Day in a life of a Nestle Food Engineer
Hi! I am very honored to be in Nestle R&D Centre a few weeks ago to be their food engineer for a day. Very excited because I know no one is allowed into the R&D Centre unless you are a staff there. So I try my best to take you behind the scene of Maggi product creation.
Nestle is kind enough to let us create a dream maggi of our choice. I did some brainstorming and came up with a dish which I like to have every morning – the herbal soup noodles. I don’t know about you but I am a fan of herbal soup. And the thought of boiling it for many hours bother me because where do we have the time to do it everyday? And if we can have a bowl of herbal soup immediately with some maggi noodles, it will be super yummy (in my opinion lah). This is my brainstorming idea, creative anot?
So we had a meeting with the Nestle team who give us a brief idea of the company. Be a food engineer of course must know the company first! Do you know, Henri Nestlé founded Nestlé in Switzerland in 1866. Its first product was FARINE LACTÉE®, baby food made from cow’s milk, wheat, flour and sugar; given to a neighbour’s premature baby that could not breastfeed. In 1905, he merged with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company to become Nestlé, with its headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland.
The most memorable Nestle product for me is Milo. I drink it everyday since birth and now, Milo is my everyday drink, it is my type of coffee. I remembered when I was very young, the grocery shop owners and fruit stall owners would put their money in a Milo tin, tie it to a string and place it high up. When they need to give change, they will pull the string and take from the Milo tin. We used to buy tins and tins of Milo and make Milo drink overselves. But now things have become so convenient that Milo are already sold in 3-in-1 packets.
Beside Milo, another memorable product is definitely the maggi mee. Julius Michael Johannes Maggi first developed a formula to bring added taste to meals. Then he was commissioned to create a vegetable food product that would be quick to prepare and easy to digest to help with the problem of women having less time to prepare meals as more and more worked outside the home. The results — two instant pea soups and an instant bean soup – were a huge success. Maggi was merged with Nestlé in 1947 and since then, it has been offering high quality and innovative products.
Maggi has such a strong influence in our life now, so even if we ate other instant noodle brand, we will still call it maggi mee. But do you know how is each flavour of maggi mee created? What does it take to be a food engineer?
Let’s find out!
I always thought food engineer is a very technical (aka boring) and man-ly job, perhaps because of the word “engineer”. But in fact, it turns out to be more interesting than I expected.
To be a food engineer, the first important step is to have very sharp senses and know your ingredients. We are given some ingredients to taste and identify the profile of each taste such as sour, salt, sugar, bitterness and umani (lingering).
We first have to drink 6 different cups of water and identify the different taste. Then we smell the different bottles and identify the ingredients. As you can see, we are all busy smelling the ingredients.
It is definitely not easy because we have to be familiar with the spices. Some of the ingredients given was garlic powder, rosemary, milo etc. Some of the spices smell so familiar but you just cannot recognize it. Some of them were so strong that my face cringe. I think I am better off as a food writer. Haha!
Next, you learn to make the noodles. It is pretty easy. You just have to create a volcano shape with the wheat flour, add in eggs, salt and water and mix well with hand.
Then you roll it flat. Do I look like a potential housewife?
Lastly, let the flour go through the noodle machine and create your desired thickness.
My noodles, pretty?
But that small bowl of noodles is child’s play lah. For mass production, MAGGI noodles are made fresh then air-dried or fried to create your low-fat whole grain or 2 minute MAGGI.
Now this is fun part – developing my own recipe. And this is the most difficult part. I guess many of you who cook at home, will know that we are not as precise. Sometimes when we feel a soup is too salty, we just sprinkle a little bit of salt. But we won’t really count it grams by grams.
But here is so different, I cannot be like a typical chef at home. Here, I am a food engineer, so everything must measure!
And of course, you first have to think, what goes well with your soup? Since my is a herbal soup, I need some ginseng powder and wolfberries to give it the herbal taste.
My mentor engineer tells me that we are making 100g of thick concentrated sauce. Out of 100g, 90g are thick concentrated chicken sauce so I can add the other ingredients and make it 10g. Not easy lor, you see I take so many bottles. Need a calculator beside me to count. Because some powder I only want 0.7g or 0.3g, then I have to make sure exactly I get 10g.
These ingredients come in powdered form and kept in air tight containers. For hygiene purpose, you have to use a new spoons everytime you use a different bottle of ingredients. And I don’t even know if I put too much or too little lah, because they are all concentrated powder, so I have to go by “FEEL”. -.-
See, if you are cooking at home, you won’t have to measure the temperature lah! But here, as I stir, I have to make sure the temperature of my sauce must be kept at 85 degree celsius and can only be cooked for 2 mins! These engineers are super precise. When you are done, the sauce is kept in a bottle. It is pointless to try to taste the sauce and see if it is okay, because it is so concentrated until you only find it super salty without water.
When all is done, you just cook your noodles for 2 mins together with the sauce. Now I know why maggi mee packet always ask us to cook for 2 mins. Because these engineers have done enough research to prove that 2 mins will let you achieve the best noodles quality – QQ and springy. If you are kiasu and you cook very long, of course your noodles will become soggy.
So remember, when you are cooking your maggi mee noodles, have a alarm clock beside you and make sure you only cook for 2 mins.
While I had the chance to create my MAGGI herbal noodle from scratch, you are not denied the creation too! Here’s a cooking tip: use Yang Sheng Le, a co-creation by MAGGI and Eu Yang Sheng found in supermarkets for the herbal soup with MAGGI noodles!
Here is Chef Mark tasting the noodles.
I made herbal soup maggi, Qiuting made bak chor mee soup, Gabby made dried mee siam. We all love our own noodles!
Besides eating each others’ noodles, here’s what we have for lunch! All these are made with Nestle products. You don’t have to be a Hainanese to know how to cook chicken rice. Just use Nestle’s ready made sauces!
Thank you once again to Chef Mark and the Nestle team for giving me the chance to enter into your secret R&D area to create my dream maggi. Celebrating 100 years in Singapore, Nestle has planned fun activities throughout the year. Hop on to its website www.nestle100years.com to read more about its journey and touching stories of consumers.
So how? Do you think I can be a food engineer? 😀