yeah, free money, sign me up. But I fell in love with my newly discovered food science. 

So, basically the truest and purest answer to this question is actually, "free money".

When people find out what you do, how do they usually respond?
You must eat a lot of chocolate. In their defense I usually respond to this inquiry with, "I work for Nestlé". I understand their thought process, as Nestlé's most recognizable brands being candy related.

What question do you wish they would ask?  Or, what insider information would you give them?
I don't wish anyone to ask me anything different. I like opening up the world of Nestlé brands to people - most of them don't realize just how far 'our' brands span. And here's the insider information, if you don't buy my products, I might lose my job. So, eat up folks. Anything with a nest and a bird family will do. Much appreciated.

If you had it to do all over again would you choose the same thing?  Why or why not?
 Definitely. I wasn't immediately in my area of choice when I started working here, but I have slyly clawed my way into a position that is more along the lines of my ultimate goal - to create delicious new products that you can buy at the grocery around the world (well, more realistically the country, but I'll take it).

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