Member Spotlight

Sharon Book

Senior Food Technologist - Bakery Applications

ICL Group

What made you want to begin a career working in the bakery industry?

This was never a goal.  My college education was in Food Science.  When I started working with chemical leavening, bakery found me.   Given my graduate school theses were on starch and gluten, I have an interest in what is happening during baking at the molecular level.

What challenges did you face starting out in your career?

I was looking for my first job in the food industry in 1992; it was a tough economy.  Getting that job was not easy.  That would be my biggest challenge.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in the bakery industry and how did you overcome them?

n/a for me.

How long have you worked in the bakery industry?

I first started working with chemical leavening in 1995 – so that would be the beginning.

What is your career highlight?

The first big project I had resulted in a patent – that was not something I had ever considered up to that point, so I thought that was pretty neat.

If you could make one change to the bakery industry, what would that be and why?

I would like to change the way food is labelled for marketing. I get very frustrated when a company will put statements on labels with the hope of increasing sales, but it results in confusion among consumers.  And that leads to a general mistrust of the industry.

What does your job entail?

I work in an applications and technical service group for the bakery industry, with a focus on chemical leavening, but also consider other ingredients in baked goods.  The responsibilities are varied and include:  training people on our product line, formulating, problem solving, working with chemists to understand the molecular level of food ingredients, attending conferences and trade shows.  No two days are the same, which makes the job very interesting and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to young people looking to get into the bakery industry?

It is great fun.  And you get to eat what you work on – what could be better!  And once you are in the industry, get involved in professional organizations – volunteering is a great way to meet people and expand your network.

What are your hobbies and interests?

Gardening, reading, knitting, cooking, traveling, walking, playing piano, playing games.  And my two sons take a lot of my time.

Who is your role model and why?

I don’t really have one.  I believe you can learn from anyone.  I look for behaviours I want to emulate, and those I don’t.

If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would it be and why?

Susanna Moodie.  She was an immigrant to Canada in the mid-1850’s.  At that time you had to be so wise and self-sufficient to survive, plus very brave to leave everything you knew for the unknown.  I can’t imagine trying to cook on a wood stove and bake with no recipes.  It would be fascinating to understand how they did it.

If you could switch places with one other people, who would it be and why?

No clue

What is your favourite bakery event and why?

I like AACCI.  It is a technical meeting that provides an opportunity to go back to the basics. It is energizing to see the new research and techniques available.

If you could choose to only eat one bakery product for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Authentic bagels made with fresh dough, boiled and baked in a hearth oven.  YUM!

If you could tell your younger self one thing you have learnt from your career, what would it be?

Don’t be timid.  Be a little braver and confident.  Look around a little more for opportunities.

How would you define success?

Simply enjoying what you do and being happy.

What would say that your proudest moment has been in your career?

Any time I am working with young people, mostly co-op students we have had in the office.  I like to see them learn how to approach a problem and get excited about food science and wanting to learn more.   Seeing that spark that “yes I can do that and there is so much more to learn” is very fulfilling.