As part of an ongoing interview series of youth perspectives on good food jobs, we caught up with Kaitlin Vandenbosch of Mill Street Brewery, Toronto. Kaitlin is a former TYFPC member and now head distiller at Mill Street Brewery. On the agenda were Kaitlin’s thoughts on craft beer, the food movement, and good food jobs.
1) Can you tell us about your background (educational, volunteer, professional, and/or personal), and what led you to pursue the path of being a brewer?
- I’ve always been really interested in biology and chemistry. At age 15, a friend’s dad gave me the tour of a food science research facility and I was excited that this was a possible career. I completed my BSc in Food Science at UBC in 2008. Afterwards, I spent a year living in Europe, learning French and thinking about my future. At the end of that year, I decided that I wanted to become a brewer. I came back to Canada and met a lot of brewers, tried home brewing and volunteered at several breweries. I got a summer job at the Yukon Brewing Company in 2010. After that I went to Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh to complete my MSc in Brewing and Distilling. I’ve been at Mill Street ever since.
2) Can you briefly describe your current work? Any future plans?
- Currently, I am the Head Distiller at Mill Street brewery. I run our small craft distillery (making spirits) in the Distillery District. I am also the production scheduler for our main brewing facility.
- Mill Street is a fast growing brewery and I have held various positions since starting in the cellars cleaning tanks and collecting yeast 3.5 years ago. I would like to increase my role in management, assist in technical brewing problem solving and participate in process improvement.
3) What are the broader significances of your work/plans for alternative food networks?
- I am not exactly sure how to answer this. I think that craft beer is an important product. It is a quality product, made with traditional ingredients and it supports the local economy.
4) How would you describe the relationship between the craft beer scene and the food movement?
- I think the craft beer movement is part of the current food movement. Craft beer is returning to traditional recipes, ingredients and brewing techniques. This is echoed throughout the food movement.
5) In what capacities have you participated in the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council?
- I was on the TYFPC for 2 years from 2011-2013. I helped create an education workshop in my first year. I also was part of the team that restructured the council. In my second year, I was and Education Lead and rolled out the education workshop.
6) How has the TYFPC shaped your current interests and involvement in the food movement?
- At present, I am more involved in the beer industry than the larger food movement. However, the skills I learned as part of the TYFPC, I have been able to transfer to my current volunteer pursuits. I am currently involved in establishing a board to connect women across all aspects of the alcohol industry. I will also be soon taking over the role of technical chairperson for the Masters Brewers Association.
7) What are some of the lessons or take home messages you have for youth who wish to pursue research and employment in the food sector?
- Food is an essential part of life. There will always be employment in the food sector. My advice is to find what aspect of the food sector interests you. Talk to people already working in the industry. Find out what they do and how they got there. Volunteering is another great way to learn more about the food industry and also to see if a certain job interests you.