Where are they now?: Ankita Mathkar
Ankita Mathkar is a 2018 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program. After two years working as a Research Assistant for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, Ankita accepted a position as R&D Project Lead with Sol Cuisine, a natural vegan foods manufacturer with a growing community of restaurant and retail consumers.
Tell us what you do in your new job
I formulate new products that are completely plant-based with the use of soy, peas, lentils and vegetables. I then ensure that they are led to the production floor and that large-scale production is successful. I work a little on the regulatory side as well, so my job entails looking over the packaging and working closely with labelling software.
Proudest achievement since graduating:
Probably seeing one of my recipes going into production and patiently waiting for it to hit grocery stores.
How did your R&I experience help prepare you for your current job?
I was able to work on a plethora of projects and learn what research and development really entails when it comes down to the real world. R&I was a fast-paced place to work, with all the projects coming in and deadlines sneaking up daily. I quickly learned how to tackle problems in a short period of time and provide solutions to industry owners in a professional way. It also taught me how to deal with downfalls when something doesn’t work out, because in the research and development world, it’s OK to have downfalls. Matter of fact, its best to build up after something has gone wrong. Most importantly, I was able to make connections with various influential people and suppliers that still come in handy.
What first attracted you to Niagara College?
The Culinary Innovation and Food Tech program stood out to me. No other colleges or universities had a three-year coop program that would be able to teach me both culinary techniques as well as open up opportunities in the food industry. Plus, visually, the campus looked absolutely gorgeous!
Favourite NC memory?
There are too many to count – I had an amazing time at NC! I was able to make long-lasting friendships. I had excellent professors and coworkers. If I could do it again, I most definitely would.
A faculty member who influenced you?
It would be hard for me to pick one, so I would have to say the infamous trio that everyone in Culinary Innovation probably knows – Sabi, Sunan, and Amy. They were always there; we had either one of these ladies throughout our three years at Niagara and they never once stopped encouraging every individual. I couldn’t have made it without them. And a special shout out to Chef Oz and Chef Keith, who made culinary classes a whole lot of fun.
Top 3 skills you obtained from your time at NC:
- I learned how to be patient. I remember making a chocolate cookie recipe over and over again with slight variations. Highly frustrating at first, but so worth it at the end of the semester.
- I learned how to work well in a team. Almost all classes had projects that needed to be done in teams. By the end of the year, we had become a close-knit classroom and we knew that if we had to all work together to pull off one big project, we could do it without any conflicts.
- I learned how to be time efficient. Everyone knows juggling theory classes, culinary classes and lab work is tedious. However, NC was able to make it fun for everyone in my year and everyone was able to complete every task on time.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
I’ve learned that mistakes are a part of life, it is so important to overcome them and face your fears. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you always give 100 percent; it does get rewarded.
How does this job fit into your overall career plan?
It fits perfectly. It is exactly what I wanted to do after graduating and I am so glad Sol Cuisine was able to provide me with the opportunity. That being said, I am glad that R&I and Niagara college were able to open those doors for me. I love what I do as of now; what the future awaits is a mystery.
What are your interests outside of work?
I like to hike, swim and play tennis. At the end of a work day, I find that all three of them help me relax and ensure that I get a good night’s sleep.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
‘Courage doesn’t always roar.’ Sometimes all you need is the little voice inside saying “I’ll try again tomorrow” – said by someone else, but it definitely resonated with me.