Rachel Gerroir is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation & Food Technology program and spent two years with the Research & Innovation division, first as a Research Assistant, then Research Associate with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. Rachel is now employed as a Research Assistant with the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University.
Tell us about where you work:
CCOVI is an internationally recognized institute focused on research priorities for Canada’s grape and wine industry, while also offering education and outreach programs for that community.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
My job involves working alongside researchers and graduate students on research projects aimed to help industry in various aspects of grape growing and winemaking. One of the projects I work on involves going to local vineyards to sample grapes and analyze the tannin concentration of the skins and seeds on a weekly basis until they are harvested.
The objective is to create a historical database of tannin development in many different varietals throughout the harvest season in Niagara’s wine region. This will facilitate best tannin management practices and informed decision-making throughout the winemaking process. I enjoy being able to go out into the field, and I’ve even had the chance to help with a harvest, which was a completely new experience for me!
How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?
Research & Innovation was a fantastic learning environment and a great place to interact with clients and work on real products. I was able to see the challenges that small- and medium-sized businesses were facing and find the best solution for them. The hands-on lab experience and knowledge of various pieces of laboratory equipment have been most influential in preparing me for my current role. Working on many different projects simultaneously also helped me learn to organize and prioritize my time efficiently.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Sobrii non-alcoholic gin beverage was a product I worked on in my final year at Research & Innovation. It was great to be able to work on a product that’s the first of its kind in Canada and be able to try competitive products from all over the world. I learned how to manage a project from start to finish. This included sourcing ingredients, macerating botanicals and distilling, organizing tastings, and adjusting the product to meet client expectations. It all started with small lab-scale distillations and ended with running commercial scale-ups at the Niagara College Teaching Distillery.
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
The practical, hands-on approach to learning where you could take what you’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to what you do in the science labs or kitchens. Coming from university, I also appreciated the smaller class sizes as they allowed you to dig deeper and ask more specific questions related to course material.
“The hands-on lab experience and knowledge of various pieces of laboratory equipment have been most important in preparing me for my current role.”
Most memorable experience at NC?
The culinary labs were some of my favourite courses because they brought food science into a practical environment while allowing you to use your creativity. Bringing home all the delicious food wasn’t so bad either!
A faculty member who influenced you?
Many members of faculty influenced me positively over the three years, especially Peter Rod, for sparking my interest in wine, and Dr. Amy Proulx for her ongoing encouragement and motivational support.
A mentor at R&I?
I learned something from many members of the research team, whether it be teachings through the product development process, how to use pieces of lab equipment, to how to manage expectations in the workplace. It was a great learning environment.
What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?
Work hard and be open to projects of all sorts; there’s something to learn in every one of them.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
To keep an open mind and be willing to participate in new experiences. If you have the opportunity to learn something new, always take it.
Proudest achievement since graduating?
Learning something new and building on my experience every day in a challenging and rewarding environment.
Interests outside of work?
Baking, hiking the beautiful trails of the Niagara region, visiting local wineries, and travelling.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
It’s the will, not the skill.