Beatrix Csemer is a 2015 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program. She spent two years with Research & Innovation’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, first as a Research Assistant and then, as a graduate, was hired as a Research Associate. Beatrix is a Food Scientist with TreeHouse Foods, a private label food and beverage leader focused on customer brands and custom products.
Tell us a little about where you work:
At TreeHouse Foods we engage with retail grocery, food away from home, industrial and export customers, including most of the leading grocery retailers and foodservice operators in the United States and Canada. TreeHouse Foods is best known for food and beverages produced by our two largest businesses: Bay Valley Foods, LLC (including E.D. Smith and Flagstone Foods) and TreeHouse Private Brands. With more than 16,000 employees and a network of manufacturing facilities across the United States, Canada and Italy.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
When I first started at TreeHouse Foods, I was specialised to work within the condiments category. I worked on multiple projects for North American leading brands and I had the chance to be involved from innovation to commercialization. This means from ideation to creating multiple formulations through sensory panels and initiating a plant trial.
After a year, a new opportunity came across within the company. I have become part of a recipe/ingredient simplification team. This was a new challenge with new team members and I have been able to learn the logistics behind a company like TreeHouse Foods. In seven months, I learned four different ERP systems, such as SAP/PDM and was involved in a transition for efficiency and cost-saving project – moving the entire retired product development database to a brand-new leading database (SAP/PDM).
How has your experience with R&I helped prepare you for your current role?
R&I and NC has become my professional family in a foreign country. Working at R&I enabled me to utilize the knowledge and experience I have formulated throughout my academic years. It gave me the opportunity to work with small-to medium-size businesses, those who were facing multiple challenges and needed help to find the most effective solution. It gave me the foundation of how to deal with real challenges in the real workforce, as well as provided networking opportunities within the food industry.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
As a Research Associate, I was a lead on one of the most memorable projects with Community Living. Community Living operates a social enterprise whereby their clients, persons with developmental disabilities, are provided employment in their commercial kitchen. They wanted to expand their ‘Well Preserved’ line of hand-crafted condiments and jellies with a new product line, incorporating ingredients from local partners. Although they had their own kitchen, they lacked the necessary food science skills and regulatory expertise.
This challenge was different from any other project since our team was able to work/create/train on site. Our research team created and tested several recipes, keeping in mind the need for straightforward recipe instructions. In the end, four new recipes were chosen: an Asian-inspired barbecue sauce, a pepper peach salsa, a Mexican salsa and a pear brandy plum barbecue sauce. The research team then created Nutrition Facts Tables (NFTs) that met Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations and provided on-site training for each of the new products. Community Living has been producing and selling the pepper peach salsa since the summer of 2015 with great commercial success.
“[R&I] gave me the foundation of how to deal with real challenges in the real workforce, as well as provided networking opportunities within the food industry.”
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
I always wanted to be a Food Scientist! I came all the way from Hungary, Europe to achieve my dream. I believe applied learning is what really caught my eye. Being an international student with English as my second language, I was able to receive the “hands–on” experience that made the course more transparent.
A faculty member who influenced you?
Many people influenced me throughout my NC years. I would call out Dr. Amy Proulx who provided endless motivational support throughout my academic years.
Most memorable experience at NC?
Being part of Research Chefs Association’s International competition, representing Canada’s Junior Research Chefs. Our team finished third place.
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
Have the passion to succeed, create and improve. Just as a painter has a passion for colour, light and image – have the passion for taste, texture and colour.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
Most of the time I have to use my common sense and excellent work ethic before I use my knowledge and experience.
Proudest achievement since graduating:
Being a Food Scientist for a world-known company, TreeHouse Foods.
Interests outside of work?
I am a voice teacher part time. I used to be a child actress back in Europe for 17 years and I’ve played in several musicals and operas (Oliver Twist, Carmen, etc..). I love music. Plato said: “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
Everything happens for a reason. Things go wrong, so appreciate them when they’re right. Good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Failing isn’t failure, until you give up!