Candace Rambert has a B.AA from the University of Windsor and is an alumnus of the George Brown College (GBC) Culinary Management program and Culinary Arts – Italian postgraduate program. Candace has 12 years of foodservice experience in catering, hotels and restaurants. Her expertise in recipe development and knowledge of product development processes and specialty equipment make her an asset when working with the food scientists and culinary students at Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt). In this role, Candace applies her culinary techniques and experiences to exceed the demands of FIRSt’s diverse clients. Candace is also a past recipient of the prestigious Ontario Hostelry Institute’s ‘Top 30 Under 30’ award.
Senior Food Scientist
Rob McCurdy brings considerable academic and industry experience to his role as Senior Food Scientist at George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio. Rob has both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Food Science from the University of Guelph. Rob has more than 25 years of experience in product and process development/innovation, project management, quality systems design, market research, scientific writing, large and small scale manufacturing, and process validation/optimization processes within the food industry. Rob’s retail & food service experience includes roles as a Quality Scientist (Royal Canin Canada), Senior Scientist (Mars/Masterfoods, USA), Technical Director (Lyons Magnus) and Applied Research Scientist (Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt), George Brown College). Rob’s technical expertise includes product formulation, nutritional compliance testing, thermal processing, market research, sensory evaluation, technical writing, food chemistry, bench-top to production scale-up, regulatory compliance, and quality system management. Rob’s extensive product development portfolio spans a wide range of food categories including sauces, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, confectionery products, fruit compotes, variegates and fillings, shelf stable entrees, pet foods, salad dressings, salsas, smoothies, fudges and caramels. Since joining GBC in 2014, Rob has been instrumental in the success of over 50 applied research projects and product development-related services at FIRSt.
Consulting Senior Food Scientist
Bob’s career in food product development, research training and mentoring, quality control and field assessment has taken him across Toronto, Northern Ontario, New Jersey and Brazil. If you have ever enjoyed jalapeno havarti, the world-wide gold standard for Pizza Hut crust and pepperoni, or toaster chicken you have sampled a small selection of Bob’s portfolio. His resume spans the development of 200+ food products and menu items for many major food services and retail brands. A seasoned and charismatic contributor in the lab, office and boardroom, Bob prides himself in building teams, transforming processes and developing new and exciting products. Bob is all about the “why” in finding solutions to technical problems and is always planning his next adventure.
Senior Food Scientist
Craig Wakefield’s focus at FIRSt is product development–the methodologies and practices that begin the product lifecycle in the creation of something new. In his career he has contributed to strategy, set specifications, and overseen trials and production for hundreds of private label and branded products including ice cream, pizza, juice, soup, yogurt, pasta dishes, frozen entrees, canned goods, baby food, and beer. Craig has applied his culinary and food science backgrounds to work for several companies, both large and small, helping them to innovate and grow to their full potential. He has traveled the world visiting major food shows, top purveyors and dining rooms in search of food that is innovative, trend-setting, and authentic. Craig holds a BSc from Ryerson University, professional certificates from University of Guelph, the American Institute of Baking, the Culinary Institute of America and is a George Brown Culinary Grad. He is a member of the Canadian Federation of Chefs and Cooks, Research Chefs of America, the Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology and is a Red Seal Chef.
Emily’s interest in the culinary specialty of the food industry began when she participated in the 2016 Research Chef’s Association: Student Product Development Competition in Denver, a team based cooking competition. Emily brings a diverse set of student experience with her, previously working with the Biscuit R&D Team at Mondelez International (working with brands Oreo and Chips Ahoy), as a microbial technologist at Maple Leaf Foods, and as a research assistant for the Canadian Institute for Food Safety (CRIFS) at the University of Guelph. She has also acted as a representative, coordinator and president in various food science associations and clubs. Emily has a Bachelor of Science (Food Science) from the University of Guelph and a Culinary Certificate from George Brown College.
Kassandra Wagner joins the FIRSt team as a Food Scientist, after working for Metro Inc. as a Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance Specialist, specifically dealing with private label brands. She has experience with food start-up companies, working on product development and digital marketing. Kassandra brings experience and education with her in the field of food science, discovering her passion for the field after volunteering at a food microbiology lab during her first summer at school. When not at FIRSt, you’ll find Kassandra out at new restaurants or the most recent festival in Toronto, trying to replicate some of her discoveries at home! Kassandra holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Science (Honours), with a minor in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Science, and continues to study business, community nutrition and dietetics. She is passionate about fitness and is currently studying for a certificate in exercise science and nutrition.
Manager, Industry Liaison and Business Development
Michelle brings a value-chain approach to the team at FIRSt. She has spent her academic and professional careers in primary agriculture, agri-food, and agri-technology, and even continues to occasionally assist on her parents’ cash crop farm in South-Western Ontario. With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Development (University of Waterloo) and a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Development (University of Guelph) she studied food and agriculture through a very different lens. Michelle applies her interdisciplinary background by bringing creative and holistic solutions to clients and partnerships.
Michelle enjoys eating food as much as she enjoys working in the industry, and is deeply committed to growing the food value chain in Ontario and Canada, and increasing opportunities for Canadian agri-food companies.
Industry Liaison and Business Development
Christine has always been interested in hands on learning in the recipe and product development world. After completing a BA in nutrition at Western University she came to George Brown College to attend the culinary management nutrition program. Christine returns to the FIRSt team, working as a Business Development Liaison, after a dynamic set of experiences as a student researcher during her studies here at George Brown College. She interned at Yum! Restaurants in the United Arab Emirates for four months, working in new product development. She then completed her college externship in the Canadian Living Magazine test kitchen. Upon graduating George Brown, she worked as the assistant chef for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. In addition to her new role at George Brown, Christine is currently working as a recipe tester/assistant with college chef/professor Amy Symington on a new plant-based, culinary, cancer-care cookbook/guide for Gilda’s Club Toronto. Planned publication of this collection is at the end of 2018.
Senior Project Manager
Dan Reilly is our Senior Project Manager. Dan has managed projects at George Brown College in a variety of sectors including health sciences, green technology, web development, education, and product development. He has served as a project manager on projects for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Scouts Canada, CAMH, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and many local SMEs. Dan graduated from George Brown College with an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration and was the recipient of the GBC Project Management Award of Distinction. After spending 2014 in the role of acting Senior Project Manager for Research and Innovation, Dan assumed the role of Senior Project Manager for the Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt) in early 2015. Dan also teaches project management at George Brown College in the School of Management.
Project Manager, FIRSt
Nuvi Dhaliwal has a strong knowledge of grant operations and funding streams in publicly funded and not-for-profit environment. She previously worked with the PSI Foundation, where she served as the Post-Award Grant Officer and focused on tracking grants in medical research through metrics, blogs, social media, final reporting, etc. She has also worked for the Greenbelt Fund, supporting the increase of local food in Ontario, and with Maple Leaf Foods in digital marketing. Ms. Dhaliwal has a B.A. (Hons) from the University of Guelph in International Development, Political Economy and Administrative Change.
Project Manager, FIRSt
Amanda Thirkill has over five years of experience managing projects in marketing and digital media productions. Amanda’s passions include efficiency, teamwork and team leadership to create impact. She brings disciplined planning and organization skills to the table to ensure projects run smoothly and clients have the best experiences. Amanda holds a BA in Communication Studies from Laurentian, a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations from Cambrian College, and since graduating has been active in continuing studies, taking courses in project management, and digital communications management and strategy. Outside of FIRSt, Amanda is a professional photographer, focusing on families, weddings and corporate projects. FIRSt will undoubtedly have her snapping food pictures around the lab in no time.
Junior Project Manager, FIRSt
Natalia Rogacki is a graduate of the Business Administration, Project Management program at George Brown College & holds an Honours Degree in History from Carleton University. Ms. Rogacki come to FIRSt with a background in hospitality and event planning, previously serving as Events and Projects Assistant for George Brown’s Centre for Business and various public-facing roles with the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. She has an extensive history of volunteer work in and around social services and community development, including Pump Up Parasport, a Sitting Volleyball Tournament organized to introduce participants to the parasports available for athletes.
Lorenza Carandang joins the team as Administrative Assistant, bringing extensive experience in managing operations and administration, with diverse skills ranging from client management, financial and wealth management to investor and shareholder communications and budgeting. Prior to joining FIRSt, she worked at Kingsdale Shareholder Services in Client Management, as well as nine years as Operations & Administrative Officer – Investment Operations and Control for AIG Philippines. Her considerable history of office management ensures that our partners and projects are supported by streamlined operations and an efficient infrastructure. Lorenza has a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.