Drexel’s 2017 Philly Chef Conference Turns Lens to National Restaurant Industry Stage

Chef Michael Solomonov, Photo credit:Rachel Wisniewski

Hospitality and restaurant professionals will provide industry-specific demonstrations and discussions. Photo credit: Rachel Wisniewski.

The role of a chef is always expanding. National food issues and trends are transforming how America eats and drinks. On March 5 – 6, the 2017 Philly Chef Conference will bring together the big names and rising stars in the Philadelphia-area restaurant scene for a food-focused, academic- and career-minded series of discussions—from developing and retaining talent in the kitchen to restaurant analytics and the current state of food law—in hopes of preparing chefs to face these ever-evolving set of challenges. 

The conference, hosted by Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, is an annual forum designed to connect the food community, discuss key issues and showcase the latest food and beverage ideas and techniques through lectures, panel discussions and demonstrations. The first day of the conference is open to the public, while the second day is reserved for hospitality industry professionals.

Now in its fourth year, the conference has expanded its sessions to include experts from coast-to-coast who will join top industry professionals from the Philadelphia area to discuss important aspects of the restaurant industry. They will focus on retention and development of talent, business, community development, and food science and innovation.

A combination of chefs, scholars, journalists and food scientists will join the conference as panelists this year. Photo credit: Brian Kinney.

“This year’s lineup is top-notch—the best chefs, food scholars and established culinary and hospitality professionals will inspire the next generation of industry professionals to take on challenges and issues that are untraditional, experimental and bring about social impact,” said Michael Traud, JD, EdD, a professor in Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sport management and the organizer of the conference, who was formerly a chef at renowned restaurant Vetri and Zeppoli. “The two-day event brings the brightest of minds together to showcase the latest food and beverage ideas and techniques.”

A combination of chefs, scholars, journalists and food scientists will join the conference as panelists this year including Sydney Finkelstein, PhD, a professor of strategy and leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Finkelstein’s most recent book “Superbosses” profiles industry leaders such as American chef, California cuisine pioneer and restaurateur Alice Walters. Also lecturing is M. Pilar Opazo, PhD, a post-doctoral research scholar at the Columbia Business School, known for her research on the molecular cuisine movement in the gastronomy industry.

Students from Drexel’s culinary and hospitality management programs will also be in attendance. Photo credit: Rachel Wisniewski

Other experts include Emily Broad Leib, JD, assistant clinical professor of law, director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. Arielle Johnson, PhD, a flavor scientist at the MIT Media Lab and former head at Noma’s food think tank, MAD – a non-profit that works to expand the knowledge of food to make every meal a better meal, makes the case that good cooking and a healthy environment can and should go hand-in-hand.

The series of beverage sessions will be held in the Academic Bistro’s bar with Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food and travel journalist Josh Bernstein, Victoria James, chef sommelier (Piora)- who oversees a wine list featuring 300 labels from small producers in Italy, France and the United States and sommelier, winemaker and author Andre Mack, the former sommelier for the Thomas Keller Group and winemaker for Mouton Noir Wines. 

Other panelists include industry insiders from the West Coast, South, Mid-Atlantic and East Coast, like Bill Telepan (Wellness in Schools), Alon Shaya (Pizza Domenica, Shaya in New Orleans), Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasisnki (State Bird Provisions),  Justin Severino (chef owner of CURE and Morcilla in Pittsburgh); spice specialist Lior Lev Sercarz (La Boite Spices), and master chocolatier Chris Curtin (Eclat Chocolate).  

Day one of the conference is Sunday, March 5 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Sessions will be held in Lebow auditorium and are open to the public. Tickets are $25 per person. Day two of the conference, Monday, March 6 will be held at Drexel's Paul Peck Problem Solving Center (101 N. 33rd St.) from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is open to industry professionals only. Tickets are $125 per person. Tickets are available for purchase here. Students from Drexel’s culinary and hospitality management programs will also be in attendance.

panel talk

On Sunday, March 5, TED-talk-style presentations will include a discussion on managing and retaining talent with Finkelstein; creativity and innovation in the kitchen with Pilar Opazo; food law in 2017 with Broad Leib; restaurant analytics with Damian Mogavero, CEO and founder of Avero, the restaurant point-of-sale software that dissects analytics for smarter business decisions; and the science of wheat with Stephen Jones, PhD.  

The second day of the conference will be dedicated to the hospitality and restaurant professionals and will feature industry-specific demonstrations and discussions. Participants will witness a whole hog butchery demonstration with Severino, fish butchery from Samuels and Sons, restaurant science with Arielle Johnson, PhD, and connecting restaurants with retail with Phil Colicchio. 

Food and beverage will be provided by local business such as South Philly Barbacoa, Di Bruno Brothers, La Colombe, Rival Bros., Sip-N-Glo, Honeygrow, Federal Donuts, Caviar, Shake Shack, Philadelphia Distilling, and Origlio Beverage among others.

For the full conference schedule, visit here.

To learn more about registration or sponsorship opportunities for the 2017 Philly Chef Conference, please contact Paul O’Neill, pgo27@drexel.edu or 215.571.3619.