Apicius Alum: Jake Briere
Culinary Development Chef for Chobani Greek Yogurt
Interview by Lauren Fromin
Jake Briere studied hospitality and culinary arts during his summer session abroad at Apicius in 2013. He now works for Chobani Greek Yogurt as a Culinary Development Chef. This summer, he had the unique opportunity to travel to the Rio Olympics with his company to cook for the sponsored athletes and patrons. Read about his time at Apicius and experience at the Olympics here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 27-year old food enthusiast with a passion for making people happy through cooking. I think the best feeling in the world is when you receive thanks for delivering someone an incredible eating experience – there is simply nothing else like it. I currently live in Brooklyn, NY and work for Chobani Greek Yogurt as a Culinary Development Chef.
What was your ultimate goal when enrolling in the Apicius study abroad program?
When I enrolled in this program, my main goal was to try to understand food from a different perspective than what I had seen before. I knew that Italian cooking and the gastronomy of Italian cuisine was a special concept, and I wanted to better understand why.
What is one of your favorite memories during your studies in Italy?
One of my most enjoyable moments was a food and farm tour that we took in the Parma region. We visited a Caseificio (cheese farm) and a Prosciuttificio (ham factory)to learn the steps of how Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma were made. I quickly realized it is so much more than just making cheese and cured meat. It is a tradition, an understanding of a cycle of sustainability, and a knowledge of how to create the best quality ingredients. In short, the wind that comes off the coast carries a specific bacteria to the fields that the cows then eat, flavoring the milk used to produce one of the highest quality cheeses in the world. The excess whey from the production of the cheese is fed to the pigs, which are then used to create one of the finest cured meats we have all come to love. These foods can only be made in this region using this technique to earn the title they have been given. My time in Italy was very rewarding throughout the entire experience. I really enjoyed all the different farms that we were able to tour throughout the trip. The local producers were always so happy to teach us about the craft that they and their families have been perfecting for centuries. It was truly a once in a lifetime trip.
Where do you work now and what do you do there?
I now work for Chobani Greek Yogurt as a Culinary Development Chef in NYC. I create recipes using our line of products to inspire people to cook with Greek Yogurt at home. I also help develop relationships with the foodservice companies who want to use our product on their menus to improve nutritional outcome, flavor, and capitalize on the current Greek yogurt trend.
How did FUA prepare you for what you are doing now, and how did you end up applying or finding out about your current position?
One of the most valuable lessons that FUA helped instill in me was to never settle for a lesser quality of ingredient. This really came in handy when making the decision to switch from restaurants to a corporate CPG marketing role. As someone who cares about the integrity of food, I have to make sure that the products I work with are of the highest quality on the market. I had an opportunity to do some contract work with Chobani as a brand ambassador early on and was able to form a relationship with the Director of Culinary for the company, who asked me to come on full time to form a development chef position based in NYC.
Can you tell us more about your opportunity with the Rio Olympics? What you were tasked with there, were you excited - how do you feel about it?
The summer games in Rio is a special time for everyone around the world. It was especially exciting for myself and the entire Chobani team as we were able to attend the games as a sponsor to support our athletes and patrons. We have been working with the USOC throughout the year, creating nutritionally forward recipes for our sponsored athletes to help them train to the best of their abilities by fueling their bodies with only natural ingredients. More specifically, while in Rio we hosted several events throughout the Olympics, including a dinner at the USA House called "Taste of Chobani". I feel very fortunate be able to experience the games and to cook for the members of the USA House during such a special time.
What are the most valuable skills you acquired through FUA?
There were a lot of different skills that I was able to acquire through my time in Italy that have helped me improve as a chef. Organization and cleanliness are qualities I had always practiced, but further honed in on during my time at FUA. The kitchen space, refrigeration, and storage in Florence was very limited so everyone was forced to work tight, clean, and very organized at all times or else things would get out of control quickly. Since then, having to work in tight or crowded spaces with a lot of different projects at once has been much easier for me.
What advice do you have for future FUA students?
Plan ahead as best as you possibly can, thinking of every little detail, while also knowing that you cannot foresee what awaits you around each corner.