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A sustainable interest in food

November 01, 2023

Kimberly Schaub

Kimberly Schaub isn’t just a seasoned professional—she’s a composer of flavour symphonies, a culinary scientist, a leader and a captivating storyteller in her own right. From her unique career trajectory to her ardent passion for food and sustainability and the great outdoors, Schaub’s story is a testament to the power of following one’s heart.

Now graduating with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Sustainable Innovation, Schaub acknowledges that she has worn more hats than most over the years. “I held 21 different jobs between my time in the US Air Force and my first research-and-development job. That’s how long it took me to figure out I wanted to do this,” she laughs. 

However dissimilar, each of her roles contributed to her multifaceted skillset and unique perspective— and, when you dig a little deeper, there is a common thread running through all of them.

Her unique career journey

Schaub began her professional journey in the US Air Force, where she served for several years and eventually achieved the rank of Captain. Following her military service, her career took a culinary twist when she enrolled in the Seattle Culinary Academy and began collaborating with the molecular gastronomy team at Modernist Cuisine. 

Her culinary journey then continued with stints at Beecher's Handmade Cheese, Lundberg Family Farms and Bulletproof 360, where she dove into various aspects of food product development and formulation. Today Schaub serves as director of business development at Griffith Foods. “If you’ve ever had a breakfast sausage or breaded chicken, you’ve probably tasted a Griffith product,” she says. 

Schaub’s transition from Captain to chef to product development scientist may seem a little unconventional, but it is a testament to her unwavering determination to connect her work with true passion. “My earliest memories revolve around food,” she recalls. “My parents are from Minnesota, and I recall being in my grandmother's kitchen, shucking corn with my family. My task was to separate the kernels and pack them into bags for freezing. We did this for a week, and I loved the tactile experience and how food brought people together.” 

After 10 years in the US Air Force, Schaub took a leap of faith when she enrolled in culinary school, which led her to a job as purchasing manager for a restaurant in Seattle. Even that role took an unexpected turn. “One day, the CEO caught me redoing a recipe in the kitchen due to incorrect yields. I couldn't accept a 40 percent loss, and I was trained in the Air Force to reverse engineer everything,” she recounts. “When I explained my process to the CEO, he asked if I could cook. I mentioned being a sous chef and he promptly called the head of operations, saying 'You need a different purchasing manager; I'm taking her into product development!' That opportunity opened numerous doors for me." 

An MBA rooted in sustainability

When it came to her decision to pursue an MBA in Sustainable Innovation at UVic, Schaub admits that the way forward was significantly clearer than she might have expected. “It was probably the easiest and most obvious decision for me, which is surprising because I am a ruminator by nature. A friend once told me, 'When you find the right MBA program, you'll know it's the perfect fit for you.' I'm not one to believe in love at first sight, but that's exactly what happened when I discovered this MBA." 

Schaub began her degree with her sights set on sharpening her business acumen and gaining  credentials that would allow her to influence business and ultimately help her become a chief operating officer. Her MBA, however, offered her much more than expected. 

“I was surprised with the long-term relationships that I fostered while at the Gustavson School of Business. There are some incredible humans in places that I’ve gotten to work, but during the MBA I discovered a group of us who want to build a life around each other,” she says. 

Schaub was also inspired by the interweaving of business and sustainability principals in every course. “Sustainability has always been a core passion of mine; and not in the traditional sense. My passion for food and how people are connected through food is my north star.  I engage with curiosity and care to enable people to thrive by holding safe spaces for them, whether at my kitchen table or a sales meeting. This engages the well-being in people, which helps us be kinder to our environment, which helps us in turn deal with climate change issues. That’s my version of sustainability,” she explains. 

Applying her newfound knowledge

Sitting in one of Griffith Foods satellite offices, Schaub shares the ways in which she has incorporated many of her MBA learnings into her work. “The MBA has helped me change how I present business opportunities, problems, and solutions. Take today for example: my boss was talking about supporting a customer's fluctuating product demands, and I said ‘what I’m hearing you say is we want to apply exponential smoothing to the forecast to see patterns and trends,’ which is something we had to do in our classes. That was a direct learning from the MBA supply chain management course. For the record, I didn’t enjoy that homework and am grateful we have a forecasting program at work,” she adds with a laugh. 

Schaub acknowledges that, based on her experiences over the past few decades, predicting future outcomes is no easy task. Nevertheless, one thing remains certain: her commitment to making a positive impact in the business world. "There's a unique opportunity for business leaders with a passion for sustainability and a technical background,” she notes. “I believe there's a sweet spot, and I intend to work within it by merging sustainability and business development through partnerships and collaboration." 

With her MBA journey complete, Schaub is excited to savor life outside the classroom, bringing with her new perspectives and friends as she embarks on her next chapter.

—Natalie Bruckner. Photo credit: Geoff Howe