From the joy of baking our favourite things in our very own kitchen playground, to seeing some of the most innovative, and out-of-this-world food products appear on our supermarket shelves, I honestly do not have all the words to describe just how much I love and value food science. Thankfully, today’s incredible interview guest, Adelaide Spicer, has plenty.
For those of you who have not yet been acquainted with Addy, Adelaide is the type of person you probably wish you were best friends during high school or uni, to help you cram for those last-minute science exams! Luckily for you, Addy so generously shares many of her delicious A+ food science summaries on her bright and informative Instagram feed, @by_addyspicer.
Adelaide’s organic artistic flair, knack for creative experimentation, and sharp scientific mind, just so happened to be the perfect ingredients needed to pursue a rewarding career in science communication, which has allowed Addy to grow so much personally and professionally.
Anyway, time for me to stop waffling on about how awesome Adelaide is, so you can enjoy our chat in peas and quiet!
So, Adelaide, tell us a bit about yourself, and what led you on the path to studying and working in the world of food science and science communication?
I am currently working as an Illustrator in the Science Communication space – which happened completely by accident. I’ve always loved drawing, but never really considered myself an artist. As a visual learner I often struggled at university when content was very abstract. I used art as a tool to make diagrams and essentially teach myself different topics. However, I never thought it could turn into a career of sorts.
In high school I chose to focus my major work (a yearlong school project) on developing a nut-free dessert that emulated the taste of nuts for a friend with severe nut allergies. This sparked a real desire to study a Bachelor of Food Science at UNSW, Sydney. I had every intention to become a food product developer, but after taking a science communication elective at University I realised that I loved the communication side of things more.
You describe yourself as an artist x scientist hybrid, which in my opinion is very cool and much needed in this world. How did this come about in your life and career, and how do you as a creative, feel about and respond to society’s ongoing ‘art versus science’ debate?
I think science and art go hand in hand. I don’t know if they can really exist without the other.Addy Spicer
Art is inherently inspired by science and nature. Science needs art for communication. I also think the definition of “art” is relative. When you generally think of art you might first think of a painting, or a picture, but art can also be a microscopic image, or a well-designed diagram. Essentially, they need each other.
You create beautiful and very well-thought-out food science infographics. What does your design, research and creative process look like? Do you have a routine or ritual that helps you enter and stay in your creative zone?
At first, my illustrations were taken directly from my university notes, so their creation was pretty organic. They were generally the result of my lecture of the day. However, since graduating, their creation is very intentional. I usually spend 1-2 hours reading and researching a topic and will then spend another hour drawing an infographic. It can be time intensive, but I find it rewarding. I don’t have too much of a routine, but I try to dedicate one or two evenings a week to create content. Fresh air is a massive help I find – often I’ll sit on my balcony and draw out there. I find it easier to think and feel more relaxed.
Where do you seek inspiration from? Who has inspired you throughout your career as a food scientist, communicator, and an artist?
My dad has been a massive inspiration. He’s spent the majority of his career working as a Chemical Engineer in the FMCG and foods space. He’s very technically capable but is an artist at heart as well. Growing up he would show me his microscopy images and videos, explaining how he would adjust the lighting and composition. He’s always encouraged me to find my own path and just give everything a go. My food tech teacher in high school, Min Buxton, was also incredible. She worked hard to create a safe space to ask questions and think creatively about food science. During my major work she would come in early some days to let me in the kitchen, and even let me use her personal food processor so I could complete my experiments.
What resources would you recommend for novice artists like me, wanting to explore and develop some simple yet effective, visual science communication skills?
Canva is a great place to start. You can look through their templates for inspiration, which is especially helpful for those starting out. I still use it to this day to help format some of my illustrations. For those with an iPad, Notability and Procreate are incredible. Notability is what I used for all of my university notes and it’s very easy to navigate and sketch in. At the start, I would find a scientific diagram I found interesting, but difficult to understand, and then try and draft my own version. I only started using Procreate early this year as it has a steeper learning curve (YouTube has some great tutorials), but I now swear by Procreate. You can illustrate and animate in the application which is incredible.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far, and what are some of the aspirational future career goals you are currently working towards?
The most unexpected aspect of sharing my work on Instagram was the international engagement I got quite early on, thanks to Dr. Mariana Koppmann, a food science author and consultant, based in Argentina. She worked with me to translate my illustrations in Spanish and connect me up with others who could translate them into Portuguese. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with other incredible people and organisations in the US, South Africa, and UK.
One day I would love to design a learning platform where students across the world can easily access educational science material and hopefully encourage them to work in the STEM.
Side note… you can find Mariana’s books on Amazon, the topics range from food safety in your home to sourdough and molecular gastronomy!
The food industry, often unfairly, cops a bad rap from health professionals to health-conscious consumers. How do you feel about this, and address this in your everyday work?
I think people inherently fear what they don’t understand. And it’s hard to understand! Learning about the food industry is complex, and even those who study it extensively may never understand it all. While I can’t provide “all the answers” I try and communicate topics in an accessible and friendly manner. It’s about opening the space up for a conversation and being honest when you don’t know something.
Where do you feel like the most exciting nutrition innovations in food product development lie?
As a diabetic, I’m partial to any new developments in the sugar-free space. I love products that make peoples’ lives easier. For example, a new bread for someone who is coeliac, or a cool spread for someone who has nut allergies. However, these alternatives aren’t often nutritionally comparable to their original counterparts. So, I would love to see more nutrition innovation in this food product development space.
Environmental sustainability and food waste are both issues many food citizens are growing increasingly conscious of across the whole food system. From your perspective and experience, how is the food industry actively trying to address this?
I think awareness is one of the best starting points for dealing with any complex issue. I think science communicators in this area are doing a great job, but like anything it will take time for consumers to take a vested interest in anything outside their immediate concerns. At the end of the day, it will take consumers, start-ups, and established industry working together to make real change to these issues.
Consumers have certainly caught trend of gut-loving probiotics and other functional foods. Do you think we will see a future of ‘personalised’ health foods that more carefully consider our unique microbiome and genetic make-up?
I’m sure we will – consumers love most kinds of personalisation, so I imagine food won’t be any different. I’ll be interested to see how these personalised products are produced on a large scale and what kinds of nutritional benefits they’ll boast.
Are there any global food products or food technologies that have caught your eye that you would like to see in Australia?
I’m quite interested in the production of vegan cheese, which I’ve been seeing more frequently this year in major supermarkets in Australia. As I touched on previously, I’m fascinated by any products that attempt to replicate particular textures or flavours of (for example) dairy cheese. There is so much thought that goes into these types of products. In the near future I want to learn more about the fermentation of non-dairy cheese to develop comparable umami flavours.
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