Have you ever wondered about the “origin story” behind your favorite Tyson Foods products? Whether you’re enjoying an innovative product from one of Tyson Food’s trusted brands at home, dining at one of your favorite restaurants, or grabbing a quick bite to eat from your local convenience store, the chances are good that you’re indulging in fresh, flavorful foods curated by Tyson Foods’ very own culinary team.  

Highly skilled, passionate and inventive, Tyson Foods culinary professionals represent a range of expertise spanning trained chefs, food scientists, sensory scientists, packaging and process engineers, registered dietitians, insights and innovation experts. The team works in lockstep to study food trends and insights from consumers and customers to learn more about how people eat across the globe and how as a global protein leader Tyson Foods can make that experience even better. 

From Chef to Senior Director: Meet the New Tyson Foods Culinary Leader 

At 15, Thomas Wenrich took a job at a small family-run restaurant mainly to distance himself from his family’s automotive business. Much to Thomas’ surprise, this first restaurant job sparked a passion for the fast pace of the culinary industry and dedication to the customer experience, a passion he would carry with him throughout his career. 

“I fell in love with the pace of kitchens and the power of hospitality to create a second home where patrons can relax and enjoy a stress-free experience. That’s something I really clung to that I didn’t expect at 15.” 

Thomas’ experiences in the kitchen inspired him to attend culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied various facets of the culinary arts including nutrition and chef training. Throughout his studies he continued gaining hands-on experience working in various hotel and restaurant kitchens.  

After graduation, Thomas secured a role as a corporate chef at Tyson Foods, working closely with the culinary team on product presentation, innovation and research and development, among other culinary responsibilities. Little did Thomas know, his role as a corporate chef was just the beginning of his culinary career, leading to roles of increasing responsibility at Tyson Foods. 

“Until you’re in the culinary world, you have zero idea just how much impact your work can have. Part of falling in love with restaurants was being on a great team that creates experiences for people through food. What Tyson Foods has become for me is a larger version of that.” 

Today, Thomas is stepping into the role of senior director of culinary after a variety of culinary roles across the Tyson Foods business. His contributions span research and development, and foodservice innovation, among others. 

In his new role, Thomas oversees a large and growing team of culinary professionals supporting everything from culinary innovation, to branded product support for retail and foodservice, to product application and endorsement. For him, being a strong culinary leader includes ensuring there’s a culinary touchpoint and customer-first aspect in nearly every product created, tested and distributed. 

Tyson Discovery Center: The Culinary Team’s Protein Playground  

One of the culinary team’s secret ingredients is the resources available to them at the Tyson Discovery Center, or as Thomas likes to refer to it “Willy Wonka’s playground for food.” Located at company headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, the Discovery Center consists of 19 state-of-the-art test kitchens, a pilot plant, a sensory lab and focus group space and a packaging innovation lab. 

This centralized hub allows culinary team members to quickly bring concepts to life by creating product iterations and testing manufacturing capabilities and market feasibility on-site. No matter the project, Thomas and team focus on three guiding principles: product quality, launch speed and customer service. 

“Having things like sensory and focus group capabilities in-house lets us not only design a great product and prove we can scale it, but also validate it and really make sure it’s delivering on customer expectations.” 

Representatives from the Tyson Foods portfolio of brands, suppliers and customers can frequently be found on-site working side-by-side with culinary professionals to transform a product from paper to plate.  

No matter the project, Thomas inspires the culinary team and all team members at Tyson Foods to stay humble and hungry, always striving to raise the world’s expectations for how much good food can really do. 

“My mantra is to be humble and be hungry. Be humble by learning from everyone and be hungry by continuously driving toward something untried. Keep eating, keep tasting, keep trying to find something new.”