Expert Advice from Nutrition Pros in Food Science, Product Development & Dietetics

Robert Fedorko of Nestle

For JWU students majoring in culinary nutrition, culinary science/product development or dietetics, the annual Culinary Nutrition career panel is an incredible opportunity to hear about current developments in the field from a distinguished selection of alumni. Because the panel coincides with the Culinary & Hospitality Career Fair, students are able to segue seamlessly from asking questions of the panelists to handing them their resumes.

This year’s panel began with a keynote on nutrition trends from two of Nestlé USA’s top culinary professionals: Kelly Malley, the director of marketing for the company’s Nutrition, Health & Wellness Center of Excellence, and Robert Fedorko, director of culinary innovation.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it!"

Nestlé is a global company encompassing more than 2,000 brands, so they have access to an unprecedented amount of global data related to food:

  • How people shop
  • How they document their meals on Instagram
  • Top-rated restaurants
  • “Hotbed” cities where their teams track emerging trends

While Malley’s team is looking at ways advances in personal health, diet and even technology can have an effect on our choices at the supermarket, Fedorko’s team turns data into gold-standard restaurant dishes that then serve as inspiration for other Nestlé chefs. The broad trends they see include:

  • Products are shifting from having basic nutrition to offering functional benefits, like superfood servings or additional protein
  • Gluten-free, lactose-free, keto-friendly and certified vegan products are experiencing marketplace growth
  • A massive shift towards organic, no artificial flavors or otherwise “clean” products

Malley closed with an explicit call for new grads to join their team: “The best way to predict the future is to create it, and we need your help!”

In addition to non-alums Malley and Fedorko, the nutrition panel that followed — moderated by Maureen Dumas, vice president of Advancement & University Relations — included alumni from the community/public health, product development, sports nutrition and food science sectors:

  • Kerri Dotson '13, RD, director of operations/executive chef at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University
  • Lindsay Dolan '14, Home Market Foods senior R&D technologist
  • Shannon Knapp '19, Texas A&M performance chef intern
  • Melissa Martland-Kile ’09, RI Community Food Bank nutrition education coordinator
  • Jessica McDonald '12, Joseph’s Middle East Bakery director of QA and food safety
  • Tomas Membreno '11, Pittsburgh Pirates athletic performance chef

“Stealth health” foods and the challenge of encouraging better nutritional habits was a common theme, no matter what sector the panelists worked in.

"There are different types of mentors. Don’t ask one person to fit all those roles — different people can fill them."

“In my work for the Food Bank, I see food insecurity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” noted Martland-Kile. “We partner with other organizations to contribute to nutrition education.”

“New Orleans food is not known for its nutritious qualities,” said Dotson. “I sit with people and talk to them about what they’re eating, foods they really love. Then I show them how to tweak the dish to incorporate more fiber, unsaturated fats and veggies.”

For Knapp, the best way to influence nutrition changes is to build relationships. “I do a ‘Try It Tuesday’ and introduce items like a black bean burger,” she explained. “Now the athletes will try things — it’s because they trust me.” “We have action stations to get athletes engaged in their own nutrition and as a way of providing them options,” said Membreno.

As for their advice to students looking to go on internships, the consensus answer was: “Show how passionate you are.” Nestlé’s Fedorko said, “As someone who hires, I always want to see someone who’s doing work in addition to coursework. I want to see someone who is engaged — I can tell right away if someone is going to work well.”

All emphasized the importance of finding mentors. “I’m at Nestlé because I had a mentor there — I solved a problem for him, and we stayed in touch. Years later he called me about this position opening up,” said Fedorko.

“There are different types of mentors,” said Malley. “Mentors you can vent to. Career path mentors. Skillset mentors. Don’t ask one person to fit all those roles — different people can fill them.”

Dotson encouraged students and new grads alike to keep the lines of communication open: “My entire staff, almost exclusively, consists of past JWU interns. Always make sure to stay in touch with your previous employers to let them know how you are doing — you never know when something might open up.”

To learn more about available internships or ways to prepare for them, get in touch with JWU Experiential Education & Career Services.

Nutrition panel

Nutrition panel