Writer Name: Bryan Quoc Le, Ph.D.
Location: Sequim, Washington
Years of Experience: 4
Available for writing projects: Yes
Niche/Beat/Genre: food science, food technology, food marketing, food history, flavors, fermentation, nutrition, chemistry
Portfolio website(s): BryanQuocLe.com
Other websites/blogs: LinkedIn.com/in/BryanQuocLe
Books (if applicable): 150 Food Science Questions Answered
Favorite food: Vietnamese spring rolls (gỏi cuốn) or Romanian beef salad (salată de boeuf), depending on the season
Writing tip for fellow writers: Writer’s block is sometimes being afraid of the truth that you have to say.
Dr. Bryan Quoc Le is a food scientist, food industry consultant, and author of 150 Food Science Questions Answered. He previously served as the VP of Digital & Social Media for the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association, where he managed, edited, and contributed to their award-winning blog Science Meets Food. He currently works with food technology companies to help them share their stories.
Tell us a little about your background.
Before devoting my time to writing and consulting, I served as the VP of Digital and Social Media for the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association.
I worked with companies such as TurtleTree Labs, ZoomEssence, Selayia Investment, Elo Life Systems, and Saputo.
Now I work with food startups and companies that need help sharing their story.
I've written articles about science and food for Heated, Medium, Nanalyze, Technology Networks, and the Kerry Health & Nutrition Institute.
In another life, I walked 2,000 miles solely on foot from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf Coast.
When I'm not consulting, I like to run, cook, and explore the food scene in the Pacific Northwest with my wife, Yvonne.
Why did you decide to go into food science—and write about it for a living?
My wife really helped me get turned onto food. When we first met, I was not much of a foodie and she showed me all these different restaurants. Her enthusiasm for food is infectious, and now I love exploring food with her.
I also really enjoyed learning about science, especially chemistry, as a high school and college student. I was on track for a different kind of career when I discovered food science was an actual field and decided to apply to a PhD program to combine my love for chemistry with my love for food.
When I first started, I thought I’d end up as a professor or researcher. It turns out I don’t have much talent for academic research, so I explored different ways to read, collect, and share knowledge about the science of food.
I eventually landed on writing because it was the one thing I could do without going into an office or relocating to any specific part of the country.
The funny part is, I was a terrible writer and English student in high school and college. I once took an Advanced Placement (AP) English class in my senior year, and my AP score from that class was one of my worst.
Honestly, I never thought I’d ever need to learn to write because I had my head set on excelling in chemistry. Amazing where life ends up taking you.
While studying for my PhD, I had the chance to write for the Science Meets Food blog, which was a part of the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association. I ended up managing and editing for the blog at some point.
That helped me get the attention of a startup book publisher, Callisto Media, which gave me my first book offer. Even before I wrote my first book on food science, which was just released on July 2020, a startup food company reached out to me and asked if I could write for them.
Afterwards, I saw that what I do was important to companies, and so I started reaching out to other food companies and pitching my writing services to them. That started my writing and communications consulting career.
You mentioned that you once walked 2,000 miles from California to Louisiana. Can you tell us the backstory?
So, my dad passed away back in 2010, which is when I was still in college, so I kind of ended up lost during that period of my life. I’m not exactly sure how, but I ended up latching onto this idea that what I needed to do next was walk the country.
In some sense, it was a tribute to my dad for all the years he couldn’t walk, because he had a stroke when I was 8 years old. But it was also for me, to push myself in a way that was so outside the range of what I’d known before.
I saw on Medium that you are very focused on goals. Tell us a little bit about why goals are so important to you.
Goals help me focus. I spend 15 minutes every morning reading my life goals, sometimes out loud, and visualizing myself achieving them.
Sometimes I’ll spend an hour once a month revising my goals to better align with where I am in life and how I’ve grown.
The reason goals are so helpful is that I have my head in the clouds and I spent a lot of time thinking. But somehow, the act of writing out what it is I want to achieve and where I want to go with my life gives me structure and direction.
What has been the most rewarding part of what you do?
I love the idea that I can take my thoughts, put them on paper, and get paid to do it. And I love the idea that I get to communicate with people.
I was always concerned that I would end up in an office cubicle or production facility, mostly because I’m terrible with office politics and my one and only real job was at cheese factory, where I did mostly manual labor.
I’m kind of living the dream here. And while it can be stressful at times, being able to set my own hours helps me spend more time with my wife.
What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about food science?
Food science gets a bad rap for some of the technology that’s been used to create processed junk food. I think that criticism is fair, but certainly there have been other ways food science has improved our lives, especially when it comes to food safety.
For thousands of years, people literally died because of food-borne illnesses, and while that still happens today, it’s on a much smaller scale thanks to technologies like pasteurization and preservatives.
But food science is fundamental to every day life, and you can’t escape it – I mean, cooking is basically the first food technology. It’s only in the last half century that we’ve created an official field called food science.
What are some of your favorite food science topics to discuss?
I love talking about the concept of umami. The taste of umami is essentially savoriness, and I love the idea that the human body evolved to taste proteins, nucleic acids, and amino acids in this way.
What’s fascinating is that unlike the taste of salty, sweet, bitter, or sour, umami is the only taste bud that can be activated by multiple compounds at the same time and induce an exponentially stronger effect on the human brain.
And with umami, you only need a handful of compounds to get this effect. Some speculate that that’s how taste pairing works, where you have two different umami-inducing compounds in two different foods that work in synergy together.
Any advice for other writers who may be interested in writing about food science?
You will probably spend a lot of time writing for free in the beginning. I was lucky because I was paid a stipend by the university to do research, and on the side, I could do my writing. I worked for free for three years before I landed my first book offer and eventually transitioned to earning solely through my writing.
I also think it’s important to get a handle on the principles of marketing. I used to be a bit of a snob, and think marketing was rather demeaning. But over time, I’ve come to understand the importance of putting yourself out there in the world, even if it’s uncomfortable. And marketing gets a bad rap – I’ve also come to realize just reaching out to people about what you do and saying you’re available to do work is a form of marketing. And honestly, without a clear marketing plan, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep writing.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t think I could pursue a writing career without my wife. I am lucky because she is such an avid reader. She is my Spark Notes to great English and Russian literature. So while I’ll never actually read those books, I’m learning to gain an appreciation for them and other fiction. She also has a better eye for good writing and serves as my go-to editor when I’m stuck. She inspires me every day to write a little better, as she’s the one who dots my i’s and crosses my t’s.