By Morgan Wolfe
From Pastry Chef to Food Scientist, Mayla Kritski Baez has had a variety of experiences in the food industry. Upon recently graduating in spring 2017 with a bachelors degree in food science, Mayla has proceeded to fulfill the rest of her career dreams. Growing up in Brazil with a family that cherished good food, Mayla had always been interested in food her whole life and knew that working in the food industry would be a passion of hers.
“Our family reunions were always held at the kitchen table around a good cup of coffee and fresh baked pastries,” Mayla said.” She knew food was something she was passionate about and wanted to continue learning about.
“I graduated from Johnson County Community College with an associates degree in culinary arts, a Pastry and Baking and a Sous Chef Certification from the
American Culinary Federation. I was also part of the JCCC Culinary Team, Mayla Said.”
Mayla worked for her certification as a pastry chef for 715 Restaurant in Lawrence, KS and as a Catering Sous Chef for JCCC in Overland Park, KS.
“I worked for almost three years while finishing my associates degree,” Mayla added. “We were required to have 6,000 hours of kitchen experience in order to be able to take the practical test for the Sous Chef Certification. The American Culinary Federation has a very strict policy regarding their certifications.”
Her hard work paid off though. Mayla now has a position as a food scientist for JBS Beef in Souderton, Pennsylvania, and truly enjoys everything she does.
“Working for JBS is rewarding and very exciting,” Mayla said. “An average day at work for me starts by attending my first meeting at 5:10 a.m. to see what the numbers are for the day. We check the exports orders, the cattle heads that will need to be fabricated; we talk about packaging costs, food safety topics, usually carrying out new implementations for the front and back pack areas, etc. After that, I usually go to the production floor for four and a half hours to check on everybody and make sure everything is in place to start production. I stay in the plant usually from 4:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until the production department is done. That usually depends on the number of cattle heads. It could range from 1,500 or 2,200 heads per day; every day is different.”
The long days seem to be worth it. Mayla hopes as a food scientist to bring products to the consumer table that can reach proliferation; even items in the beef industry that are on the cusp of becoming a trend.
“Going to culinary school and earning a bachelors in food science helped me to understand the science behind food, how to play with flavors, colors, cooking techniques, food safety and how great is to create new food products,” Mayla explained. “I hope K-State food science students really take advantage of all the opportunity around them. Ask questions, talk with your professor(s), participate in competitions and try to find a mentor to discuss your career goals.”
Last June, Mayla and her team won 2nd place in the 2017 National Dairy Council New Product Competition. Mayla worked alongside two other colleagues, Conrad Kabus(undergraduate, senior in food science) and Karthik Sajith (M.S. graduate student). Their challenge was to develop a dairy beverage that will be the drink of choice for 15-25 year old consumers. The team responded by creating Mate Au Lait Protein Plus. The overall product development was no easy task, but the end result was well worth the hard work. Mayla encourages all students to challenge themselves and participate in as much as possible.
When asked the one thing she would have done differently at K-State if she could go back, Mayla laughed, “I would have had more Call Hall ice creams.”