Top Chefs and Rising Stars Discuss the Future of Dining in Philadelphia at Drexel’s 2015 Philly Chef Conference

The 2014 Philly Chef Conference featured a whole pig butchery demonstration by Dean Carlson of Wyebrook Farm and Andrew Wood of Russet.
The 2014 Philly Chef Conference featured a whole pig butchery demonstration by Dean Carlson of Wyebrook Farm and Andrew Wood of Russet.

World-renowned chefs, restaurateurs, purveyors and food writers from across the city will come together to discuss key issues facing the restaurant industry as well as new food trends, products and techniques at the 2015 Philly Chef Conference. Hosted by Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, the conference will take place on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 11 – 12.

The conference is an annual forum where cooks, chefs and other industry professionals unite to discuss challenges and to spur the creative process through expert-led discussions about food and technique. New this year, the first day of the conference is open to the public, while the second day is reserved for hospitality industry professionals.

“I think we have reached a crucial point in Philadelphia's culinary history, with the food scene growing and changing at an unprecedented rate. This symposium gives us the chance to discuss and celebrate our accomplishments,” said Kevin Sbraga (Sbraga Dining), chef chair of the conference.

Kevin Sbraga is chef chair of the 2015 Philly Chef Conference.

The first day of the conference, Sunday, Jan. 11, which is open to the general public, will feature panel discussions on Pennsylvania’s wine and spirit laws, the future of dining in Philadelphia and a keynote address from Chef Peter Reinhart, an internationally renowned expert on bread and baking.

At 5:30 p.m., a five-course dinner for conference sponsors, created by rising chefs who represent the next wave of culinary all-stars on the Philadelphia dining scene, will be held in the Academic Bistro. The chefs will each be paired with a Drexel student who will help prepare the course.

The second day of the conference will be dedicated to hospitality and restaurant professionals and will feature industry-specific discussions and demonstrations. Participants will learn about such topics as writing a cook book, opening a second restaurant, rebounding from a bad restaurant review, developing a menu and more.

Jon Adams of Rival Bros presented a coffee tasting and discussion at the 2014 Philly Chef Conference.

Panelists include Sbraga, Jeff Benjamin (Vetri), Joe Cicala (Brigantessa), Marcie Turney (Barbuzzo), Rob Keddie (Garces Group), Peter Serpico (Serpico), Spike Mendelson (Good Stuff Eatery), Townsend Wentz (Townsend), Craig LaBan (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Michael Klein (, among many others.

Demonstrations will include meat butchery, fish butchery, pizza making, baking, molecular/modernist cooking, knife sharpening and creating a cheese program.

“The Philly Chef Conference provides the restaurant community with the opportunity for established chefs to mentor those who are up-and-coming, and to inspire the next generation of great chefs who will guide the future of the industry,” said professor and director of Drexel’s Hospitality Management Program Chef Michael Traud, formerly of Vetri and Zeppoli, who organized the conference. “The event was incredibly successful last year and there was so much interest from the general public that we decided to extend the invitation beyond industry professionals to others who are passionate about Philadelphia as a dining destination.”

The 2014 Philly Chef Conference featured a panel discussion on “Women in the Industry.”

At the inaugural conference last year, more than 200 people were in attendance. Panelists included such celebrity chefs as Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Percy Street Barbecue, Federal Donuts), executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation and cookbook author Mitchell Davis, as well as Drexel’s distinguished hospitality and culinary arts alumni including Josh Lawler (Farm & the Fisherman), Brian Lofink (Kraftwork), and Nick Macri (Southwark).

Topics addressed included creating a business plan, marketing an establishment, owning and operating a successful BYOB, obtaining a liquor license, working with local farmers, building a wine list, competing on reality TV, running a food truck, writing a restaurant review and understanding issues facing women in the industry.

For additional videos from the 2014 conference, visit

Day one of the conference, Sunday, Jan.11 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. is open to the public. Tickets are $20 per person. Day two of the conference, Monday, Jan. 12, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. is open to industry professionals only. Tickets are $95 per person. Tickets are available for purchase here. All students in Drexel’s culinary and hospitality management programs will be in attendance.

The schedule is as follows:

Sunday, Jan. 11

Fine Wine and Good Spirits – Doing Business with the PA Liquor Control Board
2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Bossone Research Center, Mitchell Auditorium (3201 Market Street)
A panel of industry experts will discuss how Pennsylvania’s liquor laws affect the cost and selection for consumers in restaurants. Panelists include Jason Malumed (Chalkboard Wine & Spirits), Melissa Bova (Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association), Steve Wildy (Vetri Family) and Pennsylvania State Senator Chuck McIlhinney, who currently serves as chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which is responsible for reviewing legislation, regulations and policies pertaining to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Philly 2020 – The Future of Dining in Philadelphia
3 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Bossone Research Center, Mitchell Auditorium (3201 Market Street)
A panel of chefs, restaurateurs, and industry experts discuss what the Philadelphia dining scene will look like in the year 2020. Moderated by business and civic leader Sam Katz, panelists include Jeff Benjamin (Vetri Family), Kevin Sbraga (Sbraga Dining), Jon Carl Lachman (Noord), Marcie Turney (Barbuzzo) and Rob Keddie (Garces Group).

Keynote Address by Peter Reinhart
4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Bossone Research Center, Mitchell Auditorium (3201 Market Street)
Chef Peter Reinhart, James Beard award winning author and internationally renowned expert on bread and baking will deliver the keynote address.

The Philly 2020 Dinner (for sponsors only)
5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Paul Peck Research Building, Academic Bistro (101 N. 33rd St.)
Chefs Peter Serpico (Serpico), Townsend Wentz (Townsend), Brad Daniels (Osteria), Natalie Maronski (Volver) and Jessica Nolan (Brauhaus Schmitz) will collaborate on a five course dinner with complimentary wine pairings. Hors d’oeuvres will be sponsored by DiBruno Bros and Flying Fish, and  offered by chefs Joey Baldino (Zeppoli), Joe Cicala (Brigantessa), Chris Kearse (Will BYOB), Greg Garbacz (Juniper Commons), Yehuda Sichel (Abe Fisher), Nick Macri (Border Springs Lamb Farm), Eli Collins (Pub & Kitchen) and Rob Marinsky (Fitler Dining Room).

Monday, Jan. 12
Paul Peck Research Building, Academic Bistro (101 N. 33rd St, 6th Floor)

Registration & Breakfast
8:15 a.m. – 8:50 a.m.
Breakfast provided by South Street Bagels, Federal Donuts and Rival Bros Coffee 

Welcome and Opening Remarks
9 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.
Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management will offer opening remarks on the conference.

9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (choose one):

  • Meat Butchery Demonstration and tartare tasting with Andrew Wood (Russet), Bryan Mayer (Kensington Quarters) and Dean Carlson of Wyebrook Farm
  • Rebounding from a Review: Craig LaBan (Philadelphia Inquirer), Michelle Cassidy (Yelp) and David Neff of Neff Associates
  • Opening a Second Restaurant and Running a Bar: Harris Eckstut (Eckstut Consulting), Rob Keddie (Garces Group), Mitch Prensky (Supper and Scratch Biscuits) and Mary Sigel (Sigel & Associates)

10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. (choose one):

  • Fish Butchery Demonstration and crudo tasting with Joe Buonadonna (Samuels & Sons)
  • Writing Your Cookbook: Clare Pelino (Profile Public Relations), Drew Lazor (Philadelphia Daily News), David Joachim (freelance food writer), Peter Reinhart, Jeremy Nolan (Brauhaus Schmitz)
  • Death of Fine Dining: Jeff Benjamin (Vetri Family), Lauren Harris (Townsend) and Scott Steenrod (Garces Group)

Noon – 1 p.m. (choose one):

  • Molecular/Modernist cuisine demonstration with Shola Olonyo (Studio Kitchen)
  • Hospitality and Front of House Operations: Ben Fileccia (Sbraga Dining), Ryan Mulholland (Vernick Food & Drink), Kristina Burke (Drexel), Scott Steenrod (Garces Group)
  • Four Components of Restaurants (Back of house, front of house, beverage and design): Ed Eimer (Eimer Design), David Fields ( and, Melissa Scully (Garces Group) and Steve Wildy (Vetri Family)

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Provided by Drexel students, Green Meadow Farms, South Philly Barbacoa, Stock, milkshakes courtesy of Good Stuff Eatery

2 p.m. – 3 p.m. (choose one):

  • Pizza making demonstration with Peter Reinhart, Joe Cicala (Brigantessa), Brad Spence (Amis), Joe Beddia (Pizzeria Beddia), Vince Taconelli (Taconelli's Pizzeria)
  • Philly Food Scene: Michael Klein (, Spike Mendelson (Good Stuff Eatery) and Matt Rodbard (Food Republic)
  • Knife sharpening demo with Korin Knives
    • Fermentation and Distillation: Keith Raimondi (Townsend)

3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. (choose one):

  • Creating a Cheese Program: Sande Friedman (Tria), Sue Miller (Birchrun Hills Farm) and Aimee Olexy (Talula's Garden)
  • Menu Development: Greg Vernick (Vernick Food & Drink), Kevin Sbraga (Sbraga Dining), Greg Ciprioni (Garces Group)
  • Building the Bar: Keith Raimondi (Townsend) and Vincent Stipo (Vernick)

Happy Hour / Product Tasting
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Paul Peck Research Building, Academic Bistro Lounge
101 N. 33rd St, 6th Floor

After Party
5:30 p.m.

Juniper Commons (521 South Broad Street)
Note: Shuttle bus will provided to Juniper Commons

The most up-to-date schedule is available at

The event is sponsored by the Olitsky Family Foundation, DiBruno Bros., Flying Fish and To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for the 2015 Philly Chef Conference, please contact Paul O’Neill, director of special projects, at or 215.895.3619.