Turning a Passion for Applied Food Science into a Career

During his senior year at JWU Charlotte, Tobias Simon '20 reverse-engineered a commercial product, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, to create what he called Sweet Baby Toby Barbecue Sauce. “Both products were quite similar, but mine was filled with a sweet hickory taste and finished off with a nice spicy kick,” he says. “I tested the water activity, pH level and temperature, salt level, viscosity, and color. For my results, I ran a comparison sensory analysis test with a large panel. The panelists chose my product over the original — they loved the flavor profile.”

Tobias Simon '20 in the lab at McClancy


Simon’s barbecue experiment was a natural extension of his work in his Applied Food Science major, where he learned to examine the construction and composition of another manufacturer’s product in order to create a duplicate or similar product. He took his passion for the JWU classes to an internship at McClancy, a food product innovation and manufacturing company in Charlotte.

“My responsibilities are to ensure quality control in the production plant.”

“I encouraged Tobias to pursue this internship opportunity,” Jodi Wood, experiential education coordinator, recently said. “McClancy is a great local company and well-established. JWU has had a long-standing relationship with them and now that we have the food science degree, Tobias was a natural fit [for internship placement]. He has great follow-through and works hard. McClancy values those qualities.”

Tobias Simon '20 at McClancy

For his final internship project, Simon was tasked with preparing a 5-course meal for McClancy leadership that included the company’s president. That’s where the JWU senior shared his passion for food science and quality assurance.

“There was an opening for a food lab technologist. I didn’t receive that position but another opportunity presented itself and I took action. I was offered a full-time position in the quality assurance department. Without the help of my on-site supervisor, Sherry Dubose, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

Armed with an Applied Food Science degree, JWU graduates — like Simon — can work in technical brewing, product testing, production management, and research and development; there are literally thousands of opportunities around the globe. Professor Robert Lothrop '98, Ph.D., who earned his doctorate in food science and created the program, says JWU provides 9 courses unique to food science, including food chemistry, fermentation science and principles of food microbiology. “We can do research in the labs, including shelf life testing, texture and color analysis, and food manufacturing. It’s endless. We are training the next generation of leaders on the innovation and development part of food science.”

New Graduate Tobias Simon '20

Of course a full-time job was not a guarantee, not during this pandemic, and Simon had other serious worries. His uncle, who was in his 40s, died at home in the Bronx, and his 60-year-old grandmother who was a nurse in Coney Island died — both from the new coronavirus.

Still, he remained focused on his internship, then wowed his now-employers with a meal inspired by the cuisine of Guyana — and found himself, just days after graduation, working full time.

“My responsibilities are to ensure quality control in the production plant. We use salt meters, viscosity level, granulation, and moisture testing to test samples and products to make sure what’s coming in and out of the plant is consistent. Because of my JWU class, I already knew how to use the equipment, how to formulate and reverse engineer.”

In other words, he was set up for success by JWU – and it all started with his reverse-engineered barbecue sauce.