For my community connections project, I interviewed a food scientist named Phil Oxford. He develops products for the baked good company Weston Foods. I chose to interview him because I have a huge passion for food, like him. I love cooking, baking, experimenting with recipes, creating food videos, and food photography. I knew when we started this project that I wanted to interview someone who was a chef, a baker, or just someone who loves food like me. I originally wanted to interview Greta Podleski, the author of a cookbook that I really like. I emailed her the questions and waited almost a week, but unfortunately she didn’t reply. Since I had to find someone else, I thought of asking my Aunt. I know that she loves to cook like I do and she is really creative with different recipes. Since we were not allowed to interview a family member, I asked her if she had any friends or knew anyone who had a passion for food. She was able to connect me with Phil Oxford, one of her friends.
From doing this interview, I learned about the possibilities and the variety of jobs that we have today. Before doing this project, I didn’t really know that being a food scientist was even a job that people do! I also learned that it takes so many people with different jobs to properly run a company. In the interview questions, Phil said that he has a team of food scientists that develop recipes and flavours. Then there are the actual bakers of the bread, as well as the stores that sell it. I knew about some of these jobs, but I definitely didn’t realize that so much time goes into creating a perfect recipe for almost all the food that we buy.
Through this project I also learned more about making connections with people. Firstly, I had to connect with two people to actually get the answers for the interview questions. I first talked to my Aunt about the project, to ask if she knew of anyone I could interview. Then she connected me with Phil, who I gave the questions. This gave me the opportunity to connect even more then I would have if I had just found a person to directly interview. I also don’t personally know Phil Oxford, so it thought that it was really cool that I could still make a connection with him, and even get to know him through doing this.
I learned about composing a professional email to someone that I hadn’t met, as well as interviewing them. This also really taught me about managing my time properly. I was able to get it done on time, but it was a bit stressful when the first person I wanted to interview wasn’t replying. I had to decide how long to wait for a reply, and also how to find a backup when they didn’t answer. I know I will use these skills in the future for sure, no matter what job I do. I will definitely need to work with people at some point, solve problems, make decisions, compose emails, manage my time, and especially connect with others. I am really glad that I am learning to use these skills now while I’m in high school.
This project connects to my passions because I absolutely love to create things with food. I am often in the kitchen baking or cooking, and it is something I do in my spare time. After learning about this job, it made me realize how cool so many jobs are and that not all of them involve just sitting at a desk. I think its really interesting that food and science can be combined into one job. As well as my love for food, I also like science. I like to experiment and be creative. I not only like to cook, but I like to figure out how the recipe works and how each ingredient can effect the final product.
For me, this interview opened up the opportunity for a job in the future. I like science, and I love experimenting with food, so this might be a possible career path for me. Phil said that if someone was interested in this, he would recommend a science course, or a specialized Food Science university. A food internship is also another way. I think I could definitely do some research on what a food internship is and how to get one in the future. This could certainly affect what I decide to study in university, and maybe even find me a fascinating job that I will love to do!
These are the interview questions with Phil’s answers below:
1. How did you first become interested or involved with this job?
I completed a degree in Chemistry, and worked for a little while in the chemical industry, but I was always interested in food and drink, and why things look and taste like they do. I got an opportunity to join Kraft Foods in their coffee technology team in 2003, and have enjoyed working with food since then.
2. Why are you passionate about your job?
I am a big foodie, and also a bit of a nerd. So I like the fact I can taste what we do, but also understand the science of what is happening and why.
3. How does your job work and what do you do on a daily basis?
I am responsible for product development at Weston Foods for Bread, Bagels, Tortillas, English Muffins and in-store bakery. I have a team of food scientists who work to develop new and improved recipes and formulas and then work with our bakeries across Canada to ensure that the fresh bread ends up on the shelves.
We start with understanding what the consumer wants and needs in a product, and then use a combination of the art (culinary) and science of food to be able to make and produce our breads. For example, we just reformulated Wonder bread to meet non GMO project requirements. This needed extensive work in sourcing non-GMO ingredients and then making them in our bakeries. https://www.
We have bakeries in BC, AB, MB, ON, QC, NS and NFLD to ensure that fresh bread is delivered every day. We also work with Private Label customers and Quick Service Restaurants on things like burger buns and breakfast. Here are a few of the brands we work on: Wonder, Country Harvest, Gadoua, Rubschlager, D’Italiano, Dave’s Killer Bread, Casa Mendosa, Old Mill.
No two days are the same. Yesterday I was in our Langley BC bakery ensuring that our Wonder non-GMO production was going well. Today I am visiting a Quick Service restaurant product team to look at what they need for burger buns in the future.
4. What obstacles have you faced to get where you are today?
I didn’t do a food science degree, and so some of the basic and fundamentals of food science were new to me. I had to talk to a lot of smart people, and read to understand some of the background to food. Chemistry could only take me so far!
5. What advice would you pass on to someone interested in what you are doing?
I would say that if you are passionate about understanding food, flavour, and how things are made, then look for a science course. Some universities specialize in Food Science. Also, look at what you can learn and make and do at home. It can be fun to make cheese at home, or to bake bread and cakes, and understand from the recipe what the ingredients are doing and why. Getting an internship in food is also a great way to understand more about what is needed.
6. Would you be open to further contact from Riverside Secondary students, and if so, how may they contact you?
Of course. No problem!! Phil Oxford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
All photos taken from http://www.pexels.com