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In November 2006, I introduced you to Vahan Serpekian and Erika Jones, two members of the quality control team at Chicken of the Sea, the Mira Mesa-headquartered tuna company. They were our third installment in the People at Work series.
The face of the tuna industry in San Diego today less resembles a weathered fisherman with a knit cap and a week’s worth of stubble or a masked cannery worker whose hands have been ravaged by fish scales than it does a savvy international businessperson using a Palm Pilot to manage operations and canneries in several countries.
Two years ago, I went to Mira Mesa for a cutting — a Monday morning meeting where a bunch of executives crowd into the kitchen while Jones and Serpekian and their team open more than 65 cans of tuna and salmon and touch, smell and taste the fish to make sure it meets company standards.
I caught both of them on the phone yesterday to see what they’ve been up to for the last two years. Serpekian said the team’s as busy as it’s ever been, testing and smelling and coming up with new products like the cups of flavored, ready-to-eat tuna that were just about to launch when I wrote my story in 2006.
Jones, now a couple of years into her career, said she’s become a supervisor and has had a chance to travel often to American Samoa to see the company’s plant there. She manages some of the recipes for the company’s products, and analyzes data now to make sure all of the products are meeting federal and company requirements.
She was in American Samoa five times this year, for two to three weeks at a time.
“There I actually get to see the whole process,” she said. “Understanding what goes into it and what things affect it, seeing it firsthand. You actually comprehend all the work that goes into just making this one little can of tuna.”