Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Best of: 10 Questions or Less with Chris Garboski

For the past few weeks, I've been reposting my favorite entries since I started my blog in March 2010. One of the reasons I started my blog was to learn more from the professionals in the food and beverage CPG industry. I've been very fortunate to be able to speak with the best in the field, and today, I am revisiting an inspirational interview from Chris Garboski of Nestle USA. Be on the lookout for more Q&As to come as I continue to learn more about this ever-evolving business from industry pros.

Every chance I can get, I want to share career profiles of successful professionals in the food and beverage CPG industry. This week, meet Chris Garboski, Head of Retail Corporate Kitchen at Nestle USA. Chris is an industry expert with 18 years of CPG experience. Follow her on Twitter @NestleFoodie and be sure to check out the company's blog and latest recipes at

1. How did you get started in this industry? I have been passionate about food for as long as I can remember! Landing at Nestle was part luck, part skill. I was able to get my foot in the door due to a family friend who was on the Nestle marketing team. I was introduced to the Test Kitchen manager, and the rest is history. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. (I studied food as well as interior design). I also attended several culinary courses through CIA in Napa. (That was fun but hard work!) People often ask me why I have stayed with one company for so long, and my answer is simple…every day is different. My position allows me the freedom to be very creative, and that is what drives me.

2. Describe your typical workday. I typically get into the office by 6:30 in the morning, head to our in-house gym for a quick workout, and then head to our test kitchen and begin my day. I get most of my assignments through our marketing teams and a few from corporate. On any given day, I could be working on several different assignments. Nearly all work involves creating recipes for online, video, packaging, or for use by the press (food editors). Before any of these recipes get published, they are put through a series of tests to confirm their accuracy. I also do the food styling for most of our recipes (this is where my design background comes in handy). This isn't a daily task, but it is something I do on a frequent basis.

3. What makes your company a great place to work? Nestlé USA is a part of Nestlé S.A. in Vevey, Switzerland – the world's largest food company with a focus on Nutrition, Health and Wellness. So, I do have a nice portfolio of products to work with and I like the direction the company is going. Having said that, the people are what make it great. There is so much energy and passion here. And the passion isn’t just coming from the "foodies" in the kitchen – our marketing and sales teams are equally passionate. I also have an extremely supportive boss. Seven years ago, I became a mom to triplets. Nestle (and my boss) offered me the flexibility to telecommute a day or two per week so that I could find a better balance between work and family. This is HUGE for a mom. And let me tell you, Nestle gets far more out of me because of this flexibility and their trust in me. (I am getting choked up as I write this. I am truly fortunate!)

4. How do you keep up with industry trends? I attend several trend presentations each year (online and in person), subscribe to trend reports and pantry studies, follow talent on Twitter, attend culinary conferences (such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals), read a lot of food publications, talk with chefs and culinary professionals, and visit restaurants. I also do most of our prop shopping for photo shoots, so I get a good idea of color and houseware trends.

5. What skills are critical to success in your job? Understanding our consumers and current food trends is essential. If we don’t understand our consumers (their skill set, the ingredients they are comfortable using, or the even the equipment they have in their kitchen), we can’t successfully develop a recipe. Good communication and writing skills are very important, as is a solid understanding of food, nutrition and how to put together a recipe.

6. What keeps you in this industry? Simply put, my passion for food and nutrition keeps me in this industry.

7. What is your favorite snack food? Oh, I can't limit to just one. Fresh tangelos, fresh or dried mangoes and Greek yogurt with honey are at the top of my list. I also have a soft spot for toasted walnuts, dark chocolate and green tea.

Thank you for your time, Chris! Your career is truly amazing and you are an inspiration to aspiring CPG pros!

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