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Life at McCormick October 26, 2018

Chemist Collaboration

In honor of National Chemistry Week, chemists, or to be more precise flavorists, from the McCormick Technical Innovation Center (TIC) in Maryland and Giotti in Italy discussed how they share expertise across continents and are learning to work better together in a new exchange program. 

Sam Tharpe, a Principal Flavor Chemist working in Maryland, traveled to Italy this past June to work with Lorenzo Francia, a Senior Flavorist, and his colleagues at Giotti. Giotti is a leader in innovative flavor extraction and development. For a month Sam worked alongside Lorenzo and his colleagues, learning about the best practices used in his labs and offices. The two worked together to develop flavor profiles and were able to collaboratively come to solutions using both their American and Italian skillsets. In doing so, both learned new techniques to pass on to other colleagues and to continue their partnership. 

At the end of Sam’s time in Italy, he was able to take back key learnings about technology and communication between countries. From a technical perspective, he was exposed various flavor and extraction methods, analytical techniques and learning tools - such as a pen that holds molecules to educate customers and colleagues about flavor. He also learned that he can make simple improvements to how he and other US colleagues communicate to make it easier for their counterparts overseas. Using webcams helps everyone better follow conversations by picking up on non-verbal cues and facial expressions. Also, speaking slowly and concisely helps everyone better communicate and makes meetings more efficient. 

Now to complete the exchange, Lorenzo is currently working with Sam in Maryland at the TIC in the Flavor Research and Development (R&D) laboratory. A collaboration project between the TIC US Flavor R&D and Giotti began prior to Lorenzo’s arrival in which information was transferred internationally through a secure portal. In the past month, the two flavorists have continued to work collaboratively to enhance flavor development between the two sites. 

In Italy, Giotti is known for its extracts and compounded flavors, while the consumer brand of McCormick is less distinguishable locally.  Through Lorenzo’s meeting agendas with his American colleagues he received a comprehensive overview of the differences between Commercial Product Development (CPD), which serves McCormick’s consumer customers, and McCormick’s Flavor Solutions, which focuses on flavor creation and flavor application. He toured the various manufacturing facilities in Hunt Valley and met with many people during his time in the US to learn more about the various aspects of McCormick’s domestic and global businesses. He shared his flavor expertise and business insight from Giotti while participating in flavor evaluations, developing a focused flavor profile kit that can be used to show our US customers, as well as daily collaboration on flavor projects with the Flavorists at the TIC. 

Team building has also been a very important aspect of this exchange with both sites hosting a culinary challenge experience while Sam and Lorenzo were working at their exchange locations. Giotti held a Culinary Mystery Box team exercise where Sam and his Italian colleagues were divided into teams. Each team was given a box of ingredients revealed that day and Sam’s team was responsible for making desserts. An authentic Italian Tiramisu was created from the mystery box of ingredients. Other teams created handmade ravioli, shrimp appetizers and Mediterranean curry chicken. With the supervision of Giotti’s own Principal Chef, Ivo Canepa, the menus were executed flawlessly!

Inspired by his culinary experience at Giotti, Sam, with the generous help of our own Chef Gary Patterson and his staff, organized a Festa di Cucina (cooking party) at the TIC. Teams were created and assigned to cook recipes centered around the 2018 Flavor Forecast. Drinks, appetizers, main entrées and desserts were expertly created under the supervision of the McCormick’s culinary staff. Lorenzo admitted he was having dejajvu moments from his Giotti experience while he participated in the US culinary challenge. It was a great welcome for him with the exercise being held the first week of his arrival. Both experiences created a celebratory and festive atmosphere of a job well done while everyone enjoyed the “fruits” of their hard work! 

The fun didn’t stop there! While visiting each other’s home countries, Sam and Lorenzo were also able to take each other on sightseeing excursions to learn more about the respective countries. Sam was able to explore Florence and Lorenzo visited Washington, D.C. and historic Annapolis, Maryland. 

This exchange was the first of its kind for McCormick’s flavorists. They’re looking forward to bringing more scientists together in similar ways to continue to collaborate and share best practices from different regions around the world. While Sam and Lorenzo don’t want their exchange time to necessarily end, they do look forward to their continued partnership – and Sam has already bought a webcam for their many conversations to come.