With a plethora of eateries indistinguishable from one another, breaking into the F&B scene in Singapore is often associated exclusively with cooking in a kitchen. However, flavour manufacturer KH Roberts begs to differ.
A large majority of foods we eat everyday actually contain flavourings, but who’s in charge of creating all these new flavours?
While chefs attain god-like status and receive the praise in the F&B industry, a flavourist is a role that works behind-the-scenes concocting hundreds of food flavours, making dishes tastier and more enjoyable for you and me.
To meet the men and women behind what so many of us live for — to eat, we took a behind-the-scenes tour at KH Roberts to get a better understanding of what food flavouring manufacturing is all about.
Flavourists, their palates and senses as sharp as the best chefs, however, the recognition they receive is next to none. They’re unsung heroes of the food industry. Think of a flavourist as “Willy Wonka” — one who creates flavours but, for more than chocolate and candy.
In the Flavour Lab, take a deep breath and you’ll be transported by the smells wafting through the air to fonder memories, and places. During our visit, the smell of packaged custard pastries from mama shops permeated the air, bringing me back my childhood.
Snapping back to reality, I asked the flavourist what her job entails. She brightened up immediately, describing her job enthusiastically.
Simply put, “Flavourists are like chefs, we put various ingredients together, and create unique flavours from them. We genuinely want people to enjoy the final product.”
It is bright and spacious here in the flavour labs, unlike the humid kitchens in some restaurants but, this doesn’t mean the job is any less challenging.
With their pristine white lab coats and latex gloves so similar to a chef’s white uniform, the flavourists create and experiment with new flavourings daily to meet the demands of various flavour profile briefs – treading the fine line of taking their highly sharpened senses on a trip, or an utter train wreck (mostly the former).
Rows of perfectly arranged bottles of flavours are like potions concocted by the fairies and wizards — some only make sense and taste great when paired with certain ingredients, while the cooking temperature also affects what relevant components to be used.
For example, avocado flavouring is indistinguishable to the untrained nose, but when a few drops of it are added to milk, the mild creamy aroma is unmistakable.
It thus falls on the flavourist to figure all this out for practical applications.
As a preview of what flavourists do, we sat down with unlabelled flavouring-soaked paper strips and the accompanying tasting samples; the pressure was on to ace this test of the senses. Can the untrained layman correctly pinpoint smells and flavours without any visual aids?
We sniffed, sipped and guessed, silently patting ourselves on the back as we identified the right notes.
The aroma of rum however, threw some of us off — the irony and horror. However, the flavourist explained that we often associate certain aromas with the smell and taste of other ingredients we often pair them with.
Which explained why I perceived the aroma of rum as pineapple, due to my historical consumption of copious amounts of Malibu rum mixed with pineapple juice.
For a more obvious comparison, we tasted two sponge cake samples – both baked without butter, but one with a natural butter flavouring. It was astounding to taste the rich and buttery flavour of the latter, despite having just a few drops of flavouring added.
Surprised at how challenging it was to identify the exact flavours, we readily admit that the flavourists deserve a lot more commendation than they get. It all comes with on-the-job training and experience.
Food manufacturing in Singapore doesn’t sound like the sexiest of sectors, but behind its seemingly dull facade are gastronomical alchemists – innovators and creators of an industry on the rise.
KH Roberts is a flavour manufacturer where you can explore the intricacies of flavours beyond the kitchen. There’s a whole lot more to food beyond the chef’s table.
Passionate about food, with plenty of creative ideas you’d like to see come to life? Consider taking a step beyond the kitchen, and into the food labs and factories where the magic of food creation begins.
Established in 1968, KH Roberts has 3 factories in Singapore, manufacturing and exporting flavours to the food industry in the South East Asian region as well as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Europe.
Here’s an overview of job roles available at KH Roberts for an exciting career in Singapore’s food manufacturing industry.
*This post was brought to you in collaboration with SG Food Makers