University News

29th Annual Chef Culinary Conference Returns to UMass Amherst, Showcasing Culinary Trends and Inspiring Culinary Professionals

More than 60 colleges and universities represented at six-day event

AMHERST, Mass. – The 29th annual Chef Culinary Conference is taking place at the University of Massachusetts Amherst through Friday, June 16. This prestigious culinary event brings together renowned chefs, industry experts, national epidemiologists, research scientists and food enthusiasts from around the world to explore the latest trends, techniques and innovations in college and university dining.

Organized by award-winning UMass Dining, the Chef Culinary Conference has established itself as a premier platform for culinary professionals to share knowledge, network and gain valuable insights from leading figures in the industry. With an exceptional lineup of guest speakers, interactive workshops and culinary demonstrations, the conference promises to be an unparalleled experience for attendees.

Throughout the six-day event, attendees will have access to an array of engaging sessions and activities designed to broaden their culinary skills and knowledge. The conference will feature live cooking demonstrations by award-winning chefs, panel discussions on industry challenges and opportunities, hands-on workshops and insightful keynote presentations by industry leaders.

This year’s theme is “Mindful Eating, Healthy Lifestyle: From Mediterranean to Okinawa and Beyond,” with a focus on plant-forward cuisine, community building and how to shape the campus dining segment through healthy food and lifestyle options, using culturally driven and globally inspired recipes and practices.

“The Chef Culinary Conference has become a hallmark event for the college and university dining community, fostering a culture of creativity and collaboration,” says Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst. “This year's conference is shaping up to be the best one yet, offering participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in the latest culinary trends, learn from renowned experts and connect with like-minded professionals while addressing issues on health, sustainability and social values. With over 420 registered attendees, over 60 colleges and universities represented and 35 culinary workshops, this year’s conference is on track to be the largest we’ve ever held.”

Chefs and presenters include:

  • Chef Jody Adams – James Beard Award winner and chef/co-owner of three restaurants in Boston.
  • Chef Martin Yan – Legendary television icon and one of the first celebrity chefs, winner of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Chef Jet Tila – Celebrity chef, Food Network star and vice president of culinary for Pei Wie Group, managing partner Dragon Tiger Noodle Co.
  • Anat Barron – Force of nature whose forte is building brands, leading teams and growing companies.
  • Walter Willett – Former chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has been instrumental in the development of the Healthy Eating Plate.
  • Eric Decker – Professor in the Department of Food Science at UMass Amherst. With over 460 publications, Decker is one of the most highly cited scientists in agriculture since 2005.
  • Gerry Fernandez – President and founder of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, advocate and educator for the business benefits of cultural diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry.
  • Rob Franek – Editor-in-chief at The Princeton Review, national expert on colleges and higher education.

In addition to the educational sessions, attendees will have the opportunity to network with fellow culinary professionals, meet industry vendors and explore the latest culinary products and services during the conference's trade show.

More information about the 29th annual Chef Culinary Conference, including registration details, schedule and guest speakers, is available at