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2017 Speakers


 
Lettuce Entertain You

Lettuce Entertain You

Richard Melman

Richard is Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based corporation that owns over 100 restaurants nationwide. The restaurant business has been his life work, beginning with his early days in a family-owned restaurant and later as a teenager working in fast food eateries. After realizing that he wasn't cut out to be a college student, he met Jerry A. Orzoff, a man who immediately and unconditionally believed in Richard’s ability to create and run restaurants. In 1971 the two opened R.J. Grunts, a hip burger joint that soon became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago. They continued to develop restaurant concepts together until Jerry’s death in 1981. Through his relationship with Jerry, Richard formulated a philosophy based on the importance of partners, of sharing responsibilities and profits with them, and of developing and growing together. Today, Richard has almost 70 working partners, most of whom have come up through the organization.

Momofuku

Momofuku

David Chang

David has been credited with popularizing modern Asian cuisine, though he didn’t begin his culinary career until his twenties. He attended Trinity College, majoring in religious studies, before pursuing a brief career in finance. He decided to become a chef and got his culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute. From there, he worked at Mercer Kitchen, Craft, the Park Hyatt Tokyo, and a number of kaseki, izakaya, and ramen restaurants in Japan. He came back to the United States to work at Café Boulud before opening Momofuku Noodle Bar in the summer of 2004. By the age of 33, he had successfully opened four restaurants and two bakeries. Today, Momofuku has grown to include restaurants in New York City, Sydney, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, and Toronto.

Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm

Mary Celeste Beall

Mary Celeste is the proprietor of the acclaimed resort hotel Blackberry Farm in the Tennessee Foothills. For more than a decade, she has lived and worked on the family-owned property. She and her late husband, Sam, are credited with transforming the space into a renowned food, wine, and wellness destination. Prior to moving to the farm, Mary Celeste earned degrees in business and accounting and worked as an associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers in San Francisco. She resides on the property with her five children in the family home she and Sam built within Blackberry’s working farm.

Antoine's

Antoine's

Charles Carter

Charles has been a waiter at Antoine’s, the acclaimed New Orleans restaurant, for nineteen year. He began there as an apprentice waiter and was the second youngest person ever to be made waiter there at the age of 18. His great uncle, Chester Laviolette, was a waiter there for 52 years, and his father, Val, for 29 years.

 
Drive Change

Drive Change

Jordyn Lexton

Shortly after graduating from Wesleyan University, Jordyn Lexton took a job with East River Academy, teaching literature to incarcerated youths on Rikers Island. Three years in, Jordyn grew determined to make a difference in her students' lives. She raised nearly $500,000 to buy a food truck (called Snowday) and launch Drive Change, a nonprofit that trains formerly incarcerated young people and helps them find jobs in the food-service industry. They all start out working on the truck, which serves sweet and savory dishes, all featuring New York maple syrup. Snowday has won Rookie of the Year at the Vendy Awards street-food competition, and Gothamist and Time Out named it one of the top ten food trucks in the city. Jordyn spends her days working on the truck talking to customers about social-justice issues while also planning her next big initiative: securing a commissary where food trucks can park overnight, get cleaned, and load up in order to provide back-end services to the food trucks parking there and to supply them with employees as well. 

Restaurateur

Restaurateur

Frank Guidara

When Frank began college at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, he had the intention of becoming a doctor. But when he went to visit his father--a retired plasterer who had opened a Cuban-Italian restaurant in Miami--over a school break, he realized he loved the restaurant business and switched his major from pre-med to restaurant and hotel management. He took his first job with Sky Chefs and worked his way through executive posts at Restaurant Associates, the Wolfgang Puck Food Co., Au Bon Pain, and Uno’s. Frank serves as an advisor on the UMassHospitality and Tourism Management Board, is a trustee for the Boston Children's Museum, a director for the National Restaurant Association, a director for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, and a member of the Nutrition Roundtable for the Harvard School of Public Health.

Waffle House

Waffle House

Mel, Mojo, & Sharifah

Melissa “Mel” Gibson, Jophilla “Mojo” Frazier, and Sharifah Johnson work at the Waffle House on the Savannah Highway in Charleston, South Carolina. Mel has been there for 6 years, Mojo for nearly 10, and Sharifah for 26! They work the same shift together and deliver the most genuine and loving hospitality together with some of the best waffles the south has to offer.

Husk

Husk

Sean Brock

Born and raised in rural Virginia, Sean began his professional career at the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina, after graduating from Johnson & Wales University. He then moved to Richmond, Virginia, to serve as executive sous chef of Lemaire Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel before becoming the executive chef at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Sean returned to Charleston to be the executive chef at McCrady's. There, he developed a 2.5-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island to create a true field-to-table experience and fill the needs of the kitchen and the demands of an increasingly sophisticated food community. He went on to open Husk just down the street from McCrady’s, emphasizing local ingredients and the people who grow them. Most recently, inspired by the flavors of Mexico, Sean opened Minero.

 
Union Square Cafe

Union Square Cafe

Sam Lipp

A native city of Madison, Wisconsin, Sam attended Cornell University and graduated with a degree from the School of Hotel Administration. Prior to joining the team at Union Square Cafe, Sam worked in various roles throughout Union Square Hospitality Group, including Service Manager (Cafe 2 and Terrace 5, MoMA), Beverage Director (Cafe 2 and Terrace 5, MoMA), Bar Manager (Eleven Madison Park), Dining Room Manager (Eleven Madison Park), and Assistant General Manager (Eleven Madison Park, Maialino). In 2011, Sam became the General Manager of Union Square Cafe and in 2012 became a Managing Partner of the restaurant. At Union Square Cafe, Sam has continued the traditions of excellent service and warm hospitality that have made the restaurant one of New York’s (and the country’s) most beloved New American restaurants for the past 27 years, while thoughtfully continuing the restaurant’s evolution through such initiatives as revitalizing the beverage program and spearheading the subtle rebranding of the restaurant. 

SoulCycle

SoulCycle

Melanie Whelan

A Baltimore native, Melanie went to Brown University where she studied engineering and economics before shifting her focus to business. After graduation, she worked on the corporate development team of Starwood Hotels before joining Richard Branson in founding Virgin America. Melanie left Virgin for Equinox, where she was given the opportunity to find new markets for the company, one of which was SoulCycle, whose team she joined in 2012 with a dedication to building and leading the company. She became the CEO in 2015, scaling the fitness company to over 70 locations around the country.

Curious scientist, lucky husband, blessed dad

Curious scientist, lucky husband, blessed dad

Dr. John Medina

A developmental molecular biologist, John has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School--a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. His latest book is geared towards parents and early-childhood educators: Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. John is an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Former FBI Hostage Negoiator

Former FBI Hostage Negoiator

Gary Noesner

Gary retired from the FBI in 2003 following a 30-year career as an investigator, instructor, and negotiator.  A significant focus of his career was directed toward investigating Middle East hijackings in which American citizens were victimized. In addition, he was an FBI hostage negotiator for 23 years of his career, retiring as the Chief of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, Critical Incident Response Group, the first person to hold that position. In that capacity he was heavily involved in numerous crisis incidents covering prison riots, right-wing militia standoffs, religious zealot sieges, terrorist embassy takeovers, airplane hijackings, and over 120 overseas kidnapping cases involving American citizens. Following his retirement from the FBI he became a Senior Vice President with Control Risks, an international risk consultancy, assisting clients in managing overseas kidnap incidents.

 

2016 Speakers


Art of Attention

Art of Attention

Elena Brower

The co-author of Art of Attention, Elena has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1999.  After graduating from Cornell in 1992, she worked as a textile and apparel designer for 6 years. She began studying yoga in 1997 and thinks about yoga and meditation as a way to approach the world with realistic reverence and gratitude. She has taught large-scale classes at places such as the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park’s Great Lawn, and the Eiffel Tower. Elena teaches classes in New York City and is the founder of Teach.Yoga, a global hub of content and inspiration created by teachers, for teachers.

 
Food & Wine

Food & Wine

Nilou Motamed

The editor of Food & Wine, Nilou is a globally recognized food, travel, and lifestyle authority. Before joining Food & Wine, Nilou served as Conrad Hotels’ first-ever Director of Inspiration. She is the former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast’s Epicurious and the former features director and senior correspondent for Travel + Leisure. Born in Iran and raised in Paris and New York, Nilou lives in Brooklyn and is fluent is four languages. 

Canlis

Canlis

Chris & Alice Canlis

For 30 years, Chris and Alice Canlis ran what is widely recognized as Washington State’s best restaurant: Canlis. A family-owned and operated restaurant, it was opened in 1950 by Peter Canlis (Chris’s father) and today is in the capable hands of two of the Canlis’s sons. A former Navy pilot and Stanford University graduate, Chris went into the family business along with Alice, his wife. While he brought tradition and order to the restaurant, Alice always kept an eye towards the future, and together, they managed to find a balance between honoring the past while also finding room for reinvention.

 
Myriad Restaurant Group

Myriad Restaurant Group

Drew Nieporent

Drew is the founder and inspiration behind the Myriad Restaurant Group, which operates Tribeca Grill, Nobu New York City, Nobu Fifty Seven, Nobu London, Nobu Next Door, Bâtard, and Crush Wine & Spirits. He opened his first restaurant, Montrachet, in 1985, which later reopened in 2008 as Corton, In 2014, the award-winning Batard opened in the former Corton space. A born and bred New Yorker, Drew is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School and Cornell’s School of Hotel Management. 

sweetgreen

sweetgreen

Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru &, Jonathan Neman

Nicolas, Nathaniel, and Jonathan are co-founders and co-CEOs of sweetgreen. They were classmates at Georgetown where they opened their first location in 2007. In 2010 they started the sweetlife Festival, which has grown to become the East Coast’s largest music and food festival. With over 40 locations nationwide, they have been recognized as key innovators and influencers in food and have been named Inc. and Forbes 30 under 30 and Food & Wine’s 40 Big Thinkers Under 40. 

 

 
Marcus Samuelsson Group

Marcus Samuelsson Group

Marcus Samuelsson

Born in Ethiopia, Marcus grew up in Sweden and developed an interest in cooking through his grandmother, Helga. After studying at the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, he apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York in 1991 to apprentice at Aquavit. At just 24 years old, he became the executive chef there. In 2003, he received the James Beard Award for Best Chef: New York City. Marcus has been instrumental in the revitalization of New York’s Harlem neighborhood with his restaurants Red Rooster, Ginny’s Supper Club, and Streetbird Rotisserie. He is the author of six books including Yes, Chef, a memoir. 

One Off Hospitality

One Off Hospitality

Donnie Madia

A restaurateur and owner of Chicago’s Blackbird, avec, The Publican, The Violet Hour, Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, and Nico Osteria, Donnie won the James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurateur in 2015. Donnie’s focus on collaboration and his instinct for style, atmosphere, and hospitality have punctuated his career and his influence on Chicago’s restaurants. He named his One Off Hospitality Group with the implication that each project he and his group take on may be the last, and as such, each project is handled with the utmost attention to detail. 

 

 
CookNSolo

CookNSolo

Michael Solomonov

Born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh, Mike returned to his birthplace at the age of 19 with no Hebrew language skills. Taking a job at a bakery, his culinary career was born. He returned to Philadelphia and worked at some of the city’s best restaurants before opening Zahav in 2008 followed by Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Percy Street Barbecue, and Federal Donuts. The winner of the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, Mike is the author of Zahav: A World of Israeli Cuisine. 

 

 
Frasca Food & Wine

Frasca Food & Wine

Bobby Stuckey

A native of Arizona, Bobby is a Master Sommelier who opened Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder after having spent time working at The Little Nell in Aspen and The French Laundry in Yountville. Bobby has a passion not only for Italian food and wine but also for hospitality, going so far as coining the term “hospitalian,” a title bestowed upon someone who practices authentic hospitality. In 2013, Frasca won the James Beard award for Outstanding Wine Service.

Milk Bar

Milk Bar

Christina Tosi

Christina is the chef, founder, and owner of Milk Bar. With multiple locations throughout the country, they are beloved for Christina’s creative innovations like Cereal Milk Ice Cream, Crack Pie, and Compost Cookies. An applied math and Italian major, she initially moved to New York to work in restaurants and eventually founded the dessert programs at Momofuku. The author of two books, Christina is also a judge on Masterchef and Masterchef Junior

 

theory11

theory11

Dan White

Dan is a magician, producer, and creative consultant who has worked alongside magic greats such as David Copperfield and David Blaine. He became interested in magic at the age of 10 and now has his own show at the NoMad Hotel. Dan starred in The Supernaturalist on the Discovery Channel, has served as an illusion and creative consultant for Kanye West, and has been a recurring guest on The Tonight Show. 

Bizarre Foods

Bizarre Foods

Andrew Zimmern

An award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer, and educator, Andrew is the creator, host, and co-executive producer of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World and Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern. He got his start as a chef in New York and eventually moved to Minneapolis where he began as a dishwasher and eventually became the executive chef of Café Un Deux Trois. In 2012, Andrew launched his first food truck, AZ Canteen, which has its roots in his experiences visiting food stalls and trucks around the world.

2015 Speakers


Chipotle

Chipotle

Steve Ells

Steve is the founder and CEO of Chipotle. He opened his first Chipotle in Denver, with the intention of going on to open a fine-dining restaurant. But as Chipotle grew, Steve realized it was a concept people loved. He has revolutionized the food industry by sourcing “food with integrity”—responsibly grown livestock and produce. Steve graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and was a sous chef at the legendary Stars in San Francisco.

21c Museum Hotels

21c Museum Hotels

Sarah Robbins

Sarah is one of the founding partners of 21c Museum Hotel, a unique hotel concept rooted in genuine Southern hospitality, thoughtful design, and culinary creativity, all anchored by world-class contemporary art. As Senior Vice President of Operations, Sarah ensures a seamless relationship between each of the 21c hotels and their respective restaurants. She manages the restaurant development process from design and construction to branding, chef selection, and menu development. Prior to joining 21c, Sarah worked at Myriad Restaurant Group and managed Tribeca Grill. 

Broad Street Ministry

Broad Street Ministry

Bill Golderer

Bill is the founding pastor and convener of the Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia, a ministry that emphasizes hospitable outreach, civic involvement, and creative expression. The Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative creates unique, trauma-informed indoor dining experiences with a commitment to improving the physical and psychological wellbeing of every homeless and hungry person they come across. In collaborating with local chefs, restaurants, and an army of volunteers, the Hospitality Collaborative is able to serve more than 1,000 guests daily. 

Musician,Educator, & Bandleader

Musician,Educator, & Bandleader

Jon Batiste

Musician, entertainer, educator, and bandleader, Jon is an internationally acclaimed figure in the world of music. He is the Associate Artistic Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and was on ARTINFO’s list of the 30 under 30 most influential people in the art world. A Julliard graduate, Jon comes from a long line of Louisiana musicians. Jon’s band, Stay Human, is known for “social music,” actively engaging audiences to create greater accessibility and appreciation for live music. The band plays in non-traditional venues and starts impromptu street concerts.

Master Sommelier & Author

Master Sommelier & Author

Richard Betts

A native of Syracuse, NY, Richard fell in love with wine while traveling in Italy. During his time as the wine director of the Little Nell in Aspen, he passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam. He is co-founder of the Betts & Scholl wine label, Scarpetta Wines, and “cc:” Wines and is currently working on a mezcal project called Sombra. Richard is the author of The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, described as “a kids’ book for adults."

Attica

Attica

Banjo Harris Plane

Banjo became the manager at Attica restaurant in Australia after having worked as a sommelier at The Bently, Quay, and est. In 2012 he was awarded “Australian Sommelier of the Year” by Gourmet Traveller. Banjo is also the founder of Real Wines, a company that imports Austrian and Italian wines for restaurants and small bars in Australia. 

Claridge's Hotel

Claridge's Hotel

Thomas Kochs

Thomas is the general manager of the world-renowned Claridge’s Hotel in London. A native of Germany, Thomas began working in hotels as a teenager and chose a career in hotels over a career in medicine at the age of 21. Prior to his current role at Claridge’s, Thomas worked at various hotels in London, including The Connaught as general manager and The Berkeley as food and beverage director. 

Made Nice

Made Nice

Daniel Humm

The chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad, Daniel is a Swiss-born, three Michelin-star chef. He is the recipient of several James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Chef and Best Chef: NYC. His flagship restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, was ranked #4 on the San Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Daniel is the co-author of Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook and I Love NY: Ingredients and Recipes.

Tim's Place

Tim's Place

Tim Harris

As a teenager, Tim dreamed of owning his own restaurant. He began his career working in local restaurants, including Red Robin. After attending Eastern New Mexico University, Tim worked as a host at Applebee’s and then went on to open Tim’s Place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the first and only restaurant owned by a man with Down syndrome. Tim is an inspirational speaker who has travelled across the country telling his story. In 2014, Tim started Tim’s Big Heart foundation, an organization that aims to inspire people to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives via entrepreneurship and inclusion in their communities. Tim’s goal is to help other individuals with intellectual disabilities start their own business.

17th Street Barbecue

17th Street Barbecue

Amy Mills

Amy is renowned in the world of barbecue not only as the daughter of barbecue legend, Mike Mills, but also as an author and consultant. Her book, Peace, Love and Barbecue was nominated for a James Beard Award. Her company, OnCue Consulting, specializes in barbecue education and barbecue restaurant operations. She divides her time between Boston and Southern Illinois. 

GQ

GQ

Alan Richman

Alan is known as the most decorated food writer in history. He has won 16 James Beard Journalism Awards, a National Magazine Award, and a Bronze Star for service in Vietnam. He has reviewed restaurants in nearly every Communist country, proof that he will go anywhere for a meal. In 1998, Richman was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America. He is the Dean of Food Journalism at The French Culinary Institute in New York, where he teaches a class in food writing. 

Union Square Hospitality Group

Union Square Hospitality Group

Danny Meyer

Born and raised in St. Louis, Danny has had a lifelong passion for food and hospitality. He opened Union Square Café in 1985 at the age of 27 and since then has become one of the world’s most lauded restaurateurs with celebrated restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, and Shake Shack, all under the umbrella of Union Square Hospitality Group. Danny’s book, Setting the Table, is a New York Times bestseller and an inspirational resource and handbook for the hospitality industry.