New adjunct, equipment add value to nutrition program
James Adams of Tyson Foods, Inc. Photo credit: Holly Nelson
DENTON— Culinary science students at Texas Woman’s University will have even more opportunities to gain real-world experience thanks to two recent additions to the program courtesy of Tyson Foods, Inc. A Tyson executive with more than 40 years in the field will serve as an adjunct professor, providing valuable insight into the workings of the industry. In addition, a donation of equipment from Tyson will give students experience with tools that actually are used in the food industry.
James Adams, director of process optimization for Tyson Prepared Foods in Fort Worth, will teach culinary science courses on TWU’s Denton campus beginning in the spring. Tyson has granted him a half-day leave once a week to teach, in addition to donating two pieces of industry equipment for the university’s Food Product Development Lab.
Tyson used the donated equipment – one 40-quart and one 30-quart steam-jacketed kettle, along with the support stand complete with water hookup – for new product development, primarily soups and sauces, as these kettles can stir themselves. Adams said the company had moved part of the research and development group to its home office in Springdale, Arkansas, and the two kettles were surplus equipment. The kettles are valued at approximately $20,000 each.
The food product development course Adams will teach will consist of lectures and a lab. Adams wants his students to have a wide-ranging understanding of product development and the opportunity, if time permits, to develop a new product from beginning to launch.
“That’s an experience most people coming out of school don’t have,” Adams said. “These students will have the upper hand in getting a job after graduation.”
Adams’ goal of preparing students for a career echoes that of nutrition and food sciences department chair Shane Broughton.
“I want students to walk out the door with the knowledge they’ll need to walk into a job,” Broughton said. “I want to set them up to be successful, and this equipment and James’ experience will help make that happen.”
Tyson’s contributions also are important to the department, Broughton said. “It means we’re getting industry buy-in for what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Adams’ connection to TWU began when he was selected from a panel of Research Chef Association applicants to speak to students in the Food and Nutrition Network Club. A few weeks later, TWU visiting assistant clinical professor Angela Griffin invited him to be a guest lecturer for her culinary nutrition modification class. In this class, students learn how to make “comfort foods” healthier.
“We took Paula Deen’s recipe for biscuits and gravy and made the biscuits from pumpkin,” Adams said. “We had a taste test, and most people preferred the pumpkin biscuits.”
Though Adams says teaching is something he’s always wanted to do, he had a different career path in mind as a pre-med biology major at Arkansas Tech University.
“I wanted to be a doctor, which works until you figure out you can’t do the clinical part,” he said. “I just couldn’t stick someone with a needle.”
He learned that a pickle company was searching for someone with a biology degree, so he applied for the job.
“I didn’t know anything, but I swore I would learn quickly,” he said. “And I did. I had a great mentor there.”
Adams went on to work at the Campbell Soup Company for more than a decade before joining Tyson Foods in 2004. The Research Chef’s Association named him a certified culinary scientist in 2012, and he was part of the International Food Science Certification Commission’s inaugural class of certified food scientists in 2013.
He now can add “adjunct professor” to his résumé.
“I never thought I would have the chance to teach at the university level,” Adams said. “I am ecstatic about this.”