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Food Innovation & Research Studio (FIRSt)
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Food Innovation & Research Studio (FIRSt)

What’s the Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt)?

George Brown Chef School is proud to present The Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt) – a research facility specializes in Consumer Creative Recipe Design and Testing, Food Product Development and Commercialization, Sensory Evaluation, Nutrition and Ingredient Label Creation and Food Quality System Consultation.

The Food Innovation and Research Studio is generously funded by NSERC - Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

The Studio also offers a private Chef’s Table facility for hosting functions and events.  

For more information, contact first@georgebrown.ca.

Food Innovation and Research Studio (video)

Food and Innovation Research Studio

Why is a facility like FIRSt so important? 

FIRSt offers small and medium-sized food oriented businesses easy access to technical resources, facilities and networking opportunities; enabling them to grow and develop their enterprise.  At the Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt):

  • Industry Partners can access college expertise, technology and equipment to enhance productivity, competitiveness and innovation
  • Students can get real world, practical training and learning opportunities to develop innovation literacy
  • Faculty and staff researchers are able to participate in industry innovation and remain current on developing industry trends
  • GBC enhances its reputation, strengthens industry and community links, contributes to social and economic development and fosters excellence in teaching and learning

How we can help your business: 

  • FIRSt will provide food product “concept to commercialization” technical support and business innovation services to the GTA food industry.
  • FIRSt builds on the GBC’s extensive experience serving the food industry through its training, applied research and product development activities. The Studio will integrate an expert food science applied research, recipe and product development team with cutting edge research laboratories, test kitchens and equipment.
  • Through FIRSt, industry clients will be able to swiftly and cost-effectively develop and commercialize new food products. 

Read our Success Stories:

Gluten-Free-baking-project

WHAT WE DO:  The Marriage of Culinary Arts and Food Science

The FIRSt Service Model includes Technical support and applied research, Training, Consulting and business development, Networking and marketing services.  Our in-house professional chef works with an experienced food scientist to deliver these expert services:

  • Consumer Recipe Creation and Testing  
    • Expert culinary consultation with professional chefs
    • Value added consumer recipes developed by creative culinary student researchers
    • Standardized recipe testing formats to ensure consistency and target-user satisfaction to broaden the utilization of your product line(s)
    • Cooking demonstrations to engage consumers and encourage adoption of recipes
  • Food Product Concept and Development  
    • Culinary concept ideation in context of current and developing consumer demands
    • Competitive analysis of market segment
    • Ingredient selection and recommendation
    • Food product testing (shelf-life, water activity, moisture, texture)
    • Demonstrated success in creating and developing market ready food products
    • Transforming bench-top formulations to full scale commercial production
  • Sensory Evaluation  
    • Venue for consumer focus groups
    • Qualitative expert chef panel
    • Quantitative central location test
       
  • CFIA Compliant Nutritional Analysis and Labelling
    • Theoretical nutrient analysis
    • Ingredient labelling
    • Prompt review of retail food product label and packaging
    • Guidance towards compliance with government regulations of product claims

The Private Function Room at FIRSt

Lasagna-photo
  • Chef's Table for up to 14 people for corporate meetings, media events, product launches, team building and other special recognition occasions
  • Interactive cooking demonstration - our chef creates 'culinary theatre' while preparing your menu and showing you some tricks of the trade.
  • Customized menus in consultation with professional chefs
  • Wine and food pairing in a private fine dining facility, equipped with Plasma screens for multi-media presentations. Private dining packages start at $185 per person.
  • Excellence in service - our students will help make your experience memorable
  • For more information about private functions contact: 416.415.5000 x 6400 or first@georgebrown.ca  

To learn more about our collaborative research projects with industry and community partners, click here

About our team

Winnie-ChiuWinnie Chiu is an experienced food scientist who brings over 20 years of research and development experience in both consumer packaged foods and the flavour ingredient business. Over her tenure at GBC, she has led 32 research projects with private food companies and healthcare sector partners; these encompass both product commercialization and healthy recipes development, offering unique and valuable hands on experience for students. 

She has collaborated with Princess Margaret Hospital, Live Well With Parkinson’s Inc., N2 Ingredients and GoodWindWater Enterprise Ltd., to develop delicious consumer recipes for special needs diets.

Winnie also led her team to work on commercialization projects with local small medium size food companies such as Mill Pond Cannery and Preserves Company, Square Snacks Inc., Your Fitness Dish Inc., and Animal Sense Pet Products.

Winnie received a B. Sc. (Hon) from the University Of Westminster, U. K. and subsequently gained her M. Sc. in Food and Management Science from King's College, the University Of London, U.K.

She can be reached at wchiu@georgebrown.ca.

Photo of Robert McCurdy Robert McCurdy brings considerable academic and industry experience to his role as the Applied Research Food Scientist at the Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt) at George Brown College. Rob has an undergraduate and Master's degree in Food Science, both from the University of Guelph. Rob has more than 18 years of experience in product development, project management, quality systems design and development, scientific writing and experimental design within the food industry. Rob's retail & food service experience includes roles as a Quality Scientist (Royal Canin Canada), Senior Scientist (Masterfoods USA), and Product Development Manager (Lyons Magnus). Rob's expertise includes product formulation, nutritional compliance testing, process & product optimization, thermal processing, consumer testing, sensory evaluation, technical writing, food chemistry, bench-top to production scale-up, regulatory compliance, and food production management.

He can be reached at Robert.McCurdy@georgebrown.ca.

Katie-RasmussenKatie Rasmussen graduated from George Brown College’s Business Administration Program in December 2011, since then Katie has joined the Office of Research and Innovation as the junior Project Manager working with FIRSt applied research projects.  By combining extensive training in project management and 10 years of experience working in and around the food service industry, her tenure to date has combined an industry enthusiasm with keen insight into the building blocks of a successful project. Becoming a part of the FIRSt team has given Katie the opportunity to manage a high performing team of food scientists, culinary professionals and student researchers and contribute in the development and execution of successful projects and programs. As a graduate of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), a GBC student driven program that encourages enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation, Katie knows firsthand the value of real-world learning experience. Providing hands-on learning opportunities for students is a priority that she continues to champion as the project manager for FIRSt.

She can be reached at krasmussen@georgebrown.ca.

Candace-RambertCandace Rambert is the Culinary Technician at the Food Innovation and Research Studio.  She is an alumni of George Brown College, graduating from the Culinary Management program and the Culinary Arts – Italian Postgraduate Program

While in Italy, she attended ALMA, La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana near Parma, Italy, after which she had the unique experience to travel and work for several months in a very rural area in Northern Italy to learn about local foods and wines. 

Candace works closely with the FIRSt team and students at the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, applying her culinary techniques and experience to meet the needs of the studio’s various industry partners.

Candace is currently pursuing her Red Seal and the Food Science Certificate at the University of Guelph.

She can be reached at crambert@georgebrown.ca.  

Photo of Morgan KierinkiewiczMorgan Kierinkiewicz joins the FIRSt team as a Junior Project Manager after graduating from George Brown College’s Business Administration Program in April 2014 with a specialization in Project Management. 

Morgan has three years of experience in and around the Food & Beverage industry, as well as two years in the healthcare and sport entertainment sectors, respectively. 

Morgan uses the insight from these diverse industries to promote and support partners every day at FIRSt.

She can be reached at mkierinkiewicz@georgebrown.ca.

 Mallika DasMallika Das joins the team as Manager, Industry Liaison and Business Development, with a diverse background in public-private partnerships, research, innovation, knowledge translation, commercialization and entrepreneurship. She brings six years of experience in a range of innovation streams including strategic relationship building across academic and industry settings in Toronto and India and project management within Toronto’s innovation space at the University of Toronto and MaRS Discovery District. Mallika has nine years of interdisciplinary research expertise in materials chemistry and engineering for cancer targeting, cleantech and life science applications, along with entrepreneurship experience working on her own cleantech startup developing green products for the food and agriculture sector. Mallika holds a Ph.D. in Polymers and Materials Chemistry from the University of Toronto.

She can be reached at Mallika.Das@georgebrown.ca.

 Lorenza CarandangLorenza Carandang joins the team as Administrative Assistant, bringing extensive experience in managing operations and administration, with diverse skills ranging from client management, financial and wealth management to investor and shareholder communications and budgeting. Prior to joining FIRSt, she worked at Kingsdale Shareholder Services in Client Management, as well as nine years as Operations & Administrative Officer - Investment Operations and Control for AIG Philippines. Lorenza has designed implemented and monitored procedures, business processes and improvements to achieve operational effectiveness ensuring quality service delivery to customers and internal business units. She also has extensive experience in streamlining management reporting and budgeting of the investment portfolios of AIG Philippines. Her considerable history of office management ensures that FIRSt’s partners and projects are supported by streamlined operations and an efficient infrastructure. Lorenza has a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.

She can be reached at Lorenza.Carandang@georgebrown.ca.

What the industry is saying about us:  

“GoodWindWater Enterprises Limited could not have found a better partner than the team at the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts - Food Innovation and Research Studio to develop recipes using sustainable Red Palm Oil for Canadian consumers. (Red palm oil is rich with Vitamins A & E). The GBC team overcame every challenge regarding consistency, texture, taste, colour, and yield to provide the tried-and-tasted-and-delicious recipe booklet.

I would like to thank every team member including management for the professionalism, expertise, commitment, support, and enthusiasm shown throughout our six-month project.”
With respect and appreciation
Tong G. Cheah
President
GoodWindWater Enterprises Ltd.


“Working with George Brown has been an ongoing relationship, which is ideal in a partnership. Our student team was incredibly hardworking and creative, and working with GBC meant we had the same students seeing the product through every stage, from concept to commercialization. Since our product was an innovation in the market, it was difficult to find a manufacturer. To that end, our team at George Brown helped us expand into our own space and undertake our own manufacturing. Seeing the final product on store shelves has been exciting for all of us, especially our student team. They can see first-hand that all their hard work has produced something tangible.”

-MaryAnn Scandiffio
President, Square Snacks


“From our perspective, we have had a positive experience working with the college’s culinary staff and students, and have plans to continue this work in the future. Our relationship with GBC is an extremely important one in meeting the needs of our patients and developing novel ideas in our commitment to conquer cancer in our lifetime.”

– David Wiljer, Associate Director, ELLICSR – Cancer Survivorship Centre,
Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital


“We highly value our professional collaboration with George Brown College (GBC) and see the expansion of GBC’s research and commercialization functions as extremely beneficial for our company in the short and long term. By fostering and building the relationships between academia and industry, the Ontario economy will profit exponentially by allowing academia to work with industry to understand and solve real life issues facing industry today."

Roger Dumoulin-White, President & CEO
Theralase Technologies Inc


“Over the past twenty five years we have benefitted from a special relationship with George Brown College, its students, its faculty and more recently with its food applied research team. We have been working with Winnie Chiu and her associates to develop nutritionally balanced recipes. Our ideas have been able to evolve from the work she has done with us. She is inspiring, and her confidence in us and our products has opened a new door.”

Cindy Simpson, Executive Vice President
Imago Restaurants Inc.


“We have been pleased to work with the culinary staff and students at George Brown College on several recent collaborations. In particular, we worked with the college on the development and optimization of consumer recipes to support the launch of our Alterna All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend. The Culinary Innovation Centre allows the college to engage with industry in many more projects to benefit local businesses as they develop and launch new products. We are pleased to see such capacity at the college and hope to work with you on future collaborations.

Bob Crane, President
N2 Ingredients
 


“Our organization, Mill Pond Cannery and Preserves, is a start-up company focused on the development and sales of fruit-based products in Canada, with aspirations for global distribution.  We began working with George Brown in early 2009, with the objective of developing the recipes for our initial product line.  The George Brown College applied research team brought strong project management and food science skills, as well as in-depth industry experience that has been instrumental in moving us forward effectively in this project.  We are extremely pleased with the GBC team – it has been a great experience and we are delighted with the expertise and support provided by George Brown throughout this project.”

Dave Smythe
VP Operations, Mill Pond Cannery & Preserves

What students are saying about us:

"Working at the Food Innovation and Research Studio has been the most valuable experience in my culinary education. The Studio provides the opportunity to go beyond the scope of the curriculum and gain exposure to food research and development. I have had the opportunity to assist with sensory evaluations, recipe development, nutritional analysis, research studies, and media events. I have had an exceptional experience and the staff has been especially supportive of my career goals. The Studio has equipped me with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to start a successful career in the consumer food product industry.”

Catherine Mitchell
Culinary Management, School of 2012


“I was a graduate of baking and pastry arts at George Brown College working for a small bakery. When I was ready for a career change I decided to go back to school. My interests will always involve food so I knew George Brown would be the place again. I enrolled in the Culinary Management Nutrition program and had the opportunity to work on numerous projects including product development, sensory evaluation, communicate with clients and write and evaluate recipes. Winnie and Moira were instrumental in helping me choose a career path. The skills I learnt working there have been more helpful than I could have ever imagined. I got a job immediately after finishing school working for a gourmet foods company, writing recipes for their website.”

Lara Rootenberg
Baking & Pastry Arts and Culinary Management Nutrition, School of 2011


"Working in the Food Innovation and Research Studio has been an invaluable out-of-classroom experience for me.  Taking part in GBC applied research projects has not only given me the opportunity to apply my classroom learning to practical situations in the recipe development process, but also to gain insightful knowledge from highly skilled professionals in the Research and Development field.  My learning experience here will definitely be beneficial and relevant to my career aspirations in the food industry."

Irene Ngo
Culinary Management Nutrition, School of 2010


“As a student enrolled in the Culinary Management Nutrition Program, the opportunity to work in the Food Innovation & Research Studio has been of great value to me.  In addition to working on projects and events, I have been fortunate to work on an applied research project involving a Gluten Free flour formula.  Working on this project generally has provided me with exposure to research practices, it has allowed me to work and gain experience in an area of significant nutritional interest and concern of late, to further develop my culinary skills and also to benefit from the depth and breadth of expertise and skills of the staff in the Centre.  I value this experience very much, and know that it will help me moving forward in my future career.”

Sharon Booy
Culinary Management Nutrition, School of 2010


“I found my time at the Food Innovation and Research Studio very educational and highly engaging.  I was provided with opportunities that one may not get in the restaurant environment.  I particularly found the recipe development and testing process highly educational and has given me a better understanding not just how this could be applied in a test kitchen setting but how these processes can be used in a restaurant when doing menu development work or undertaking a recipe standardization exercise.  I found Winnie and her team very professional and while they were committed to getting the tasks at hand complete always took the time to ensure that I was engaged in the process as well as ensuring that I was getting the most educational experience out of the time I spent with them.”

Toby Grater
Culinary Management, School of 2009  

Contact

For more information on applied research, contact:

The Food Innovation & Research Studio,
George Brown Chef School
300 Adelaide Street E
Toronto, M5A 1N1
Tel: 416.415.5000 x 6400
Email: first@georgebrown.ca