Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

Latest in Food Innovation Revealed at reThink Food

Lynda Deakin, a partner at IDEO.
The 350 who attended reThink Food appreciated the many opportunities to network with people from disciplines that don’t usually mix.

Technologists, Food Executives, Entrepreneurs, and Designers, Came Together to Shape the Future of Food

St. Helena, CA – More than 350 guests—food industry leaders; academics and innovators in R&D, technology, and consumer package goods; marketers; and others in related fields—filled The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone on November 6–8 for the second annual reThink Food conference. Presented as a joint collaboration between the CIA and the MIT Media Lab, reThink Food has become a hub for thought leadership and innovation about the future of food.

Facing breakthroughs in technology, demands for transparency, and multi-directional trajectories within the food business, attendees found layers of answers to their current business preoccupations in the three-day program from the 40+ expert presenters. “By bringing together these sectors—food and technology—that rarely interact on a positive or personal level,” said Greg Drescher, vice president of industry leadership at the CIA, “we are able to see the future of food in a new light. And by also including design, behavior, and investing components, we can be assured that entrepreneurs, chefs, farmers, start-ups, and innovative larger companies who are disrupting current business practices and re-inventing our industry can build rich, collaborative networks that span the entire supply chain.”

Highlights of the conference included:

  • A conversation between John Markoff of The New York Times and Randy Kosimar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, about what big brands can learn from artisanal companies and the connections between food and technology;
  • A lively dialogue between a scientist (Ali Bouzari of Pilot R+D) and chefs (Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions) about flavor perception and the food experience;
  • An ideation session during which attendees broke into groups to brainstorm designing foods of tomorrow, getting big ideas off the ground, creating trust with consumers, and connecting our health to what we eat.

Presenters left the audience with thought-provoking sound bites, such as:

  • Will Rosenzweig (dean, The Food Business School): If you are an entrepreneur, you are a pathological optimist at heart.
  • Andrew Hesse (distinguished researcher, Autodesk): I want to turn GMOs into OMGs.
  • Mark Bomford (director, Sustainable Food Program at Yale University): Kelp may be to 2015 what insects were to 2013.
  • Jeff Dunn (CEO, Campbell Fresh): The future is about more than intersection of food and tech, it’s about who we are and what we value.

Another timely issue was a look at the ever-growing personalization of healthcare, particularly when it comes to technology-driven opportunities, including many different wearables. Dr. Molly Maloof, scientist Ian Peikon, Nathan Price of Arivale, and Shireen Yates of 6SensorLabs explored innovations in digitalized healthcare and how those innovations allow food to be an ever-growing aspect of disease prevention and maintaining wellness.

"This year's reThink Food conference brought to the forefront just how complex the issues around food for the 21st century have become,” said Caleb Harper, principal investigator and director of OpenAG. “We're seeing explosive advances in synthetic biology, new foods, logistics, and farming practices. But how do we cultivate public trust and increase transparency for the new systems being built? Lots of ‘food for thought’ for next year.”

The webcast of all general sessions from reThink Food can be seen on the reThink Food website under the multi-media tab. Information about next year’s conference, which will take place at CIA at Greystone November 4–6, 2016, will be available on in January.

reThink Food is made possible, in part, by the generous contributions of our sponsors. They include our platinum sponsor IDEO; silver sponsors Chobani, National Pork Board, Target, and US Foods; copper sponsors Gardein, Unilever Food Solutions, and Vitamix; and our webcast sponsors Rich’s, Unilever Food Solutions, US Foods, and 6Sensor Labs.

Photo Captions and Hi-Res Images:

Photo 1: At the reThink Food conference, Stephanie Strom of The New York Times, far right, moderated a panel called “Follow the Money” that featured, left to right, Will Rosenzweig (The Food Business School), Rob Hurlbut (Equilibrium Capital), and Christine Day (Luvo). The discussion focused on what investors look for in food innovation companies and how that will impact the future of food. (Photo credit: Kristen Loken/CIA)
View hi-res image >

Photo 2: Lynda Deakin, a partner at IDEO, and other members of her team lead ideation sessions to help attendees at reThink Food brainstorm on a variety of themes—from promoting plant-based menus to minimizing food waste to the overlap between food and healthcare. (Photo credit: Kristen Loken/CIA)
View hi-res image >

Photo 3: The 350 who attended reThink Food appreciated the many opportunities to network with people from disciplines that don’t usually mix. The audience included innovators and executives from the food industry and technology, restaurants and academia, and scientific research and marketing. (Photo credit: Kristen Loken/CIA)
View hi-res image >

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Jan Smyth
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About The Culinary Institute of America:

Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to driving leadership development for the foodservice and hospitality industry, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts; bachelor’s degree majors in management, culinary science, and applied food studies; and executive education through its Food Business School. Its conferences and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry in the areas of health & wellness, sustainability, world cuisines & cultures, and professional excellence & innovation. The college also offers certificate programs and courses for professionals and enthusiasts. Its worldwide network of 48,000 alumni includes leaders in every area of foodservice and hospitality. The CIA has campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore.

About the MIT Media Lab:

Actively promoting a unique, antidisciplinary culture, the MIT Media Lab goes beyond known boundaries and disciplines, encouraging the most unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas. It creates disruptive technologies that happen at the edges, pioneering such areas as wearable computing, tangible interfaces, and affective computing. Today, faculty members, research staff, and students at the Lab work in more than 25 research groups on more than 350 projects, from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to a stackable, electric car for sustainable cities, to advanced imaging technologies that can “see around a corner.” The Lab is committed to looking beyond the obvious to ask the questions not yet asked whose answers could radically improve the way people live, learn, express themselves, work, and play. For more information, visit

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