A research chef is a chef who experiments with different recipes and cooking methods to find ways to combine the art of cooking with food science. A research chef can typically find employment with companies that manufacture pre-packaged foods. These foods are usually dried, frozen, or canned, and the chef must develop recipes suited to these methods of food preservation. Generally, the focus for these recipes is on taste, nutritional content, and shelf life.
Most of the time, to be hired as a research chef, the applicant must have completed education and training through an accredited school of culinary arts. In addition, some education in nutrition and food science is helpful. The pay scale for a research chef usually depends on experience and the level of education, but in the United States, the average salary for this job is about $55,000 US dollars (USD). In many cases, larger companies pay higher salaries that can average around $65,000 USD.
In large companies, the research chef usually works closely with the product development team, in some cases under its direct supervision; however, this working relationship is sometimes reversed. Sometimes the research chef first creates the dish, then product development works to find ways to market it. In large food processing companies, research chefs may have many chefs who work under their guidance.
Sometimes restaurants employ chefs whose primary responsibility is to create and test new recipes. In larger, very upscale restaurants, these chefs can make better salaries than those who work within the commercial food processing industry, however, employment of this type is often difficult to secure. Often, these jobs may be reserved for chefs who have already proven their talents through other venues.
Many research chefs belong to culinary associations whose aim is to help these chefs secure employment and advance their careers. These associations sometimes offer continuing education, with courses in food science and nutrition. These groups also help chefs employed in research and development keep current on scientific developments within the industry.
Finding employment as a research chef may be difficult. Employment opportunities are not plentiful, and are generally only open to chefs who have many years of culinary experience. Those who would like a career as a research chef may have to start their career on a lower level, and work their way up to the position. Generally speaking, the more education and experience an applicant has, the more likely he or she may be considered for this type of position.