Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

reThink Food® Attendees Taste the Future

Dr. David Katz, founding director of True Health Initiative and a presenter at the 2016 reThink Food conference
Peter Klosse is the creator of a wine and food pairing concept that has evolved into an innovative and comprehensive theory on flavor and tasting

Third Annual Food Innovation Conference Delivered Food Experiences, Innovations, and Tensions between Tradition and Trend

St. Helena, CA – More than 350 guests filled The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone November 4–6 for the third annual reThink Food conference. A collaboration between the CIA and the MIT Media Lab, reThink Food has become a hub for thought leadership at the intersection of food, technology, behavior, and design. Attendees included food industry leaders; academics and innovators in R&D, technology, and consumer package goods; marketers; and others in related fields.

From demonstrations of robotics in the kitchen and diagrams of culinary genetics to discussions about harnessing technology to transform food systems, reThink Food provided provocative insights and sparked lively conversations around the central themes of disruption, innovation, and advancement. Attendees were treated to a sneak peek at some of the most cutting-edge advancements in food innovation, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual reality, big data, and genetics.

According to Greg Drescher, vice president of Strategic Initiatives and Industry Leadership at the CIA, “reThink Food provides a platform to review shifts in food culture, behaviors, and science; to spark ideas for designing nimble business strategies; and to develop value-based, interconnecting networks in order to become successful entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs—in food production, distribution, and service—today and in the future.”

Timely issues presented at reThink Food also included healthcare and sustainability. David Katz, founding director of True Health Initiative and founding director of Prevention Research Center at Yale University, inspired the crowd with a comprehensive overview of the power of diet to extend lifespan and quality of life, concluding with a call to action for the healthcare sector to finally unite around science that proves that healthy diet and lifestyle are in fact our best medicine. Gilonne d’Origny of New Harvest took the stage with Ryan Pandya of Perfect Day to outline their commitment to finding more humane and sustainable ways to address consumer demand for animal protein. Remarking on the massive amount of carbon emitted by the conventional meat industry, d’Origny said, “Energy-wise you're better off driving your Hummer to a vegan dinner than a Tesla to a barbecue.”

Highlights of this year’s conference also included:

  • The first reThink Food Innovator Program celebrating eight disruptive startups that are shaping how we will grow, produce, and distribute food in the future. These companies participated in a Startup Studio where they sampled or demonstrated their products.
  • A look at how traditional farmers work with urban agriculturalists to use big data to share insights, create a transparent system, and work towards producing enough food to feed nine to ten billion people by 2050.
  • An argument by UC Davis’ Matthew Lange for the development of the Internet of Food (IOF), an extensive digital web that will “tip the balance” from greatest-good-for-greatest-number policies to a focus on personalized nutrition and prevention.
  • And several interactive sessions:
    • Food designer and artist Emilie Baltz (Pratt Institute) took the audience through a powerful multi-sensory exercise to demonstrate the relationship between emotions and our conscious minds as we create new food and beverage experiences that are essential to behavior changes.
    • An exploration of “Creative Tensions” was led by a team from IDEO and became a forum for healthy debate and conversation.
    • Henry Wedler of UC Davis led a truly blind wine tasting to prove how flavors and aromas in wine are accented by simply turning off the lights.

“The future of food is not about arguing, or illuminating, or creating camps about what is wrong. That time is past, that's ten years ago,” said Caleb Harper, principal research scientist and director of the Open Agriculture initiative at the MIT Media Lab. “If we’re going to rethink food, it’s about creating the tools that empower people to be curious and just simply ask the question, what if.”

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 the CIA at Greystone November 3–5, 2017, 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; gold sponsor Chobani; silver sponsors Google and the National Pork Board; copper sponsors TerraVia, Unilever Food Solutions, and Vitamix; premier presenting webcast sponsor Rich’s Foodservice and presenting webcast sponsor Unilever Food Solutions.

Photo Captions and Hi-Res Images:

Photo 1 (top photo): Henry Wedler of UC Davis, who is blind, led reThink Food attendees in a wine tasting to demonstrate how our perception of flavors and aromas can be enhanced when you can’t see what you are tasting. (Photo credit: CIA/Kristen Loken)
View hi-res image >

Photo 2: According to Dr. David Katz, founding director of True Health Initiative and a presenter at the 2016 reThink Food conference, it’s not what we don’t know about diet that most threatens our health; it’s the constant wild misinterpretations of what we do know. (Photo credit: CIA/Kristen Loken)
View hi-res image >

Photo 3: Peter Klosse is the creator of a wine and food pairing concept that has evolved into an innovative and comprehensive theory on flavor and tasting. At reThnk Food, he spoke about how we perceive flavors and discussed some of his theories with other attendees during one of the many networking opportunities. (Photo credit: CIA/Kristen Loken)
View hi-res image >

Media Contact:

Jan Smyth
Marketing Manager—Industry Leadership and Advancement

About The Culinary Institute of America:
Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to developing leaders in foodservice and hospitality, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers bachelor’s degree majors in management, culinary science, and applied food studies; associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts; and executive education through its Food Business School. The college also offers certificate programs and courses for professionals and enthusiasts. Its conferences and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry and its worldwide network of 49,000 alumni includes innovators in every area of the food business. 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

# # #

Contact Us

Media Relations
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499
Phone: 845-451-1457