FIT Symposium

2024 FIT Symposium Logo

APRIL 18 & 19, 2024

About the Symposium

Hosted by JWU’s College of Food Innovation and Technology (CFIT), the annual FIT Symposium brings culinary professionals together from all corners of the industry to map out kinships, strengthen networks and break down imagined divisions.

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, social, structural, political, agricultural or environmental — require new ways of thinking.

The Symposium’s speakers and panelists are innovators who have created unique solutions to challenges in their field. This year, FIT is featuring two keynote speakers, both visionaries in their respective fields:

  • Jacques Pépin '10 Hon.
  • Farmer Lee Jones

In addition to Chef Pepin and Farmer Lee, the Symposium will feature panel discussions, presentations and breakout sessions designed to inspire discussion, collaboration, and interdisciplinary brainstorming for solving problems and exploiting opportunities.

Help spread the word on social by using the hashtag #JWUFITSymposium.


Jacques Pépin

Born in 1935 in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, near Lyon, Pépin began an apprenticeship at 13 and subsequently worked in Paris, ultimately serving as personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.

After moving to the United States in 1959, Pépin first worked at Le Pavillon, an historic French restaurant in New York City. From 1960 to 1970, he was director of research and new development for Howard Johnson’s. At the same time, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Columbia University.

He is the author of 32 books. Pépin released his seminal text, “La Technique,” in 1976 and his autobiography, “The Apprentice,” in 2003. More recently, “Quick & Simple,” published in 2020, offers classic and timeless recipes for polished and satisfying meals with minimal prep and cleanup. His newest work, the 2022 New York Times-bestselling “Art of the Chicken,” celebrates the humble bird through stories, recipes and art.

Pépin is a former columnist for the New York Times, and his articles have appeared in countless food magazines. He is the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from five American universities, including Johnson & Wales University, and was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, La Légion d’Honneur, as well as the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres and the Mérite Agricole. He has received 16 James Beard Foundation Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. Pépin has a long history with Oceania Cruises. He has been Executive Culinary Director of Oceania Cruises since 2003, almost since the cruise line’s inception, and is credited with helping it achieve its reputation for culinary excellence and style. In 2015, Pépin received the American Public Television’s Lifetime Achievement Award in November and the inaugural Julia Child Award. A longtime close friend of Julia Child, he starred with her in a PBS series called “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home,” which won both an Emmy Award and a James Beard Foundation Award in 2001.

For the past 35 years, Pépin has taught in the Culinary Arts program at Boston University, and he served as dean of special programs at the International Culinary Center in New York City for 30 years. In 2016, he realized his dedication to culinary education by forming the Jacques Pépin Foundation with his daughter, Claudine, and son-in-law, Rollie Wesen. The Foundation partners with community kitchens that offer life skills and culinary training to adults with high barriers to employment.

Pépin continues to cook, teach, paint, write, play pétanque, make videos, and live with joie de vivre. In 2020, he began shooting an IACP award-winning video series, “Jacques Pépin Cooking at Home,” with now more than 300 entries.

Since 1975, he has called Madison, Connecticut, his home, and still resides there with his beloved dog Gaston, surrounded by friends and family.

Farmer Lee Jones

Farmer Lee Jones always wears his trademark overalls and red bowtie to symbolize his commitment to regenerative agricultural practices.

Since creating the Chef’s Garden over 35 years ago, he has remained tirelessly committed to ensuring that the family’s 300-acre farm remains one of the most innovative and pioneering in the world. In addition, he has stayed focused on fostering a nuanced conversation with chefs in our industry who look to the farm to grow vegetables that are as aesthetically pleasing on the plate as they are flavorful to the palate.

Farmer Lee Jones works alongside brother Bob Jr. on the farm, and both are inspired daily by what they learned from their father, Bob, Sr., affectionately known as Mr. Bob. This, in turn, allows them to inspire The Chef’s Garden team to perpetually discover innovative ways to become more sustainable while at the same time producing the highest quality ingredients possible. He is committed to rediscovering, saving, and telling the stories of the unique heirloom products grown on the farm.

Jones has been profiled in conjunction with The Chef’s Garden in such pretigious publications as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Newsweek and the Washington Post.


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.