NCFIL Summer Intern: Chris Patillo
August 25, 2021
Chris Patillo is a recent graduate from Johnson and Wales University and one of the summer interns at NC Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL). While working toward his bachelor’s degree in Applied Food Science, Patillo says he “fell in love with the science behind culinary arts.”
When Patillo was in high school, meat was a main component of his diet. Feeling lethargic, he began to research meat consumption and experiment with alternative protein sources as a way to improve his overall health. He now considers himself a “meat minimalist.”
“At an early age I discovered a passion for the culinary industry,” says Patillo. “I knew toward the middle of senior year [of college] that plant-based research was the path I wanted to pursue.”
Patillo is ecstatic to have earned this “prestigious internship” with NCFIL because of the way it is “revolutionizing the plant-based culinary industry.”
Lots to Learn
Patillo’s experience is proving to be overwhelmingly beneficial. While he has been largely working with companies developing various types of nut-based beverages, he has also had his hands in product development, scale up/optimization, and operational procedures.
He says one of the most intriguing machines he’s been working with is an extruder; however, he feels the most interesting part of the job is simply learning something new every day. “Being an intern at NCFIL has taught me that I’ve only scratched the surface of the plant-based industry. I have so much information to learn and research to conduct,” he says.
Guiding him along this knowledge acquisition are Bill Aimutis, Executive Director; Joseph Hildebrand, Pilot Plant Manager; and Cindy Calhoun, Sr. Food Scientist.
“It has been an honor to work with them. These three individuals are leading the charge in plant-based research and development,” Patillo comments.
Hildebrand may serve as a mentor, but he has been impressed with Patillo’s ability to apply this new knowledge into real world situations, especially in a relatively new environment: “It's a big step from culinary to food processing, but he has handled it well.”
Hildebrand has witnessed Patillo’s incredible work ethic in action. “Chris' presence and tenacity for learning has been a huge benefit to NCFIL,” he says. “We've been able to double production output since he started.”
Patillo will continue working with NCFIL as a temporary employee. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in Food Science in the next two years.
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