Hail to the Chef

Leading food & beverage companies employ great chefs to infuse retail products with innovation and creativity.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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ConAgra's recipe for growth

Jonathan Shockey
Chef Jonothan Shockey

Chef Jonothan Shockey is manager of culinary services at ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb. "I manage a group of classically trained chefs, who have backgrounds in food science, process engineering and nutrition. They also have cultural and ethnic training in Latin, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean cuisines," responds Shockey, who was classically trained at the Institute of Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, and who has been with ConAgra for eight years.

"Our mission is to use trending cuisines and ingredients paired with consumer behavior to develop a robust innovation pipeline," he explains. "Our success is directly related to our experiences and our ability to bridge the gap between culinary technique and product development. We are on the forefront of imagination and work with all facets of the organization to bring these ideas to life."

Shockey, who is involved with new product development for brands such Marie Callender's, Healthy Choice, and Rosarita, uses his passion for Latin cuisine to develop on-trend flavors. "We are fortunate to have a group of culinary professionals who are passionate about food, cultures and cooking," he says about his team. "The challenge is to channel all that creativity and enthusiasm into focused platform innovation. By focusing on strategic business goals, we can drive innovation throughout the organization and allow our chefs to work on the very boundaries of their own creativity."

What cuisines are the most influential, we asked. "Latin cuisine is probably the most important cuisine right now, since the Hispanic population is the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.," he replies. "Next to Latin, Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asian cuisines are trending strongly, far beyond the foodie and fine dining realms. Parts of what make these cuisines popular are the spices and fresh flavors that make the experience of eating these cuisines more exciting.

"Health and wellness are, and will continue to be, high priorities for our organization and particularly for our culinary team," he emphasizes. "We have a tremendous amount pride in creating meals that meet our consumers' expectations while exercising nutritional responsibility. We are always looking for the next ingredient, process or packaging platform that will deliver nutritious, great-tasting food."

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