FIT Symposium


MARCH 8, 2022

Johnson & Wales University’s College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT) held the second FIT Symposium, a virtual gathering of the food industry’s top thought leaders, in early March.

Watch a playlist of individual panels below. (You can scroll through the panels by clicking the button marked “1/11” in the upper right corner of the screen.)

Panels include:

  • Culinary Nutrition Defined
  • Food Safety Evolution
  • Future Focused: Leveraging Trends to Shape the Industry
  • Leading Women: The Entrepreneurship Journey
  • Reaching our New England Food Vision
  • Peak Performance: Fueling the Modern Athlete
  • Innovation from Curiosity
  • Focused on Food Justice
  • Keynote: Evolution of a Chef
  • Growing a Grainshed
  • Closing the Gap: Cannabis & Your Overall Health

2022 FIT Symposium Logo and Wordmark

A special thanks to our valued sponsor, Puratos.Puratos Logo and Wordmark

This Symposium is complimentary; if you are in a position to support the talented students studying in the College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT), please consider making a gift today. Your donation will provide scholarships and financial aid directly to CFIT students, allowing them to pursue their passions at Johnson & Wales.


About the Symposium

This year’s gathering will focus on innovations in the following thematic areas:

• food service
• food/beverage product development
• food security and access
• food system sustainability

The past few years have brought unprecedented changes and difficulties to the food industry’s doorstep. New challenges — be they economic, structural, political, or environmental — require new ways of thinking.

In each of these topic areas, our focus is on inviting innovators who have created unique solutions to challenges in their field. The keynote address by noted cookbook author and chef Michael Ruhlman, panel discussions, presentations and breakout sessions will be geared toward inspiring discussion, collaboration, and interdisciplinary brainstorming to solve problems and exploit opportunities.

Help spread the word about the Symposium on social using the hashtag #JWUFITSymposium.

Symposium Schedule

For archival purposes:


8:30am: Welcome Address

  • Jason R. Evans, Ph.D., dean, College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT), Johnson & Wales University

8:45-9:30am: Keynote Address: “The Evolution of a Chef”

  • Michael Ruhlman, author and chef

10-11am: Panel Discussion: Focused on Food Justice

  • Nonprofit and food policy leaders Michel Nischan and Rollie Wesen, Ed.D., CEC, present on the pressing issues of food insecurity, food inequality, food as medicine, connecting the food insecurity to food producers, and teaching food service professionals to become advocates. Many chefs are no longer satisfied with only making great food for restaurant guests. Chefs have a particular influence within the food system stemming from their buying power, visibility and connection to their constituencies. Understanding the touch points within the broad topic of food justice is inspirational and allows chefs to create change in the food system and improve the lives of their neighbors and the health of their communities.

    Michel Nischan, chef, author and food equity advocate
    Rollie Wesen '14 M.Ed., '19 Ed.D., CEC, assistant professor, CFIT, Johnson & Wales University; executive director, Jacques Pépin Foundation

11:30am-12:30pm: Breakout Sessions

Register for one session from this block:

  • A. Closing the Gap: Cannabis & Your Overall Health

    What role can cannabis play in improving one’s overall health, both mental and physical? In an industry known for high levels of anxiety, as well as physical and emotional burnout, can cannabinoids be used responsibly to help sustain a career in food service? Or any other related service? Panelists of this session review the health effects that cannabis products can bring to different populations struggling with chronic pain and mental health issues. Using academic research, policies are reviewed to identify solutions to many of the logistical challenges facing those looking to use cannabis and looking to shed the negative imagery of the plant.

    Moderator: Rick Granoff, CEO/co-managing partner, Smokin’ Dispensaries

    Ben Morgan-Dillon, president, Acadia Farm
    David Yusefzadeh '04, CEO/founder, Plant Jam
    Nicole Donahue, CFO, Hellfish Haven and administrative manager, Canna MGT LLC and Mass. Cannabis Co.
    Carolyn Alexander, founder, Loud Girl Goodies
    Dave Heal, master cultivator and licensed caregiver
  • B. Innovation from Curiosity

    As more people look to adopt plant-based diets, we’re seeing more innovation within plant-based options and dairy or meat alternatives. Innovation doesn’t only derive from creating something completely foreign — it can happen by taking traditional ingredients and making them more accessible, tasty and nutritious, or by taking a staple category and daring to make it different. This panel brings together three founders with vastly different backgrounds — a chef, an engineer, and an international student with zero culinary background — who created three different brands of plant-based products using traditional ingredients in an innovative way. They will share their journeys, the challenges of innovation, and their vision for the future of plant-based food.

    Saron Mechale, founder, goTeff

    Jamie Freda, chef and founder, Project Pasta
    Chel’se Prejean, founder, Smoky Mmmm-Eats

  • C. Food Safety Evolution: Past & Present

    This session covers a multidisciplinary approach on major food industry regulatory compliance changes that have emerged since the landmark 1993 E. coli outbreak, providing a look back at over 25 years of change to better conceptualize the future of effective and sustainable food safety compliance efforts and technologies. The goal of the session is to provide tools to improve education and communication in the food safety landscape of all areas of food.

    Darin Detwiler, LP.D., M.A.Ed., author; associate teaching professor, College of Professional Studies, Northeastern University

1:15-2:30pm: Breakout Sessions

Register for one session from this block:

  • A. Culinary Nutrition Defined: Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Industry

    Culinary nutrition is a proliferating area of study and career opportunity whereby professionals use their combined understanding of nutrition theory, food preparation and production fundamentals to offer practical solutions for those in need (or who desire) to eat mindfully, progressively or therapeutically. The field is expanding rapidly as a growing number of school systems, health care operations and community organizations awaken to the role that food plays in the overall health and wellbeing of their stakeholders. This panel of industry professionals, providers and entrepreneurs will discuss the perceptions of the field in an attempt to define culinary nutrition.

    Robert Brown '94, D.HSc., CHE, CDM, associate professor, CFIT, Johnson & Wales University


    Michael Hartley, RN, MS, CNS, psychiatric nurse specialist
    Michael Wolf, president, WOLFoods Inc.
    Kristen P. Hamilton, MSEd, RD, CSSD, CHES, CPT, director of Performance Nutrition Services, SiSu Systems
  • B. Leading Women: The Entrepreneurship Journey

    In recent years, elements of our food service industry have shifted to become more inclusive and equitable; however, women still face numerous barriers throughout their career life cycle. In this panel discussion, prominent entrepreneurs from within the food system share the stories of their careers in an interactive conversation with each other and the audience. This session explores solutions to help current and future professionals better achieve their goals and ascend to leadership positions.

    Elaine Chon-Baker, founder and managing director, Mokja Ventures
    Lisa Raiola, MPH, founder and president, Hope & Main
    Fernanda Tapia, private chef
  • C. Growing a Grainshed

    Members of the Northeast Grainshed Alliance (NGA) will discuss their work reviving Northeastern grain production and use. A farmer, miller, maltster, brewer and baker will each speak about their individual roles, regional seed varieties, developing infrastructure and how to educate and inspire customers about the special flour and malt they grow, process and use.

    Attend this panel and learn how NGA is innovating around centuries-old ingredients, practices and traditions. And you’ll find out the square footage of farmland involved in making the foods you enjoy.

    Amy Halloran, author, The New Bread Basket

    Francis Domoy, partner, Domoy Farms
    Larry Mahmarian, River Valley Community Grains
    Andrea Stanley, owner/malster, Valley Malt
    Barry Lebendz, founder, Kent Falls Brewing
    Dan Leader, baker, author and founder/owner, Bread Alone
  • D. Reaching Our New England Food Vision

    Chefs play a powerful role influencing what consumers eat. More regional, biodiverse plant-based diets are necessary to sustain current and future generations and ensure long-term food security as well as innovative production (indoor farms, regenerative agriculture) to reach the New England Food Vision goal of producing food that is 50% regional by 2060. The 2021 Rockefeller Foundation Report states that food is a solution to environmental and public health issues; celebrate some of these exciting solutions and the role of food service institutions and chefs. Food system transformation is upon us!

    Julianne Stelmaszyk, director of food strategy, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation

    Jessica Patrolia '08, '10 MBA, Nutrition program specialist, Rhode Island Department of Education
    Chelsea Gazillo, New England policy manager, American Farmland Trust
    Brianna Pinder '24, JWU CFIT Sustainable Food Systems major
    Brian Hillmer, executive chef, Jamaica Plain’s Community Servings 

3-4pm: Breakout Sessions

Register for one session from this block:

  • A. Future Focused: Leveraging Trends to Help Shape Future Decisions

    Effective goal-setting for your business requires interpreting industry trends to best align with your brand. In this unique workshop, decipher your personal drive and explore untapped opportunities to help build your brand by leaving ego out of your product line and leveraging current industry trends to build your business.

    Paul Edward, founder/owner, Chef Rubber
    Crystal Mier, founder/owner, Chef Rubber
  • B. Peak Performance: Fueling the Modern Athlete

    We’ve all heard the saying, “Food is fuel.” But what does that really mean when it comes to properly cooking for a professional athlete? Do you know the difference between a strength athlete vs. a power or an endurance athlete? How do you maximize performance on and off the field?

    In this dialogue, three-time Pro-Bowler and New England Patriot Justin Bethel will join chefs Jonathan Poyourow, Keith Garman and Mike Schauer to cover the science basics of how (and when) athletes should be eating. During a lively discussion, they’ll take you into the kitchen and provide tips to prepare the favorite dishes of elite athletes from the NFL, NHL and MLB. Athletic diets need not only be nutritious and delicious; they should also support the future of cooking to promote a healthy and functional athlete.

    Jonathan Poyourow '03, RD, LD, CSCS, associate professor, CFIT, Johnson & Wales University

    Justin Bethel, American football cornerback and special teamer, New England Patriots
    Keith Garman '09, '21, team chef, Boston Bruins
    Mike Schauer '16, performance chef, assistant chef for the Boston Bruins; former sous chef for the Boston Red Sox and cook for the New England Patriots

Headshot of Michael Ruhlman, 2022 FIT Symposium Keynote SpeakerMichael Ruhlman attended the Culinary Institute of America as a journalist in whites to write a book about what you need to know to be a chef (“The Making of a Chef,” 1997). He left the school with the ability to cook, and it redirected his life. He’s best known for his writing about food and cooking, both at home (“Ratio,” “Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto”) and in professional kitchens (the trilogy that also includes “Soul of a Chef” and “The Reach of a Chef”).

Ruhlman has written more than 20 books of nonfiction, fiction, memoir and cookbooks, and has collaborated with chefs such as Thomas Keller and Éric Ripert. He is a contributor to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. In his book “Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America,” he examines the American grocery store industry, where our food comes from, and the social and cultural impact of a business that few of us are reflective of, if we even think of it at all. He wrote “Pâté, Confit, Rillette: Recipes from the Craft of Charcuterie” with his colleague Brian Polcyn, published in 2019. It was followed by “From Scratch,” his exploration of 10 favorite meals, including roast chicken, the perfect omelet, and paella — and then, through 175 recipes, follows many alternate pathways that the kitchen invites. Johnson & Wales University culinary students and chefs assisted the author. His overarching mission in the food world is to encourage more people to cook.

“When we cook for ourselves and our families and friends, when we share in that work and pleasure,” he says, “our bodies are healthier, our families are healthier, our community is healthier, and our environment is healthier. Cooking is fundamental to our humanity.”

Ruhlman is married to writer Ann Hood and divides his time between New York City and Providence, Rhode Island.


The 2021 FIT Symposium examined the curve balls, unexpected challenges and potential for massive change that 2020 threw the industry’s way. Veteran restaurateurs Emeril Lagasse ’78, ’90 Hon. and Aarón Sánchez served as keynote speakers, sharing their own lessons learned, while Champe Speidel ’00, ’16 Hon. of Persimmon (Providence, RI), Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality Group (Chicago, Ill.), and Lindsay Tusk of Quince (San Francisco, Calif.) traded war stories and wisdom from an unprecedented year of upheaval and adaptation.

Watch their thought-provoking discussions below, and catch up on the takeaways in this post-Symposium wrap-up.