Curious by nature, Alex Albiñana confesses to science and research from a young age. That is why it is not strange that he took advantage of the Bachelor´s Degree in Gastronomy of Gasma – Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera to try his luck in one of the largest companies of the food industry of the Valencian Community. It was his third year and there at Platos Tradicionales, is where he discovered an exciting world, that of R & D & I applied to gastronomy. That’s been his way ever since and that company, his home.
What is day-to-day life like in a great R&D&I department?
My responsibilities are, on the one hand, research and, on the other hand, the development of new products. In particular, I coordinate the management of roasts, that is, all meat products, both for oven and pasteurized, of Platos Tradicionales. In addition, I participate in Ready to Eat, the Mercadona takeaway line and other ad hoc projects commissioned by customers.
The gastronomic side is still very important in your work.
That’s right. When we create a dish, whatever line it is, we must always keep in mind that it maintains the organoleptic properties. That is, that a consumer can finish the elaboration in his house and that it maintains all its properties. In the case of meat, for example, make it juicy, that it maintains all the flavor… To do this, the first thing we do when developing a new product is to look for the highest quality. From there, we studied how to adapt it, how to replicate it so that it always maintains those quality standards.
How was this opportunity born?
My connection to Platos Tradicionales began in my third year. That’s when I became more interested in research and how to apply industry-specific processes and techniques in the world of gastronomy. So I took advantage of the internships to get into that path.
The world of R&D&I applied to gastronomy is exciting, covering all facets and all fields.
What did you discover during your internship?
From the beginning I was passionate about the experience. I discovered a world that has its similarities and its differences with that of restoration. Gastronomy will end up assuming many of the protocols of the food industry. It is something that is already seen in large restaurants, but in the world of R&D&I, the industry still has years of advantage. The industry seeks efficiency and when creating a more efficient process or application, it always extends to other areas. I learned that everything is related and that the two sectors are fed back. The world of R&D&I applied to gastronomy is exciting, covering all facets and all fields.
Did you consider this professional itinerary before you started the bachelor´s degree?
Although I’ve always been very closely linked to the world of science, the truth is, I wasn’t sure. The world of R&D linked to gastronomy is not well known. Luckily, the good thing about the Degree in Gastromomania is that it gives you information from many sectors. During the studies you get a much broader view of what gastronomy is, you see what is to come and what areas of the sector are growing. In short, you enter a world that many people do not know. To work where I work, for example, you have to have knowledge of cooking, but also of chemistry and biochemistry of food, of emulsifying ingredients, gelling…. In Gasma you learn everything. It gives you many options to choose from based on your interests and what will make you happy in work life.
During the studies you get a much broader view of what gastronomy is, you see what is to come and what areas of the sector are growing.
What can the world of R&D bring to gastronomy?
If there’s one thing I’m clear about, it’s that the industry is the future not only for consumers, but also for restaurants. The catering sector needs new avenues to be efficient and the industry shows us that if we bet on it there does not have to be quality decline in the productions.
The term fifth range has often been viewed with suspicion from the field of gastronomy
Within the fifth range there are subspecialties. A broth, for example, takes up a space and time in a restaurant. In contrast, in the industry the process is more efficient and more controlled. There’s no point in dismissing it per se. Betting on the industry and the fifth range is not buying a croquette and serving it in the restaurant. Within this branch you can find very valid products, which save you time and space and that you can develop as a cook.
In the end the restaurant industry has taken on many processes of the industry. Something as simple as the vacuum technique, for example, has been used for many decades in the industry, while its arrival in gastronomy is more recent. The industry has more capacity to innovate, processes are more standardized and therefore more efficient than in most restaurants. Luckily, there are exceptions and there are restaurants that are betting on success in R&D, as the case may be, for example from Aponiente.
You finished your Bachelor´s Degree a year and a half ago and have already had the opportunity to share knowledge with current students. How has the experience been?
That’s right. Last year I was able to participate as a mentor of Platos Tradicionales in the subject Business Models and IT’s in Gastronomy. From the company we proposed a challenge and guided them in the development of a specific product. This year I returned to give a presentation on R&D&I Management Systems. The experience has been very enriching. I was able to convey what I am passionate about, to provide that vision that students lack, for example, how an R&D&I department works in reality, what vicissitudes you find in your day to day. To awaken their interests with something you’re passionate about is great.
The case of Alex Albiñana shows us that the professional opportunities of the Degree in Gastronomy go far beyond the kitchen to cover all areas of the sector. Would you also like to take the step and bet on innovation?