Drexel U's Center for Hospitality and Sport Management hosted a panel discussion last year for the Philadelphia StarChefs panel.
The result of this dialogue among the young chefs was the idea for an annual forum where cooks and chefs could discuss the issues they face in the industry and to spur the creative process.
So here comes the Philly Chef Conference - running over two days, Jan. 13 and Jan. 14.
It's aimed at students, cooks, chefs and entrepreneurs who look to own their own restaurant and need to know the steps toward making it happen.
Participants and panelists - all volunteers - are a who's who of the restaurant scene and span the disciplines. (Disclosure: I'll be on a food-writing panel with Drew Lazor, Rick Nichols and Jason Wilson.) Lots of Drexel alums are coming back to help.
Jan. 13's sessions:
"There's No Such Thing as a Soft Opening: Getting from Concept to Opening Night" with Harris Eckstut (Eckstut Consulting), Greg Vernick (Vernick Food + Drink), and Melissa Scully (vice president of culture and development, Garces Group)
"From the Mortarboard to the Toque: Putting Your Culinary Degree to Work" moderated by Paul O'Neill (Vetri), with Joey Baldino (Zeppoli), Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Federal Donuts and Percy Street), Tim Spinner (La Calaca Feliz) and Brian Lofink (Kraftwork)
A coffee tasting and discussion with Jon Adams (Rival Bros)
"How Much Is That Liquor License in the Window?' and Other Legal Quandaries" with David Helbraun (founder and managing partner, Helbraun, Levey & O'Donoghue) and Rob Keddie (general counsel, Garces Group)
"'You Get Paid for That?!': Hospitality Jobs You've Never Heard Of (Until Now)" with Brett Taylor (Soutirage), Lily Cope (COOK), Vanessa Beahn (Sbraga Dining), forager Johanna Kolodny and Michael Fiorello (culinary director, Garces Group)
Bread tasting and discussion with Alex Bois (head baker, High Street on Market)
"BYO Backbone: Owning and Operating a Successful BYOB" with Josh Lawler, Chris Kearse (Will), Joncarl Lachman (Noord) and Nicholas Elmi (Laurel)
Women in the Industry: Clare Pelino (Profile Public Relations and ProLiterary Consultants), Erin O'Shea (pitmistress and co-owner, Percy Street BBQ), Barbie Marshall (Green Meadow Farms), Audrey Claire Taichman (Audrey Claire, Twenty Manning Grill and COOK) and Ellen Yin (Fork and High Street on Market)
Meat demo and tasting by Dean Carlson (Wyebrook Farm) and Andrew Wood (Russet)
"From Albariño to Zinfandel: Building Your Wine List" with Brett Taylor, Megan Storm (The Artisan's Cellar), Brian Kane and Eilon Gigi (Zahav) and Jason Malumed (Chalkboard Wine and Spirits)
"From the [Actual] Farm to the [Literal] Table: Working with Your Local Farmers" with Ian Brendle (Green Meadow Farm), Joe Cicala (Le Virtu and the upcoming Brigantessa), Josh Lawler, Steve Eckerd (formerly of Le Bec Fin) and Sue Miller (Birchrun Hills Cheese)
Charcuterie with Bob Del Grosso (Drexel University), Andrew Wood, Jeremy Nolen (Brauhaus Schmitz and Wursthaus Schmitz) and Nick Macri (Border Spring Farms)
"How #Hashtags Can Sell Hash Browns (and More): Hospitality Public Relations and Social Media" with Clare Pelino (Profile Public Relations and ProLiterary Consultants) and food photographer Jason Varney
"The Legacy of Julia Child: Food TV Today" with Kevin Sbraga of Sbraga and The Fat Ham (Top Chef), Barbie Marshall (Hell's Kitchen) and Nicholas Elmi (Top Chef)
"Now Pair This: Beer, the New Pairing" with Steve Wildy (beverage director, Vetri Family Restaurants), Don Russell (a.k.a. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Joe Sixpack) and Professor Lynn Hoffman
"Thinking About Drinking: Beyond the Classic Cocktail" with Jason Wilson (author of Boozehound), Vincent Stipo (Vernick Food + Drink), and Phoebe Esmon (Emmanuelle)
Jan. 14's sessions:
'Catch Me[al] If You Can': The Moveable Feast of Food Trucks" with George Bieber (The Sunflower Truck Stop Mobile Café) and Rob Mitchell (The Cow and Curd)
"1,000 Synonyms for Delicious: Contemporary Food Writing" with food writer Rick Nichols, Michael Klein (Philly.com), Jason Wilson (Table Matters) and Drew Lazor (the Daily News)
"Form and Function for Food Service: Principles of Restaurant Design" with James Feustel (Drexel University), Tuval Shlomo (Star Painting and Contracting), Dave-Roger Grosvenor (VII Principles) and Ed Eimer (Eimer Design)
"Something Old, Something New: The Journey from Le Bec Fin to Avance" with Chris Scarduzio
"Oodles of Noodles: Working with Arcobaleno Pasta Machines" with Eli Kulp (Fork and High Street on Market) and Joe Cicala
"…But no Cheesesteaks: Marketing Philly's Food Scene to the Uninitiated" with Albert Lee (Philadelphia Visitor Center), Drew Lazor, Jason Sheehan and Art Etchells (Foobooz.com) and Professor Linda Forristal (Drexel Tourism Department)
"Fun with Foie: a D'Artagnan Demonstration" with Pierre Calmels (Bibou and Le Cheri), Dave Conn (Tinto) and Justin Bogle (Avance)
A food truck lunch
Keynote speaker Mitchell Davis from the James Beard Foundation, talking about food trends.
Registration is now open; it's $195 for the two days.