I had no idea what to expect after being cast in the Freshpedition campaign, but I was excited to be representing the GE design team and sharing the technology behind our new French door refrigerators.
Filming started in my comfort zone: In the factory and labs where I spend most of my time. However, the journey proved to be anything but comfortable or typical for me!
Seeing the rig for the first time, I couldn’t help but laugh – the refrigerator was strapped into the bed of a Ford F-150, with the display lit by generator power. After working so hard to bring the new assembly line to the U.S., it was great to see that we’d be riding with another big, local manufacturer as Louisville, Ky. is also home to the Ford Escape, Expedition, and Super Duty®. This trip across the country would be far from the kitchen environments we designed for, but I was optimistic we’d meet the challenge to bring fresh food to scientist Ron Thompson researching mountain lions in the desert-like conditions of the Fort Davis Mountains.
Hopping into the cab, I met my celebrity chef companion, Ben Sargent of the Cooking Channel’s Hook, Line & Dinner. The introductions were a little awkward as we got used to the dashboard cameras, which would be documenting our week-long journey. Ben is an artist turned television fisherman and cooking show star from the East Coast. I’m a Midwest engineer who grew up on meat and potatoes without much appreciation for seafood.
Ben and I actually got along quite well despite our contrasting backgrounds and difference in opinion on shellfish. He enjoyed pushing my limits as we drove around collecting fresh ingredients to assemble into a meal for Ron at the end of the trip. I liked picking his brain for ideas to impress girls with cooking – my favorite being a banana flambé where food is intentionally set on fire.
Everyday brought new and unexpected adventures from reaching under hens for eggs, milking a goat, bating mud bug (crawfish) traps, pulling in an alligator and releasing a mountain lion. The stops and people we met along our journey were incredibly genuine with a clear passion for the food they bring to the table. Palate boundaries were also pushed as we ate raw oysters, crawfish boil, moldy goat cheese, alligator sausage and plenty of vegetables picked straight from the ground. Each stop brought new meaning to freshness, and my fingers were crossed the refrigerator would preserve everything as well as I predicted.
As we pulled up to his camp site, Ron couldn’t believe the collection of food in the onboard refrigerator. Working in such a remote location, Ron usually eats from a can or box. His eyes lit up as he looked into each bin and compartment inside. I was particularly relieved to hear the crunch as he tried lettuce still crisp after more than a week on the road.
As a second surprise, we brought Ron’s wife and children for their first ever trip to the field as a full family. It was hard to maintain composure when Ron first saw them and ran for a big hug. I got the opportunity to talk to Ron about his work while Ben and the family cooked our meal. We all sat down to a delicious four course dinner where I got to share the news the Thompson family would be receiving a brand new GE French door refrigerator as a sign of our appreciation for Ron’s hard work. The best way to end any trip is with good food and great conversation in a beautiful setting.
Driving to work Monday morning was a quiet and boring ride without Ben. Approaching my desk, my coworkers had built a red carpet complete with a crowd control rope made of refrigerator handles and air hose – it was good to be home. Until Hollywood comes calling for the Freshpedition sequel, I’ll be just fine in the lab.
To view pictures and video clips detailing the entire adventure, check out www.freshpedition.com.
Learn more about the Ford F-150 at www.ford.com.
Justin Berger is a design engineer at GE Appliances. Justin worked on the team that developed the ice and water dispensing system, and he managed new feature intellectual property for the French door refrigerator. He studied Mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University (BS) and The Georgia Institute of Technology (MS) and is a graduate of GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program. Justin is based in Louisville, Ky. at Appliance Park where GE designs and builds the refrigerators.