Innovation meets collaboration

by Kimberlie Clyma
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Chef Stephen Giunta has worked in the Cargill culinary department for 15 years.

Above and beyond

One of Giunta’s most important roles involves training. He spearheads training for the entire culinary team, which goes far beyond further developing their culinary skills. Part of the necessary training of all culinary members involves spending time in a meat plant.

“It’s crucial to understand what’s going on in the plant environment in order to understand the products the company is developing,” Giunta says. “We also need to think about and understand supply and sustainability. We have to have the ability to think broadly in this role.”

In addition to time in meat plants, the chefs spend time off-site in restaurants and retail locations. “It’s all about knowing your customers and understanding their needs,” Geoghegan says.

While the chefs spend the majority of their time in the Cargill test kitchens working on customer projects, they will travel off-site to customer locations to get a better feel for the customer’s needs.

“For our QSR customers, we will go in and do restaurant training if needed,” Giunta says. “We can’t recommend to them something that they can’t replicate in their own environments – that doesn’t do them any good.”

Part of replicating the customer’s experience and environment comes from working with similar equipment. The Wichita kitchen features a TurboChef oven like many convenience stores utilize in addition to other comparable backroom kitchen equipment that can be found in most QSRs.

With retail culinary centers becoming more prevalent and “closer to restaurant looking and quality these days,” Giunta says it’s important that the CIC can replicate the environment for its retail customers. This includes featuring similar in-house supermarket kitchen equipment and comparable display cases to those seen in supermarkets. “Major retailers today all have their own culinary centers,” Giunta explains. “We work directly with them on creating products that work well with the culinary programs they have at their locations.”

Internally, the culinary team also hosts company-wide sales meetings, product training and new product tastings at the foodservice kitchen at the CIC.

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