Austin Lee Hager Kissel
Chef Austin is a driven culinary professional with a Bachelor's in Culinary Science and Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America. Serving as the Chair of the Student Committee for the Research Chefs Association. Austin has focused culinary training, experience, and understanding of food and flavors, with past work experience from local taverns to fine dining and flavors to currently working within the food ingredient industry. His background is in many areas of the food industry which allows him to learn new skills and use those skills to further aid in any area of the industry whether that be with masking off-notes or making alternative protein sourced foods, to sauces and snacks.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give your younger self when starting in the industry? The advice I would give my younger self would be to start networking as soon as you can within the part of the industry as well as connecting parts that you want to work in. Making the connections and continuing those connections will open so many more doors than any other thing.
When you were building your career how limited were your resources? Finances were definitely a big one and currently still is. With schooling cost and that most of the major companies in R&D are in major cities which are expensive, very doable but expensive. I was lucky to be able to get a good education, as well as have a few mentors in the culinary industry and outside of it. But one limiting factor is I did not have a mentor in the R&D industry so I was not able to learn a ton about the industry before going into it.
Where do you focus your attention day-to-day regarding your business? My focus day today is focused on culinary development primarily. But I also do a lot of meetings and demos with customers and the sales team.
What are key characteristics you look for in applicants when hiring? Key characteristics that I would look for once I am hiring would be a background (schooling) in culinary and Science. Driven attitude and willingness to learn. Ability to work on multiple projects at one time and communicating with various departments while doing so. The experience I am not concerned with I give more weight to attitude, willingness to take on work, and the overall fit in with the team and culture. I would rather give a new graduate with the drive a shot than someone with a few years of experience.
What change do you want to see in (for) our industry? For the R&D side I would like to see more cross-functional culinary backgrounds with food science backgrounds as currently, some companies are very good at this but others are totally separate teams with no cross-over. With the crossover, there is a ton more innovation happening that is culinary-driven and food science backed.