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Career Mentors Get a Taste of Culinary Education

Career Mentors Get a Taste of Culinary Education


By Hillery Wheeler, ICE Admissions Department

This month, ICE was thrilled to host an event for the some of the most important career mentors for aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals: school counselors. Over the course of the night, the counselors learned about culinary career opportunities for their soon-to-be-graduates while testing their hand at the art of pasta making with Chef James Briscione, Director of Culinary Development.

To kick off the evening, Chef Richard Simpson, Vice President of Education, provided insight into the various programs the school offers and shared stories of his own experiences in professional kitchens through the years. Maureen Drum Fagin, Director of Career Services, also spoke about the various resources that are available, both to ICE students as they pursue their externships and the ongoing support provided to ICE graduates as they move through their careers in the food and hospitality industries. Finally, Brian Aronowitz, Chief Marketing Officer, shared the exciting details about ICE’s forthcoming move to Brookfield Place, our brand new waterfront facility in Lower Manhattan. The counselors then stepped into the shoes of culinary students, as Chef James led a hands-on class in crafting artisanal pasta dough and shaping the perfect ravioli.


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].


How Food Tasters Work

As you can see, there are various ways to get into this field, and a degree in food science or tasting experience isn't always necessary. However, remember this: There are a lot of foods out there. While you may be dreaming of evaluating hamburgers or candy, you may be hired to taste items not quite so appealing, such as crackers, ketchup or fish oil. Still intrigued? Let's see how to best prepare for the job.

If you're interested in becoming a professional food taster, you'll most likely need a degree in food science or the culinary arts. A nutrition degree can also be helpful, as well as a post in product development at a food or beverage company. Working with the food you'd like to test is another avenue that may help you get into food tasting. A professional taster and innovations director for Godiva was a self-described chocolate lover with a psychology degree and an MBA. She was sent to "chocolate school" in Montreal to learn about the complexities of the confection in addition to her on-the-job training [source: Donaldson-Evans].

Professional food tasters say it helps to prepare your body as much as your mind for this job. Protect your 10,000 taste buds by passing on cigarettes, booze and super spicy or salty foods. Lay off the aftershave or cologne, as heavy scents can impair your sense of smell -- and 80 percent of taste is smell. Finally, eat your veggies. Peter Lind, a Ben & Jerry's food guru, says you can't continually evaluate a wealth of new foods accurately unless you're eating a very healthy diet. Not to mention that you'll have to exercise regularly if you want to avoid gaining weight. Having a lot of food allergies could be a detriment to this kind of career also, as you may have to sample many different types of food.

Whether you're going the professional route or that of a part-time amateur, you have to have sensory acuity. This means you can identify, for instance, the sugar, salt or acid levels in various products, and articulate this information to others. Some people just happen to have a knack for this, and that usually comes through on the tests they're given when they sign up to work as consumer taste testers. For instance, potential testers at MMR are first given taste and odor recognition tests, and asked to describe the attributes of various food items. (For instance, how would you describe mayonnaise to someone who did not know it?) Those who pass and are hired are then trained to objectively test and rate products [source: Maurer].

Companies that use consumers simply to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a product, may just ask them to address basic questions like, "Is this egg roll too spicy?" or "Does this pizza have enough cheese?" At Schwan, the tester would taste the product over several bites and enter her answers on a touch-screen computer.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was ridiculed in 2012 when word leaked that a professional sampler tastes his food to ensure it's safe to eat and not poisoned [source: Allen]. But those snickers were premature. The ancient Egyptians and Romans employed food tasters to protect their leaders [source: Luthern]. And every recent American president since Ronald Reagan has used them [source: Amira].