What’s rarer than a junior in high school who knows exactly what career path they want to pursue? A junior in high school who knows exactly what career path they want to pursue, and that career path is food science.
Meet Ella C., a third-year student at Maritime High School in Des Moines, Washington, who very well could be on her way to developing the next “it” product to grace your plate and satiate your palate.
In early November, Ella connected with Trident and arranged for a personal tour of the company’s Pier 91 innovation center. The hub of Trident’s product-focused research and development, it’s in Pier 91’s test kitchen where a team of Trident’s food scientists, chefs and product developers measure, mix, chop, blend, cook and bake a symphony of fresh ingredients and flavors, all in an effort to develop the company’s next salmon burger, Ultimate Fish Stick or Kraken Stash beer battered fish fillets.
I really enjoy hobbies where I can build up my experience and skills to yield a better result each time.
You could say that the magic that happens at Pier 91 wouldn’t be possible without a dash of culinary arts, a sprinkle of science and a dollop of creativity. Such is the biological makeup of your typical food scientist.
Creating Opportunities for Students Through "Living 2 Learn"
For Ella, the opportunity to tour Trident’s research and development center was made possible by her school’s “Leaving 2 Learn” program. The program provides students with an opportunity to pursue internships that align with their personal interests and goals.
"I heard about Trident from a friend of mine that took a tour of a Trident facility in 2022," Ella said. "He said it was a great informational experience where he was able to learn a lot about commercial food development, so I thought I’d give it a try."
On a typical Seattle morning in early November – chilly and gray, with a chance of afternoon rain – Ella arrived at Pier 91 and was greeted by Olga Semenovich, Director of Corporate Research and Development at Trident.
Dressed in a white lab coat – they don’t call them food scientists for nothing – Olga gave Ella a brief rundown of some of the more popular Trident products consumers might find at the store or online. Sitting in front of them lay packages of everything from wild caught Alaska salmon burgers and pollock burgers, to wild Alaskan smoked sockeye salmon jerky and Pure Catch fish oil supplements.
"I’m overjoyed any time someone reaches out to me and shows an interest in food science," Olga said. "Ella clearly has a passion for cooking, baking and science. I’m impressed at the ambition and courage it took for her to reach out directly and say, 'This is what I’m passionate about. Can I please visit your company to learn more?'"
From there, Ella was treated to a full tour of the research and development center.
With Olga acting as her guide and answering questions, Ella was introduced to various members of the research and development team, including Morgan Gabriel, Trident’s Executive Chef, and Duncan Pasewark, Food Technologist. Chef Morgan and Duncan weren’t too busy in the test kitchen that they couldn't stop to answer a few questions themselves and offer Ella a sampling of some of the latest product innovations the team has been working on.
You might call taste testing just one of the on-the-job benefits of being a food scientist.
Discovering the Joy in Food and Science. Why Pick Just One?
The thought of pursuing a career in food science is nothing new for Ella. She first heard the term “food scientist” nearly six years ago while watching a video on a popular YouTube channel called “How to Cook That.” Hosted by Ann Reardon, a qualified food scientist and dietitian, the channel has amassed nearly 5 million subscribers.
After that, there was no looking back. Ella was hooked.
"I’ve been very passionate about both cooking and baking for my whole life," she said. "I used to cook dinner with my mom when I was little, and when I was old enough, I would watch tutorials and recipe videos on how to make simple desserts. This sparked a love for baking in me."
Customers and consumers are accustomed to Trident pioneering responsible fishing in the pristine waters of Alaska and sharing its catch around the world in the form of surimi, salmon burgers, wild Alaska pollock fillets, health supplements and other products. What few of them see, however, is that it takes a team of creative and naturally curious individuals who are one-part scientist and one-part chef to ensure Trident’s salmon burgers have just the right hint of garlic, or its Ultimate Fish Sticks have the perfect ratio of wild caught Alaska pollock to panko breading.
The creativity aspect of confectionery has always inspired me to try new things.
As for Ella, just don’t ask her to choose whether she leans more scientist or chef in the food science equation. For her money, she’s a little bit of both.
"That question is really difficult," she said. "I thoroughly enjoy most types of science and studying why things are the way they are; or why they react to other things in certain ways. Thinking outside of the box on a frequent basis to come up with solutions to improve textures, flavors and appearances would be the perfect job for me."
“Although, I would have to say that cooking and food in general will always be one of my top passions.”
Spoken like a true food scientist in the making.