The FIRSt Team
Dan oversees all project management at FIRSt. Since beginning work at George Brown over a decade ago, his strategic thinking skills, commitment to process improvement, and leadership capabilities have made him integral to the effective planning, execution, and closing of countless projects. Previously, Dan managed projects of all kinds, from statistical studies for the federal government to small-town music festivals. Dan graduated from George Brown College with an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration and was the recipient of the Project Management Award of Distinction. He now teaches in the School of Management, training the next generation of Project Managers. Outside of work, Dan has completed his Professional Fromager certification and can often be found at the Rogers Centre cheering on the Blue Jays.
Areas of Expertise:project management, strategic thinking, process improvement, team leadership
Joe has been actively involved in the food industry for over 30 years. He has held various senior positions in operations, procurement, and merchandising with Canada’s largest grocery retailer and he spent many years working in the food manufacturing environment in administration, marketing, sales, and product management roles. More recently, Joe was employed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs. At FIRSt, Joe will be working closely with Food and Beverage companies to assist them in targeting specific programs and initiatives enabling them to strategically grow and develop their business. He is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, where he obtained a degree in Economics.
Rob McCurdy brings considerable academic and industry experience to his role as Senior Food Scientist at George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio. Rob has both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Food Science from the University of Guelph. Rob has more than 25 years of experience in product and process development/innovation, project management, quality systems design, market research, scientific writing, large and small scale manufacturing, and process validation/optimization processes within the food industry. Rob’s retail & food service experience includes roles as a Quality Scientist (Royal Canin Canada), Senior Scientist (Mars/Masterfoods, USA), Technical Director (Lyons Magnus) and Applied Research Scientist (Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt), George Brown College). Rob’s technical expertise includes product formulation, nutritional compliance testing, thermal processing, market research, sensory evaluation, technical writing, food chemistry, bench-top to production scale-up, regulatory compliance, and quality system management. Rob’s extensive product development portfolio spans a wide range of food categories including sauces, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, confectionery products, fruit compotes, variegates and fillings, shelf stable entrees, pet foods, salad dressings, salsas, smoothies, fudges and caramels. Since joining GBC in 2014, Rob has been instrumental in the success of over 50 applied research projects and product development-related services at FIRSt.
Lorenza brings extensive experience in administration and managing operations to her position as Finance and Admin Coordinator at FIRSt. Her diverse skill set ranges from client management to financial and wealth management to investor and shareholder communications and budgeting. Prior to joining FIRSt, she worked at Kingsdale Shareholder Services and AIG Philippines. Her considerable history of office management ensures that our partners and projects are supported by streamlined operations and an efficient infrastructure. Lorenza has a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.
Areas of Expertise:Operations management and control, Financial management and budgeting, Administration and office management
From learning family recipes to working in hotels around the world, Candace’s passion for food has been her driving force. With over 16 years of culinary and foodservice experience, she has proven skills in recipe and product development. Candace values building strong client relationships at FIRSt and has a proven track record of meeting the demands of FIRSt’s diverse and dynamic clients, who are often at the cutting edge of the foodservice and the consumer package goods industry. By collaborating with food scientists and culinary students at FIRSt, she applies her culinary and sensory science experience to meet the needs of FIRSt’s diverse clients to produce best-selling products. Her product roaster includes ready to drink beverages, sauces, healthy snacks and nutrition focused recipes which help in the recovery of certain medical conditions. Since starting her career at FIRSt, she has seen first-hand how innovation continues to push the boundaries when developing unique products, and how food continues to bring people together. Candace holds a B.A from the University of Windsor and is an alumnus of both the George Brown College (GBC) Culinary Management and Italian postgraduate programs. Candace is a member of the Research Chef Association is also a past recipient of the prestigious Ontario Hostelry Institute’s ‘Top 30 Under 30’ award.
After obtaining a Food Science degree at the University of Guelph, Emily’s interest in the Culinary Arts led her to complete a Culinary Certificate at George Brown. There, she became enamored with the creative problem solving involved in food and beverage manufacturing and was thrilled when she was eventually hired as a food scientist. At FIRSt, Emily works with clients and partners to discern the “why and how” of food science challenges and to formulate, optimize and evaluate the sensory properties of food and beverage products. Previously, Emily worked for Mondelez International, conducting research and development for brands such as Oreo and Chips Ahoy, and for Maple Leaf Foods, as a microbial technologist. In 2019, she was a recipient of Ontario Hostelry Institute’s “Top 30 Under 30” award.
Areas of Expertise:Creative problem solving; food and beverage manufacture, communication; food science; product formulation/optimization; sensory evaluation
Kassandra Wagner joins the FIRSt team as a Food Scientist, after working for Metro Inc. as a Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance Specialist, specifically dealing with private label brands. She has experience with food start-up companies, working on product development and digital marketing. Kassandra brings experience and education with her in the field of food science, discovering her passion for the field after volunteering at a food microbiology lab during her first summer at school. When not at FIRSt, you’ll find Kassandra out at new restaurants or the most recent festival in Toronto, trying to replicate some of her discoveries at home! Kassandra holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Science (Honours), with a minor in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Science, and continues to study business, community nutrition and dietetics. She is passionate about fitness and is currently studying for a certificate in exercise science and nutrition.
Bob’s career in food product development and management, process implementation, and quality and field consulting has taken him across 5 continents. If you have ever enjoyed jalapeno havarti, the world-wide gold standard Pizza Hut crust and pepperoni, or toaster chicken you have sampled a small selection of Bob’s portfolio. His resume spans the development of over 250 food products and menu items for many major food service and retail brands. In the lab, office, and boardroom, Bob prides himself in building teams, transforming processes and developing new and exciting products. Bob is all about the “why” in finding solutions to technical problems. In 2013, he was awarded with the internationally recognized Certified Food Scientist designation.
Areas of Expertise:Food product development from ideation to completed commercialization (I2M), Food Service PD and field technical support, Food manufacturing product & process systems, design and efficiency improvement, Ingredient applications development and sourcing, Technical writing
Nuvi has been managing projects and grants within the Healthcare and Food and Beverage Industry for 7+ years. Before joining George Brown, Nuvi managed medical research grants for the Physicians’ Services Incorporated (PSI) Foundation, and worked for the Greenbelt Fund supporting and promoting increased demand for and access to local food in Ontario. Nuvi uses project management skills heavily at FIRSt to meet business objectives while upholding exceptional customer service in order to run the best operations possible and continuously engage in projects. Nuvi has a BA from University of Guelph. She continues to nurture her passion for food and beverage by taking classes in George Brown’s Wine, Culinary and Baking Arts program.
Areas of Expertise:Project management Grant management in healthcare, agriculture, agri-food, and product development Relationship management
Currently on parental leave.
Michelle brings a value-chain approach to FIRSt, where she has supported hundreds of food entrepreneurs throughout the product development process. Her academic and professional careers have focused on primary agriculture, agri-food, and agri-technology and she even occasionally assists on her parents’ cash crop farm. With a BA in Social Development (University of Waterloo) and a MA in Political Science and International Development (University of Guelph), she uses her interdisciplinary background to bring creative and holistic solutions to clients and partnerships. Michelle enjoys eating food as much as she enjoys working in the industry and is deeply committed to growing the food value chain in Ontario and Canada and increasing opportunities for Canadian food & agri-food companies.
Areas of Expertise:Food systems, Food Entrepreneurship, Relationship Management
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