When food service companies are looking to scale up production, they can turn to FoodOps LLC to help them expand and automate their model for the national market. One of FoodOps’ current clients is Dr. In the Kitchen, the maker of Flackers, a healthy flax seed cracker snack currently available at local supermarkets and co-ops. The level of expansion that Dr. In the Kitchen is after requires a certain high-quality standard certification. That’s why FoodOps’ President John Castillo hired Quality Technician Intern Ian Heieie, to help ensure that everything in their client’s production is up to code.

When reviewing candidates for this opportunity, Castillo said, “I wanted people who are efficient and creative.” With his culinary background and curiosity about the industry, Heieie brought both to the table.

Prior to starting this internship, Heieie spent ten years as a chef in Minneapolis, working at renowned and local favorites such as the Bachelor Farmer and Young Joni. Now pursuing his degree in food science, he’s learning how food is made on a larger, industrial scale.

“I have a bit of an eye for quality already,” Heieie said, “Now I’m honing in on the data side of things as well.”

Quality from start to finish
As a Quality Technician, Heieie started by learning all about the company’s general manufacturing procedures. From there he was responsible for conducting moisture tests and moisture loss studies, tracking the product from the inbound phase to outbound processing, gathering and assessing data all the way.

“I wanted Ian to see different things and get different experiences,” Castillo said. That’s why he gave Heieie tasks in almost every stage of the process, from operations, to quality, to food development. The last of which, Heieie will be starting soon, working with another FoodOps client to help them develop a new product.

“That is a big opportunity,” Castillo said proudly, “For Ian and for us.”

The right path
“This internship has given me a real-world experience,” said Heieie. “Now, seeing this career in action, it’s confirmed my interest in the industry.”

Heieie is currently wrapping up his associates degree at Normandale and is preparing to transfer to the University of Minnesota in the fall. His experience working at FoodOps, he said, inspired him to choose which classes he’ll be taking next semester, to further explore these areas of study. “My time here has given me a leg up,” he added, “and I’m grateful for that advantage.”

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