Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America and the MIT Media Lab Collaborate on New Initiative: reThink Food

Advancing Innovation at the Intersection of Technology, Behavior, Design, and Food

Media Contact:

Jan Smyth
Marketing Manager

St. Helena, CA – reThink Food is a unique collaboration between The Culinary Institute of America and the MIT Media Lab that will explore how areas such as big data, social networking, mobile computing, behavioral economics, marketing, neuroscience, agriculture, and culinary strategy are radically changing food markets, systems, and our understanding of consumer choices.

The first annual reThink Food leadership conference, to be held November 7–9 at the CIA’s Napa Valley campus, will bring together a group of thought leaders and innovators in technology, behavior, design, and food. Research presentations, panel discussions, culinary demonstrations, and sensory experiences will be led by experts who include behavioral economists Dan Ariely (Duke University) and Michael Norton (Harvard University), scientists Stuart Firestein (Columbia University) and Howard Shapiro (Mars, Inc.), chefs Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood) and Daniel Patterson (The Daniel Patterson Restaurant Group), Chief Creative Officer Arthur Rubinfeld (Starbucks), and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss (The New York Times), along with CIA President Tim Ryan and MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito. The complete list of presenters is available on the reThink Food website.

A major revolution in food is underway. It is powered by information technology; driven by consumers who can readily connect with food industry leaders; and accelerated by innovations from entrepreneurs, scholars, scientists, behavioral economists, and designers. It is a movement of ideas aimed at creating a business landscape in which healthy, sustainable, higher quality, and more engaging food experiences can thrive.

“From the latest chef-curated food experiences to robotics in the kitchen to the splintering of consumer aspirations, the pace of evolution of food in America has never been more kinetic than it is today,” says Dr. Tim Ryan, president of the CIA. “The fresh insights offered by this inspired joint venture between the CIA and the MIT Media Lab will allow us to delve deeply into the possibilities of design, science and technology, flavor discovery, and entrepreneurship that are disrupting how we’re collectively re-imagining ‘what’s next for dinner.’”

With over 10,000 years of history in agriculture and cooking, food represents some of our earliest and most transformational technologies. “There is no reason to slow down now,” says Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. “We should be rethinking production, distribution, preparation, and the interactions of food with our brains and bodies. On a human level, we are beginning to understand taste and are shedding light on the multi-sensory activity of eating. Collaborating with the CIA, we look forward to bringing our unique research capabilities to the rich traditions and the remarkable future of how, and what, we eat.”

reThink Food will provide crucial insights and strategies for those launching a new restaurant or retail food concept, creating new food and distribution technologies, seeking to understand flavor preferences and consumer behavior, developing advances for healthier eating practices, or researching cultural behaviors around cooking and eating. To learn more, visit and follow #CIAMLfood.

Photo Caption

reThink Food is a new conference series co-presented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the MIT Media Lab. (Photo credit: CIA and MIT Media Lab)

Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is an independent, not-for-profit college offering associate and bachelor's degrees with majors in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and culinary science, as well as certificate programs in culinary arts and wine and beverage studies. As the world's premier culinary college, the CIA provides thought leadership in the areas of health & wellness, sustainability, and world cuisines & cultures through research and conferences. The CIA has a network of 46,000 alumni that includes industry leaders and innovators. The CIA also offers courses for professionals and enthusiasts, as well as consulting services in support of innovation for the foodservice and hospitality industry. The college has campuses in Hyde Park, NY; St. Helena, CA; San Antonio, TX; and Singapore. For more information, visit

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.

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