Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 2014

Food+Tech Conference Blends All Ingredients

By Michelle Russell

Illustration by Carmen Segovia

Soup to Nuts Panelists and attendees “came from different directions” to the first Food+Tech Conference, founder Andrew F. Smith said, referring as much to geographic origins — from across the United States and seven countries around the world — as areas of expertise. About 40 percent of participants were “university-oriented,” he said, focused on anthropology and food studies. Other presenters and attendees included cookbook authors, magazine food writers, and food bloggers. There were even a few “corporate people” on the program, including Rodney Snyder, chocolate history research director for Mars Chocolate North America, Smith said, whose presentation made for “one of the more interesting panels.”

See Also: These Chefs are Meeting the Challenge of Attendee Dietary Restrictions

Many Courses

You might think that a conference called Food+Tech would focus strictly on cutting-edge content — such as “The Brave New Worlds of 3-D Printing, Outer Space, and Non-Thermal Technologies,” a session that explored the food technologies necessary for space travel. But there were also sessions on “how technology has changed the foods that people consume” throughout history, Smith said. “Each session had its own context somewhere historically oriented, and some focused on very early processes,” such as fermentation. “It also looked at technological issues that affect our food today. So that included genetically modified ingredients — and we had a very good debate on that.”

A Good Host

Keeping all the participants together at the hotel over the three-day conference was important, Smith said, because the goal of the program was to foster networking as much as to provide education. “Face-to-face is absolutely crucial,” he said. “It’s the informal things that happen when you are at a reception.” Food+Tech included three receptions, three lunches, “and coffee breaks galore.”

If the Roger Smith Hotel didn’t get those food events right, discriminating attendees might have skipped out between sessions to explore New York City’s renowned dining scene and missed out on networking. But the hotel succeeded in keeping the group intact. “The food was delicious,” Smith said. “The hotel does a superb job. You cannot do a food conference and have bad food.”

Food+Tech Conference
April 3–5, 2014
Roger Smith Hotel, New York City

Attendees
260

Presenters
133

Panels
31

Workshops
5

On the Menu

How to describe the first-ever Food+Tech Conference? Founder Andrew F. Smith — a writer and lecturer on food and culinary history who has organized more than 80 food conferences — billed it as “An Exploration of Our Ambiguous Love, Hate, and Fear of Food Technologies.” Topics ran the gamut from vertical farming to smart appliances to culinary apps, Smith said, with “the complex, demanding technologies involved in bread making, olive-oil pressing, and cake making [receiving] special attention.”

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

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