The way a professional food taster eats is similar to the way a sommelier tastes wine; he observes every aspect of what he is tasting and uses his 5 senses to make a critical analysis. If you think about it, you already use your five senses when you eat; it's part of our experience as human beings. In addition to formal education, sensory acuity is perhaps the most important trait of professional food tasters. It's not enough for a product to taste “good” or “bad”; tasters must be able to distinguish the specific characteristics of all the products they test.
They should also have a keen sense of smell, as many researchers say taste is 80% related to smell. Chefs and product developers who act as professional tasters are often trained to analyze the intensity of flavor, sweetness or bitterness, texture and consistency of the product. In both jobs, their duties include testing products and documenting their opinions orally or in writing. In fact, when you apply for a job as a professional taster, your language is the real one interviewed, Schroeder says.
It goes far beyond a simple matter of preference; these food tasting panelists have such a precise tasting capacity that they can discover even the softest flavors of products or capture the difference between small changes in a product's recipe. Professional evaluators usually work for a food manufacturer or similar company to develop new food products or improve existing ones on the market. Lisa Schroeder is an associate sensory scientist, that is, a professional taster, for Mars Wrigley Confectionery U. It also involves a lot of preparation to be a professional taster, such as choosing which flavors you will try each day and keeping track of them all so that you don't lose any translation when talking about them later with others.
Once you're confident in your tasting skills, look for professional tasting positions at food manufacturing companies. In addition to affecting the sense of taste, a study conducted in Greece found that smoking can also change the shape of the taste buds. You may know them more informally as taste evaluators, but sensory testers do much more than test foods. Between bites of M%26M's, Snickers, Dove and Skittles, Schroeder spends time creating software to evaluate products, plans training before product launches, hosts team flavor testing panel sessions, and continues her own tasting education.
The first step to becoming a professional food taster is to develop your tastes and be more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. Some independent tasting organizations also require a minimum level of experience in the food industry. Not to be confused with amateur tasters, who are often hired for consumer research or other purposes once a product is developed, professional food tasters usually work directly for a food manufacturer or other related company. If you're looking for a job that allows you to eat some of the best food in the world, consider becoming a professional food taster.
Sensory science leaders want members of professional tasting panels to be as controlled as possible.