FIT Symposium

MARCH 6 & 7, 2023

Virtual and in person • Check the schedule for details of location and delivery options.

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.

FIT Symposium speakers and panelists are innovators who have created unique solutions to challenges in their field. The keynote address by noted author Paul Freedman, panel discussions, presentations and breakout sessions will inspire discussion, collaboration, and interdisciplinary brainstorming for solving problems and exploiting opportunities.

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


2023 FIT Symposium Typographic Logo and Wordmark

Program Sponsors

A special thanks to our valued sponsors, CHARCUTERIE ARTISANS, King Arthur Flour, Foodware Group, Southwestern Foodservice Excellence (SFE), and JWU’s Ecolab Center for Culinary Science.

2023 FIT Symposium Sponsor logos: CHARCUTERIE ARTISANS, King Arthur Baking Company, Southwest Foodservice Excellence

If you are unable to attend and 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.


Symposium Schedule

Schedule lineup and times are subject to change.

  • Locations:
    Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence (CCCE) Atrium
    Food Innovation Design Lab (FIDL) in the Culinary Arts Museum
    Harborside Academic Center (HAC) Amphitheater
    Cintas Dining Room, Harborside Academic Center

4:15-5:15pm: Welcome Address and Keynote

Location:HAC Amphitheater
In person and virtual

  • Cuisine as an Academic Subject

    In his autobiography “The Apprentice,” Chef Jacques Pépin describes the reaction of his graduate advisor at Columbia to the suggestion of a dissertation topic on cuisine in French literature: “That is not an intellectually serious topic.” While the history of famine, nutrition or living standards in the past (what the French call “alimentation”) was always regarded as important, taste preferences or cuisine were usually considered trifling — a bit like the shifts of fashion in clothing or porcelain. This session discusses the reasons for this attitude (stronger in Western culture than in Chinese or medieval Islamic societies) and how it has changed in recent decades.

    Jason R. Evans, Ph.D., dean, JWU College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT)
    Paul Freedman, Ph.D., professor of history, Yale University

5:15-7pm: Reception

Location: CCCE, 4th floor


7-8am: Breakfast

Location: Cintas Dining Room, HAC

Morning Sessions

Location: HAC Amphitheater
In person and virtual

8-8:10am: Welcome Remarks from Dean Evans

8:10-9:10am: Growing Something Greater

  • Presentation by Stephen Ritz, founder, Green Bronx Machine

    Since its founding, Green Bronx Machine has never sought handouts. Instead, Green Bronx Machine has forged unique partnerships with nonprofits, local businesses, institutions, and corporations, and set a new standard for how a nonprofit organization can offer value to their partners and supporters in addition to the communities and people they serve.

    Stephen Ritz discusses case studies that demonstrate the collective impact Green Bronx Machine and its partners have had on communities around the world. From one opportune moment to a worldwide movement, you, too, can make epic happen and grow something greater.

9:20–10:50am: “Sorry We’re Closed: How Chefs in the Restaurant Business Deal and Evolve in Crisis”

  • Enjoy a screening of the documentary “Sorry, We’re Closed.” Following the film, join Chef Elizabeth Falkner for a conversation of perseverance and resiliency around the ways restaurants leveraged their ability to adjust on the fly and survive the pandemic’s impact.

    Presenter: Elizabeth Falkner, chef, restaurateur, author and alum of Bravo’s “Top Chef”
    Moderator: Emmanuel Laroche, author and podcast host, “Flavors Unknown”

11am-noon: Unreasonable Hospitality: Giving People More than they Expect

  • Will Guidara was 26 when he took the helm of Eleven Madison Park, a struggling two-star brasserie that had never quite lived up to its majestic room. Eleven years later, EMP was named the best restaurant in the world.

    How did Guidara pull off this unprecedented transformation? Radical reinvention, a true partnership between the kitchen and the dining room—and memorable, over-the-top, bespoke hospitality. Guidara’s team surprised a family who had never seen snow with a magical sledding trip to Central Park after their dinner; they filled a private dining room with sand, complete with mai tais and beach chairs, to console a couple with a cancelled vacation. And his hospitality extended beyond those dining at the restaurant to his own team, who learned to deliver praise and criticism with intention; why the answer to some of the most pernicious business dilemmas is to give more — not less; and the magic that can happen when a busser starts thinking like an owner.

    Presenter: Will Guidara, American restaurateur

Noon–1:10pm: Lunch

Location: FIDL
Lunch, networking and book signing.
Prepared by: Andy Teixeira, executive chef, Newport Vineyards

Afternoon Sessions

Location: HAC Amphitheater
In person and virtual

1:20-2:20pm: Canapés to PB&Js: Redefining What It Means to Be a Professional Chef

  • What if the world’s best chefs worked in institutional kitchens? That’s what Dan Giusti, Founder and CEO of Brigaid, is on a mission to make happen. Former head chef of Noma, Dan and his team use their culinary expertise to help institutional food service programs thrive. Drawing on his experiences in fine dining and school kitchens, he shares what being a professional chef means to him. From mentoring food service staff to perfecting the art of a PB&J, the role of a professional chef is changing and creating seismic impact on the food industry.

    Presenter: Dan Giusti, founder/chef, Brigaid

2:30-3:30pm: Breakout Session I

Choose one session from this block; registration links are after each session description.

In person only (not streamed)

  • 1. Functional Nutrition for Production Kitchens

    Location: HAC Amphitheater

    As the nation craves healthier options in our foodservice operations, how do we provide the best, freshest and most sustainable ingredients while still maintaining costs? This demonstration and roundtable discussion explores the ways we can implement more nutrition into our food services without necessarily promoting health. Since healthy food doesn’t sell well, you’ll learn how to train staff with cooking techniques that make food both desirable and healthy.

    Presenter: Jennifer Welper '06, wellness executive chef, Mayo Clinic
  • 2. East Coast Rising

    Location: Cintas Dining Room

    The number of wineries on the East Coast has been rapidly expanding since 2000, surpassing California. Many changes and innovations have contributed to this expansion from Virginia to Maine and as far west as Michigan. Discover the factors contributing to the growth and sustainability of this vibrant region — in addition, you will have the opportunity to taste familiar varieties and rising stars alike.

    Presenter: Elisa Wybraniec, DWS, CS, CWS, wine educator and director, Coast Guard House

3:45-4:45pm: Breakout Session II

Choose one session from this block; registration links are after each session description.

Location: HAC Amphitheater 
In person only (not streamed)

  • 1. Cultivating a Compassionate Culinary Community

    Location: HAC Amphitheater

    People within the culinary industry often face many adversities that leave them feeling burnt out, unseen and burdened. Creating opportunities to provide emotional and tangible support for people within the culinary industry is incredibly meaningful and deeply impactful. Learn how providing helpful resources, having meaningful conversations, and building authentic community can bring empowerment, encouragement and hope to a challenging yet incredibly fulfilling career in the culinary industry.

    Presenter: Destiny Antommarchi '15, manager of product and quality, Copa Vida

  • 2. Boneless Nation: An Attempt to Answer the Chicken-or-the-Egg Question

    Location: CCCE 211

    Remember eating nuggets as a child or feeding nuggets to your own children? The popularity of these pop-able, tasty little morsels has influenced our relationship with food since their creation and generated multimillion-dollar industries. We’ll explore the evolution of the nugget, the “ick” factor of animals having bones, and the perpetual innovation around this indubitable mainstay.

    Presenter: Noy Phoumivong '96, director of product innovation, Simmons Foods; restaurateur

5-6pm: Closing Remarks and Reception

Location: CCCE Atrium
In person and virtual


FIT Symposium Keynote Speaker Paul Freedman

Paul Freedman is the Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale, where he has taught since 1997. Before that he was at Vanderbilt University. His teaching and research over many years has concentrated on the history of the Middle Ages (particularly in Catalonia). The history of food and cuisine is a relatively recent interest.

In 2007, Freedman edited “Food: The History of Taste,” which has been translated into 10 languages. He is the author of “Ten Restaurants that Changed America” (2016), “American Cuisine and How It Got This Way” (2019), and in 2021 published a short book for Yale University Press titled “Why Food Matters.”


Destiny Antommarchi '15 began her career in the culinary industry at JWU’s North Miami Campus, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. She quickly became an emerging talent by winning the 2015 San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. More recently, she has worked with chefs in Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany and Australia. She has also worked with nonprofits overseas, and has developed a love for cultivating community through the gift of hospitality.

Through her time abroad, she brings her knowledge of different cultures and foods to create menu items that are both original and nostalgic all at the same time. Her love for people has allowed her to focus her efforts on caring for people in the industry who are in need. For the last 3 years, she has worked at Copa Vida, where she serves as a manager of quality and product for the San Diego and Los Angeles region.

Celebrated chef Elizabeth Falkner was born in San Francisco, grew up in Los Angeles and worked her way up in San Francisco’s top kitchens before opening her first restaurant, Citizen Cake, in 1997. A decade later, she opened four more restaurants in San Francisco and New York. Today, she does recipe development and consults on a range of products and brands. She loves to teach about the importance of creativity in cooking, is an inspiring public speaker, and has cooked and spoken all over the United States and in Asia and Europe. Falkner’s style of cuisine is globally inspired and she cooks both savory and sweet, traditional and modern.

Growing up in a food-loving Italian family inspired Dan Giusti to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He quickly rose through the culinary ranks, serving as executive chef of 1789 in Washington, D.C. and head chef of Noma in Copenhagen. After three years in the latter role, he returned to the United States to tackle another culinary challenge: school food.

In 2016, he founded Brigaid, assembling a team of professional chefs who were eager to apply their culinary expertise to improve the offerings and quality of school food service programs. Today, Brigaid’s work has expanded to senior centers and a prison. It remains guided by Giusti’s belief that everyone deserves nourishing food, cooked with care and passion.

Will Guidara is the former co-owner of Make It Nice, a hospitality group that included Eleven Madison Park, the NoMad restaurants, Davies and Brook at the Claridges Hotel, and Made Nice.

Under his leadership, Eleven Madison Park received numerous accolades, including four stars from the New York Times, and three Michelin stars. In 2017, it was named #1 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The restaurant also received 7 James Beard Foundation awards, including Outstanding Service and Outstanding Restaurant in America.

He is the author of the soon to be released book “Unreasonable Hospitality,” which chronicles the lessons in service and leadership he has learned over the course of his career in restaurants.

He is also the co-founder of the Welcome Conference, an annual hospitality-driven event that brings together the best minds from the world of hospitality, and of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, an organization representing the 500,000 independent restaurants in America.

A graduate of the hospitality school at Cornell University, he has coauthored four cookbooks: “Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook,” “I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes,” “The NoMad Cookbook,” and “Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter.”

A Springdale, Arkansas native with Laotian roots, Noy Phoumivong '96 earned a Culinary Arts associate degree from Johnson & Wales University at Charleston and then a Food Science degree from University of Arkansas. With one foot in the restaurant kitchen and another in the corporate world, Phoumivong climbed the ranks of the world’s largest protein producers while building a successful business.

As a partner in Meiji Japanese Cuisine for over twelve years, she led the restaurant through menu refinement, sustainable local sourcing, and two successful expansions. As Corporate Chef at Tyson Foods, she collaborated with the world’s largest restaurant chains in developing new recipes.

Phoumivong currently serves as director of product innovation for Simmons Prepared Foods, where she guides clients like Popeye’s, Jollibee, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Panda Express to phenomenal product launches. She also leads innovation for frozen food brands found on the shelves of the world’s largest retailer. When she’s not at work, you can find her on roller skates, gardening, or cooking with her two sons.

Stephen Ritz is an award-winning educator, a 2015 Top Ten Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, and the author of the best-selling book, “The Power Of a Plant.”

As the founder of Green Bronx Machine, Ritz is responsible for creating the first edible classroom in the world. He and his students have grown more than 165,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, were celebrated at the Obama White House three times, and are the subject of a feature documentary, “Generation Growth.”

Ritz serves as a Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at Babson College and as a board member of the NYC Nutrition Education Network. Ritz has been honored as a 2020 Changemaker by the NYC Food Policy Center, a 2021 Food Hero by TMZ Live, and a 2021 Artemis CEA Disruptor for his advocacy work in public schools across NYC and nationwide. Most recently, Ritz has been named to NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ Food Transition Team.

He currently appears in the new PBS educational series, “Let’s Learn with Mister Ritz.” 

Wellness Executive Chef Jennifer Welper ’06 found her niche in the kitchen while growing up on her family’s dairy farm, but her career and passion for healthy, flavorful cuisine truly took shape after the sudden loss of her grandfather, who had struggled with diabetes, heart disease, and controlling his weight. Welper now combines culinary arts with nutrition education. Through delicious recipes and easy tips incorporating whole-food ingredients, vegetables, lean proteins and natural flavor, she aims to transform the way people think about cooking healthfully and teach them how to prepare simple, practical meals that are bold and flavorful.

Welper received her culinary arts degree at Johnson & Wales University’s Providence Campus. She has held positions at the Hyatt Hotel in Newport Rhode Island and at Hilton Head Health before joining the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

As Mayo Clinic’s Wellness Executive Chef, Welper creates recipes for practical, healthy meals and teaches patients and guests at the program how to meal plan and prep for a healthy lifestyle. In 2017, she was honored at JWU as a Distinguished Visiting Chef (DVC).

Elisa Wybraniec is a wine director, wine educator and vineyard owner based in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Elisa pivoted from a 20-year career in finance at Webster Bank following Hurricane Sandy, when she was brought in to lead the wine program and marketing at the Coast Guard House Restaurant.

Wybraniec is a five-time recipient of the Wine Spectator award for years 2018-2022 and received her WSET Diploma in 2016. She serves as adjunct faculty facilitating the WSET program in addition to participating in the University of Rhode Island’s OLLI program.

Currently, Wybraniec is a Stage 1 Student with The Institute of the Master of Wine and a WSET Certified Wine Educator. She recently completed the UC Davis Winemaking Certification Program. Her latest endeavors include developing Hollow Ridge Vineyards, a small boutique winery in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, known for its beautiful west-facing vistas.


To take advantage of the JWU discount for The Graduate hotel, use the following booking link:

Book Your Hotel by 2/15/23

Group Reservation Code: 230305JWUFT2

To reserve by phone: Call a hotel reservations agent directly at 401-421-0700 and choose Option 1 (seven days a week, 24 hours a day). Use your group code or event name when speaking with the reservations agent.


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 March 2022.

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 included:

  • 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

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.