Day 159: Spend a day with a flavorist

February 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

This week for my Health and Science Reporting Seminar we are spending Tuesday through Friday shadowing scientists.

The idea is that by immersing ourselves in the science industry, we can more fully understand the passion and effort that goes into a scientist’s research. I am spending the first half of the week at a flavor chemistry lab, and the second half at a design firm.

Immediately upon arrival, I was asked to sign a number of nondisclosure forms. I learned that a big part of the flavoring business is trying to replicate competitor’s flavors, and so I had to promise I would not reveal any of the lab’s secret recipes. Unfortunately, this meant I was not allowed to take photos or video.

I was paired with a professional flavorist – a title that takes seven years to achieve. Not all food chemists are chosen to enter flavorist training, and those that do must endure five years of hard training in order to become a certified junior flavorist, and then another two years of intensive training and testing to become a full blown flavorist.

There are nearly 4,500 chemicals available to create a flavor. I was introduced to the process of compounding, or adding chemicals together to make a flavor, right away, as one of the major projects of the day was reformulating a flavor that a client thought had a bad aroma.

The flavorist let me smell all of the chemicals involved in the new flavor. Separately they didn’t smell great, but as a mixture they came together like a puzzle to form a really pleasing scent.

I admit that about 75 percent of the science goes over my head, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it incredibly interesting.

I’ve gotten really good at nodding and smiling.

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