You know, it’s about time something like this happened.
On January 13 and 14, Drexel’s hospitality school will be hosting an industry-focused conference called, naturally, the Philly Chef Conference. It’s bringing together pretty much everyone who’s anyone in the scene for two days of panels, talks and demos, all with an eye towards putting local, up-and-coming cooks in the same rooms with the city’s best chefs (and allied tradesmen) and getting them talking.
This whole thing is being driven by Mike Traud--a former cook, chef, lawyer and, currently, program director for the hospitality school at Drexel--who told me that the inspiration for this came, first, from the panel discussions around last year's StarChefs event at Drexel, but more important, from the problems that chefs have with hanging out with other chefs.
"There's never time," he said. Maybe you get two or three guys together for drinks after shift one night, but there's never a time or place for a whole bunch of chefs to gather and talk about chef-ly things. At least not until now.
The conference is going to cover topics as diverse as restaurant law, running a BYO (and making it pay), how to open a restaurant, how to build a wine list, food trucks, food TV, beer pairing, food writing, marketing Philly's food scene to a national audience and principles of restaurant design. And each of these panels and discussions is just packed with local talent--from Justin Bogle talking about turning Le Bec Fin into Avance and Michael Solomonov talking to students about how to turn a culinary degree into an actual job to Erin O'Shea, Audrey Claire Taichman, Ellen Yin, Barbie Marshall and Claire Pelino all speaking on women in the restaurant industry and Eli Kulp and Joe Cicala doing a pasta demo and playing with a new Arcobaleno pasta machine--which should be pretty cool no matter what.
Here's the official word on what Traud and Drexel are trying to accomplish with their inaugural conference:
Last year, Drexel hosted a panel discussion for the Philadelphia StarChefs panel. What spawned from this dialogue among the young chefs in Philadelphia was the idea for an annual forum where cooks and chefs unite to discuss the issues they face in the industry and to spur the creative process through expert-led discussions about food and technique. The Philly Chef Conference is aimed towards students, cooks, and chefs who look to eventually evolve into owning their own restaurant and need to know the next steps toward making it happen. This year’s conference will guide the future of our industry, helping them with business plans, law, and public relations amongst other topics. The Conference also focuses on issues for students who are just entering the culinary field.
So it all sounds awesome, right? But here's the kicker: There are NO CIVILIANS being allowed at the conference. This is industry-only. "For chefs, by chefs" is their motto, and no one who isn't working in the industry is going to be allowed to attend--thereby keeping it from devolving into one of those things where everyone is just clustering up around Nick Elmi to talk about Top Chef or pestering Solomonov for last-minute reservations at Zahav.
The first batch of tickets has already been sold to the crews of the restaurants participating in the conference, but Traud let me know that there are a limited number of tickets to the two-day event being held open right now for other industry personnel who want to attend. They're going for $195 for full access on both days. Details can be found on the event website, phillychefconference.com, and that's where you'll go for tickets, too, starting at noon today.
If you're interested, I'd get over there now. By design, the conference is being kept small, and the pool of available tickets is both finite and countable with fingers and toes.
So what are you waiting for?
Philly Chef Conference [Official]