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First-Ever Chef Conference Hosted by Drexel


January 17, 2014

Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management hosted Philadelphia’s first-ever Philly Chef Conference on January 13-14.  The two day event was billed as an event “for chefs, by chefs”.  The conference focused on key issues facing the restaurant industry as well as new food trends, products and techniques. The keynote address was delivered by Mitchell Davis of the James Beard Foundation.

The conference was organized to benefit young cooks, sous chefs, and more developed chefs who are looking for new and useful ideas and techniques, through lectures, panel discussions and demonstrations.  Students enrolled in Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management and accepted students in culinary arts for the fall ’14 received complimentary registration and had the opportunity to assist chefs with demonstrations, attend sessions and network.


Conference topics were divided into three categories; industry, hot topics and food demonstrations.   While the panel discussions drew large crowds, the food demos generated some of the most excitement.  Food demo highlights included “Tools of the Modernist Kitchen with Shola Olunloyo, chef at Kitchen Studio and “Working with Arcobaleno Pasta Machines” with chefs Eli Kulp, of Fork; Joe Cicala, of Le Virtu; Aaron Gottesman, of The Fat Ham and Brad Daniels of Osteria. 

Additional discussion topics included liquor licenses, the farm-to-table movement, food television, women in the industry, and principles of restaurant design.

The two day conference was kicked off by Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, director of the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.  “I am blown away by the agenda – the city’s leading chefs and hospitality professionals working together to share their expertise with each other and with the future of our industry, our students,” said Deutsch. “This is the kind of experience our faculty never had in culinary school and is a good illustration of the Drexel difference.”  In addition, President John Fry and Provost Mark Greenberg also provided opening remarks as did Tamar Olitsky, president of the Olitsky Family Foundation, the presenting sponsor of the conference.

The idea for the event came from Drexel University alums Josh and Colleen Lawler, chef/owners of the Farm and the Fisherman, and organized by Professor Michael Traud, director of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism of Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.