We welcomed top innovators who are elevating food development and challenging food industry norms. Click on each speaker to learn more about him/her.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13
Christina Meyer-Jax, M.S., RDN. is a nationally recognized food and nutrition expert, food systems strategist, communications professional, and professor who loves bringing healthy eating and living into reality. She received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) and her Masters of Science in Nutrition Education from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, IL. She has worked with many well-known food companies (from established to start-up) and most recently with the Google Food program as the Global Director of Food Choice Architecture and Nutrition. Christina enjoys bringing health and product messages to life as a spokesperson, media personality, speaker, and communications strategist. She can also be found diving into data to connect the best outcomes for both individual and corporate health. What else fires Christina up? Teaching! Christina has 16+ years as a professor at the following programs: St. Catherine University Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, University of St. Thomas Department of Health and Human Performance, and the Art Institutes International Minnesota School of Culinary Arts. When not working, Christina loves trail running, cooking, buying funny t-shirts and living in the Top Ranked Healthiest Cities in the USA, Minneapolis, MN with her perpetually in motion family.
Chef Robert Danhi, an R&D chef, teacher, award winning author and TV Show host with decades of research in Asia believes that fermentation is at the heart of these flavorful cuisines. He leverages his knowledge of fermented ingredients and traditional techniques in today’s product innovation process. Chef Danhi current mission is to curate, document, codify, archive and share the worlds culinary cultures hence has been working for the past few years to create an app, to blend qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and capture the 360° Flavor Experience. The Flavor360 team partners with organizations to efficiently capture the tribal knowledge of their organization during F&B field research, food tours, tastings, cuttings, and collaborative sensory evaluations.
Mike Kostyo is the Senior Publications Manager at Datassential, the food industry's leading market research and trends company. At Datassential, Kostyo oversees the company's seven TrendSpotting magazines, which combine real-world trend examples with both consumer and operator research. He is also a member of the International Foodservice Editorial Council and the Association of Food Journalists. In his spare time, he teaches cooking classes at Chicago's Peterson Garden Project.
Andy Dratt, Chief Commercial Officer at Imbibe, has spent over 20 years in working with and developing products for some of the largest companies in the food and beverage industry. In his nearly a decade at Imbibe, he has led the company to become one of the leading beverage development resources for CPG, QSR, and private label brand owners. Dratt is passionate about helping customers identify the “sweet spot” between consumer needs, business wants, and product realities.
Dr. Schoenfuss owes her love of milk and cheese to raising nubian goats and dairy replacement heifers in 4-H in San Jacinto, California. She studied Dairy Science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and decided to study in a country famous for dairy product research for her Junior year at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. She then headed east for her Master’s in Food Science at Virginia Tech, then south to Louisiana State University for her Ph.D. in Dairy Science. After 11 years at General Mills working as a product developer in various divisions, she decided to get back to work on cheese and joined the faculty at the U of MN in 2008. In addition to her research, Dr. Schoenfuss is the faculty advisor for the Joseph J. Warthesen Food Processing Center, the Associate Director of the Midwest Dairy Food Research Center, judges local and national dairy product contests, and coaches the collegiate dairy product evaluation and RCA Culinology contest teams.
Nick Powell is the Senior Corporate Chef at QuikTrip Corporation. Since 2009, he has helped shape the company’s dynamic transition towards a food-centric future and has seen QT’s test kitchen staff grow from a single chef to an entire team with consumer insight, food science, innovation and culinary expertise. Prior to QuikTrip, Nick worked for Tulsa-based frozen dough manufacturer, working closely on concept ideation and product development with the culinary teams of the world’s largest restaurant chains. He spent time at The Catering Company and Saturn Grill in Oklahoma City and Nana Restaurant in Dallas. Nick is a Baking and Pastry graduate from The Culinary Institute of America and has a B.A. from the University of Oklahoma.
Barbara Coty is the R&D Craftsman for Tyson Innovation Lab. In her role she combines food industry expertise with an entrepreneurial mindset, using design thinking and agile development for a different take on food-focused product development. Since joining Tyson Foods Barbara has launched 15 innovations into market, including the first product created out of Tyson Innovation Lab, Yappah Chicken Crisps. At Tyson Foods, Barbara has also led various company initiatives such as the Pride Network business resource group and the Tyson R&D internship program. Originally from Texas, Barbara holds a B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science from Angelo State University, and in her free time she enjoys playing tennis and traveling abroad.
I am a third generation restaurant owner of Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. Moonlite is currently owned by four family members, my self - Patrick Bosley, my brother - Chris Bosley, my Dad - Ken Bosley, and my cousin - Jeanie Heath. I grew up working the pits and cutting Bar-B-Q in our carry out department, until I wondered out west to attended the University of Colorado at Boulder studying Anthropology. I lived out west for about six years where i worked two years at the University of Colorado Police Department, became an EMT and did Search and Rescue with the Civil Air Patrol, and spent a year managing Applebees in Boulder Colorado, Then I moved back to Kentucky to attend Western Kentucky University for Graduate School earning a MA in Psychology. While in Graduate school I worked at Moonlite but didn't see a future for my self there as a long term career my grandparents were the owners and my dad and three of his siblings were managers. I worked at Moonlite back then on daily operations and headed up Marketing and Adverting while commuting an hour to Western for classes. During that period of school and work, Moonlite lost their in house USDA Production manager and HAACP Coordinator who took a job as an USDA Inspector and I stepped in to take over his duties. Shortly after that the Wholesale foods manager retired and I added that to my plate too. Juggling responsibilities and becoming a manger for the USDA operations, I intended to find and train new employees for those positions before I planned to leave after graduating from WKU - I had already been offered an internship at Trover Clinic in Madisonville, Ky. and a reference from them to the Vanderbilt University for admissions to there doctorate program in psychology. But as I pushed back my graduation dates from Western to focus on Moonlite the opportunity to buy into the business came up and my brother, cousin, and I bought out my aunt and uncle who retired. I did finish my MA in psychology but did not take the internship or PHD work but instead decided to help keep the family legacy of Moonlite going.
My Grand Father bought Moonlite in 1963 as a 20-30 seat diner. Over the decades we have grown to a 350 seat restaurant with a USDA processing facility for wholesale foods, a mail order BBQ division, a carryout department, and full service catering. Moonlite has become a signature attraction for Owensboro Kentucky earning many awards and national recognition. One of our challenges is remaining true to the past while keeping relevant in the present. Many old ingredients have become discontinued and we have to adapt recipes or recreate the ingredients our selves. two examples are 1) we used a product by Rich's called and egg white stabilizer. Essentially a binding agent allowing for fluffy, tall meringue pies which we were famous for. Riches discontinue the product and no one else carried anything similar. We set out on a multi month journey to work from the ingredient statement to create an eggwhite stabilizer that worked the way we wanted for our pies. We now sell the egg white stabilizer as well as use it for our pies 2) We have used Maul's Worcestershire sauce as an ingredient in barbecue cooing dip for decades and considered it miles ahead of the other bands when used for barbecue. Mauls went out of business leading Moonlite to source a new Worcestershire sauce and adapt to balance to the flavors and consistency. These two examples are just a few of the challenges of dealing with change over decades. Business come and go, health department or USDA rules change, suppliers change, environmental seasons or shifts affect quality and supply of ingredients, specs of ingredients change at manufacturers - quality control fluctuates from suppliers. Through it all Moonlite attempts to innovate not to be different, but to stay the same as we were 50 years ago.
THURSDAY, MARCH 14
Dr. Jim Painter is an Adjunct Professor at University of Texas. His current research specialties include heart disease and mindless eating. Jim is an adviser for Sun-Maid Raisin Growers and consults for the National Dairy Council. He currently serves on the American Heart Association’s Healthier Diet Business Committee and is the Chair of Sugarwise.
He worked for Marriott Corporation in the 1980s, taught at University of Illinois during the 1990s and at Eastern Illinois University until 2013.
Jim has over 100 peer-reviewed publications to his credit and has written Let’s Eat Mindfully! He and his wife Rosemary have four grandchildren.
Lizzy Freier is a managing editor at Technomic, a Winsight Company, with a focus on menu trend tracking and analysis. Lizzy covers trending flavors, ingredients, dishes and preparations for food and beverage at independent restaurants, emerging chains and top chain restaurant brands. She has also analyzed global restaurant trends, as well as trends in the noncommercial and convenience store spaces. She has presented at numerous conferences in the U.S. and Canada on menu trend development for operators, manufacturers and distributors. Lizzy studied English literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently resides in Chicago.
Linda is a recognized expert on consumer marketing and market research with a specialization in products offering wellness benefits. She has often been described as bringing “the voice of the consumer” to business strategies.
Linda has founded two marketing research companies: HealthFocus International and EcoFocus Worldwide. She works with state, national, and multi-national companies linking consumer attitudes with product benefits to successfully meet the toughest brand and growth challenges.
Linda has conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative studies for food and beverage manufacturers, supplement and OTC and pharma companies, and their ingredient and packaging suppliers, from Campbell's and ConAgra, to Unilever and Nestle, Pfizer and Cargill.
Tim is a partner at Kinetic12, a foodservice consulting firm based in Chicago. For the last 8 years Tim has consulted and led engagements with a variety of B2B and B2C clients to tackle a broad range of strategy, portfolio, innovation and research challenges - from developing insight libraries and business strategies, to training on strategic planning and marketing, to building long range innovation pipelines. Tim has more than 25 years’ experience in marketing and strategy. He worked at Kraft Foods for 17 years across a number of categories and brands. He managed the Canadian Kraft Foodservice business and was also head of strategy and business development for the $2B North American Foodservice division.
LeAnne is a at Kinetic12, a foodservice consulting firm based in Chicago.
She brings over 25 years of marketing and communications expertise within the food industry. LeAnne managed and directed the food division of Noble Communications, the foodservice industries largest marketing agency.
LeAnne has created go-to-market strategies, marketing and sales plans, brand architecture models, brand positioning, innovation pipelines and advertising and promotional programs for many of the top 100 food companies, including Tyson Foods, the J.M. Smucker Company, Heinz, Kraft, M&M Mars, Ventura Foods and many more.
Marshall began working in foodservice in 23 years ago, and has since worked every position, both front and back of the house in: quick service, casual dining, full service, beverage, wellness personal chef, catering, private clubs, hotels, Michelin star fine dining and a USDA certified meat processing facility.
In 2006 he graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a bachelor’s in Culinary Nutrition. Since then he’s worked at Archer Daniels Midland, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Jack in the Box Inc. and is currently at The Wendy’s Company in Dublin, OH.
He has been volunteering with the Research Chefs Association since 2007 and with ProStart since 2011 and is committed to creating opportunities for students and restaurant industry professionals to connect with one another to build a community of passionate food industry professionals that are inspired by each other and the food they create.
At Wendy’s he leads a team of chefs and food scientists that work to serve the best-tasting hamburgers, side items and value menu possible at every Wendy’s restaurant.
Justin has spent the last twenty-two years growing, engaging and leading within the food industry. Just has spent his career diversifying his skills with degrees in Culinary Arts from the CIA and a B.S. in Food Science from Iowa State University. He has spent the last 20 years working in fine dining and leading product development for foodservice chain account manufactures before transitioning to sales as an Account Director for Griffith Foods.
He has been active with the RCA through many roles including an adjunct instructor in Culinology, various committees (RCACC, Culinology Education Foundation and Higher Education) as well an RCA Board member for the last four years holding two Executive Committee positions (Secretary & Treasurer).
Growing up in a household that held family food traditions in the highest regard, every dish was a lesson in love and labor. Helping her grandmother roll out the dough for mandel brot, or making sure to carefully drop each handmade kreplach into a steaming pot of golden chicken broth, Jaime has been cooking all her life. When the time came to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up, she naturally chose the foodservice industry.
While attending Kendall College, Jaime worked as a teaching assistant where she supported Chef Instructors in managing on-campus restaurants and events. After winning first place in The Chef's Of Grey Poupon Competition as well as a $20,000.00 scholarship, she graduated from Kendall with a Bachelors Degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. She is currently on the Kendall College Culinary Advisory Board.
After graduation, Jaime worked for Oprah's personal chef, Art Smith, at Table Fifty-Two in Chicago's Gold Coast. At the suggestion of a former instructor, she made the transition in to Research and Development as Assistant Research Chef at Ed Miniat, Inc. Her responsibilities there include working with national chain accounts and creating new menu items and protein concepts. At the advice of her boss, John Draz, she joined the Research Chef’s Association and started the adventure in the world of Research and Development. While participating yearly in the RCA’s Professional Culinology Competition Chef Mestan obtained her Sous Chef Certification through the American Culinary Federation by demonstrating her skill, knowledge and professionalism in the food service industry.
FRIDAY, MARCH 15
Maeve Webster, President of Menu Matters, is a food trend expert and leading consultant for the food industry. She has spearheaded hundreds of major industry studies during her 18 years as a foodservice specialist, and today runs a private consultancy focused on working with manufacturers and operators to analyze, understand, and leverage food trends.
In addition to her consulting work, Maeve owns a café in Bennington, VT, running the kitchen and designing the menu. This has not only been a labor of love but has brought to life the issues from both a consumer and operator point of view that she has consulted on for nearly two decades. At home, she and her partner are building out an orchard and market garden.
Shehzad brings proven technical leadership in product innovation developed over 15 years at DIAGEO, the world’s one number premium spirits company. He started his journey in their Brand Technical Center, where he developed and commercialized close to 100 new and wide-ranging products over the span of 10 years. Leveraging his understanding of new product development, he took on several leadership roles within the organization including leading their Science and Technology platform in the field of fermentation, distillation and maturation. Eventually, he led the overall development and implementation of the entire operations management strategy for the North American whiskey portfolio.
In 2015, Shehzad ventured into the cannabis industry, as VP of R&D at Cannabistry Labs™ - a professional research, development and branding company dedicated to bringing outstanding product innovation to the legalized cannabis industry. Over the past three years, he has spearheaded the creation of a world-class research and development, regulatory and quality team, which has brought numerous products and technologies to market. With innovation focused on patient needs, the Cannabistry Labs’ team of engineers, scientists, regulatory specialists and branding gurus are actively creating and reimagining the wide range of cannabis categories by unlocking and optimizing many of the key chemicals found in Cannabis.
Shehzad earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology and holds an MBA in Finance and Operations Management from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Amanda has a decade of market research experience spanning industries including healthcare, travel, hospitality, retail food, and foodservice. She has been a member of the Mintel reports team since May 2013. Amanda is currently the Associate Director of Foodservice Research, responsible for overseeing all of Mintel's foodservice offerings, as well as providing insight and competitive analysis across scheduled deliverables, and client and industry presentations. She was previously a Senior Analyst specializing in the retail food industry, and was responsible for writing monthly analysis reports across multiple food categories. Her expertise also includes generational consumer behavior - in particular Millennials. Amanda is also well-versed in restaurant social media strategy, media analysis and measurement, and influencer relationships.
Prior to joining Mintel, Amanda was a Research Analyst at a global PR agency working on market research projects that fueled public relations campaigns. Within the food and beverage sector, she executed a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies including online and telephone surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and online communities for clients.
Amanda holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, Sociology, and Business from Indiana University-Bloomington, as well as a Certificate in Principles of Marketing Research from the University of Georgia.
Kaveh Zamanian is the Founder, CEO, and Whiskey Maker at Rabbit Hole Distillery. He has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, was a former fellow at Northwestern University Medical School and is a Certified Psychoanalyst. After 22 years of clinical practice and academic appointments, his passion and interest for Bourbon and American Whiskies inspired him to leave psychology for a much more perilous world of craft distilling. Following several years of study and guidance under respected American distillers, he founded Rabbit Hole Spirits in 2012. He began distilling personal recipes of Bourbon and Rye whiskies in 2014 and in 2016 opened the new Rabbit Hole distillery in the heart of Nulu, in Louisville. With a production capacity of over 1.2 million proof gallons a year, Rabbit Hole is one of the top 20 largest Bourbon producers in the world and is poised to become the next big Kentucky Bourbon brand.