2018 Presidents Conference
Komal Ahmad

Komal Ahmad, founder and CEO of Copia, is solving the World’s Dumbest Problem by ending hunger and reducing food waste globally. Under her leadership, Copia has recovered over 1,000,000 pounds of food and will feed 2 million people this year with high-quality food that would have otherwise been wasted. Her company has managed food recovery from high profile events including Super Bowl 50 and the Oscars. Most recently, Copia served food to victims and first responders of the California wildfires. Copia has been named as one of the top 3 women-led startups in America and one of the top 8 startups graduating from Y Combinator.

Komal graduated from UC Berkeley with honors and was recently awarded the University of California’s Global Food Changemaker, 2016 Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Outside Magazine's “30 Under 30”, and a 2017 MIT Solver. She was also named by Fast Company as one of the Most Creative People in Business and by Toyota as Toyota’s Mother of Invention. She has been highlighted by Marie Claire as one of the most powerful and impactful women in business and was recently honored with the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award.

Follow her journey on Twitter @Komal_Ahmad and Instagram @KomalAhmad786.

Mark Allen
President & CEO
Mark Allen is President & CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), a McLean, Virginia based trade association representing the $280 billion foodservice distribution industry. Allen oversees IFDA’s day-to-day operations, including all initiatives in education, research and government relations and serves on IFDA’s Board of Directors, which is comprised of the presidents and CEOs of 23 major foodservice distribution companies.

Prior to joining IFDA, Allen served as the Director of Industry Affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an organization representing the food, beverage and consumer products industry. In his role with GMA, he was responsible for industry sales, marketing, foodservice and supply chain efficiency efforts.

Before joining GMA, Allen was a management consultant with West-Hudson & Company, a health care management consulting firm. He joined American Home Products in 1989 as a territory manager where he had direct sales responsibility for the mid-Atlantic region.

Allen holds a B.S. in Marketing and Economics from the State University of New York at Oswego and a M.B.A. from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He has served in various capacities on the Institute for Distribution Excellence, the NAW Association Executives Council, the Board of Directors of the Nation
Cullen Andrews
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Dot Foods Inc.
Cullen Andrews joined Dot Foods in 2003 and has held various management positions within Sales, Marketing and Supply Chain. He is Vice President of Sales & Marketing leading the foodservice, international, digital and eCommerce businesses. Cullen is a member of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, GS1 Industry Marketing Committee, and is on the Board of the International Institute of St. Louis.

Craig Barber
Chief Executive Officer
American Blue Ribbon Holdings
Craig has been with ABRH, LLC since October 2017. His responsibilities include leadership for the O’Charley’s and 99 Restaurant & Pub casual dining brands along with the Village Inn and Bakers Square family dining brands. ABRH owns 463 restaurants and franchises 97 franchised locations in 40 states. In addition, ABRH owns Legendary Baking which serves baked desserts and custom bakery items to restaurants, grocery retailers and others across the United States.

Craig began his restaurant career in 1983 with Shoney’s, Inc. after six years with Ernst & Young. He left Shoney’s in 1997 after serving as Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer with responsibility for all staff and administrative functions of $1.3 billion (revenues) (NYSE) restaurant company that operated and franchised over 1,475 (950 company-owned) multi-concept restaurants in 34 states.

Prior to ABRH, he most recently was a Denny’s franchisee and served for 10 years as Chair of the Denny’s Franchisee Association Board where he led a collaborative brand effort for alignment of priorities to create value and improve performance. Craig was born and raised in Nashville. His father served in the military for 43 years and was his mentor for leadership.
Ralph Brennan
Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group
The third-generation patriarch of the family whose name is synonymous with New Orleans cuisine, Ralph Brennan is steeped in the industry as a consummate professional. The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group owns and operates five restaurants and a catering company in New Orleans plus Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen®, a southern California outpost celebrating its 18th year of operations in the Downtown Disney® District at the Disneyland Resort®. Ralph is also an investor in three family-owned restaurants including the venerable Commander’s Palace.

A tireless advocate for the restaurant industry and for the city and people of New Orleans, Ralph is a past president and chairman of the National Restaurant Industry and has presided locally over both the Louisiana Restaurant Association and New Orleans Restaurant Associations. He has served as chairman of the board of the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center and is the first from New Orleans named to the Culinary Institute of America’s Board of Trustees. Ralph is also an active board member of Louisiana Children’s Medical Center (LCMC) and is a past chair and current board member of Children’s Hospital New Orleans which for many years has held a special place in his heart.

A hands-on operator and visionary leader who practices a “people first” philosophy, Ralph’s most recent projects have been the acquisition of two French Quarter landmarks – Brennan’s on Royal Street, his family’s premier restaurant (and home to the original Flaming Bananas Foster) which he and a partner purchased and re-opened to critical acclaim in late 2014 after a 16-month renovation, and the Napoleon House, a 102 year old café and bar on Chartres Street, home to the iconic Pimm’s Cup cocktail and toasty, warm muffuletta sandwiches.
Bob Carpenter
President & CEO
Bob Carpenter is the President and Chief Executive Officer of GS1 US, an information standards organization dedicated to helping businesses, government, and consumers share information more efficiently and effectively using standards. Mr. Carpenter is responsible for establishing and executing strategic direction for all GS1 US standards, solutions, and services, including its joint venture, 1WorldSync, which helps companies share and manage product data.

Prior to joining GS1 US, Bob was President of ARAMARK Healthcare, a $2 billion revenue business serving over 1,200 N. American hospitals. During his three years with Healthcare, he led over 13,000 employees providing food, facilities, and clinical equipment on-site services to achieve record growth. He also served as the Senior Vice President of Business and Strategic Development for ARAMARK International, a $4 billion revenue division with locations in 22 countries. In this role, he led acquisitions and strategic development in verticals such as healthcare, business and industry, and refreshments. He was with ARAMARK for more than five years, holding various senior leadership positions.

Bob’s career includes key leaderships positions in Marketing with Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals and the Johnson & Johnson / Merck joint venture, where he worked for 11 years both in the U.S. and abroad.

He served on the Board of Directors for Atkins Nutritionals Inc. from January, 2006 until August 2007. During this time, he led the Compensation Committee, while successfully repositioning the company for eventual sale.

Bob earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1992. He graduated from Middlebury College with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in May 1987.
Sima Dahl
International Keynote Speaker & Consultant
Sway Factory, Inc.
Sima Dahl is a marketing visionary who will revolutionize the way you think about branding. Her early career as an award-winning business-to-business marketer paved the way for the Sway Factor™, her ground-breaking model prescribing behaviors that generate more demand for who you are and what you do. Sima’s work centers around her belief that every person is a brand and capable of driving sales and attracting talent. Her success lies in her ability to transform complex theory about the intersection of Business, Employer, and Personal brands into simple steps that deliver results.

In her high-impact, action-oriented programs, she shows audiences from Boston to Budapest how to increase their Sway Factor™ number and stand out, stay relevant and be in demand. Business owners, sales leaders and corporate staff alike say that Sima’s bold candor, unfiltered honesty and "been there done that" relatability leaves them wanting more. When she’s not keynoting, you’ll find Sima consulting with a roster of forward-thinking clients including Allscripts, Assurance Agency, CDW, Harley Davidson, Medline, Orbitz, Walgreens, and United Airlines.
Kathryn Fenner
Technomic, Inc.
As a Principal at Technomic, Kathryn Fenner is responsible for managing and executing strategic research and consulting programs for manufacturers, restaurant operators and trade associations throughout the foodservice industry. Kathryn has more than 23 years of experience in the Food Industry, including Foodservice, Vending, and Convenience. While Kathryn has spent seven years at Technomic, she also worked for 16 years on the manufacturing side of the industry, beginning in sales at Kraft Foods, and leading to senior level roles in portfolio management, customer marketing and innovation at Kellogg’s.
John Flood
As a Past Chair of the IFMA Education Foundation, annual Guest Lecturer in “The” School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, recipient of the prestigious William J. Tobin award that honors an industry executive who has made notable and lasting contributions to foodservice education, John brings a unique perspective and passion around the subject of identifying, attracting and retaining the next generation of talent into the Foodservice Industry he loves. His experience in the Foodservice industry and ability to develop high performing teams over his 38 years in our industry is unquestioned. Prior to his retirement, or as he prefers to say “rewirement”, John served on the IFMA Board of Directors for three years.
LeAnne Garoutte
Tim Hand
Haley Jessen
Shamrock Foods
Donna Josephson
Corner Bakery Café
Donna Josephson is a dynamic results-oriented marketing professional with over 20 years of restaurant marketing experience with such iconic brands as Chick-Fil-A, Applebee’s, Wendy’s, McAlister’s Deli and Fazoli’s. She is currently Senior VP & Chief Marketing Officer for Corner Bakery Café leading marketing , product R&D and menu strategy, as well as off premise strategy and supply chain management. . Donna’s greatest strengths are her creativity, drive and leadership. She enjoys creative problem solving especially in areas that increase company sales and profits. Other passions include developing high performance teams and creating cross functional partnerships to drive results.
Phil Kafarakis
Specialty Food Association
Phil Kafarakis is president of the Specialty Food Association (SFA), a not-for-profit organization whose members are specialty food artisans, importers, buyers, and entrepreneurs. Overall specialty food sales in the U.S. totaled over $140 billion in 2017.

The SFA produces the world-renowned Winter & Summer Fancy Food Shows, the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty foods, the award-winning Specialty Food Magazine, and affiliated media platforms.

Kafarakis’ 35+ years of leadership in the global food industry also include executive positions at McCormick & Co., Cargill, Jones Dairy Farm and Kraft. Just prior to the SFA, Kafarakis served as Chief Innovation & Member Advancement Officer at the National Restaurant Association.
Daniel Karsevar
Plant Based Solutions
Daniel Karsevar is the COO of PlantBased Solutions, a mission-driven, strategic brand management agency helping brands develop, launch and scale plant-based consumer products. PlantBased Solutions has led strategy and marketing efforts for multiple category-leading companies like Gardein, Daiya, Miyoko’s Kitchen and more.

Daniel is a formally trained chef and restauranteur with over 25 years in the food industry. Most recently Daniel served as Founder & CEO of Solutiontopia Inc. where he served as Chief Problem Solver and “Co-Packer Whisperer”, developing products and connecting brands with third-party manufacturers and co-packers. Daniel helped brands innovate product development and scale their operations to regional and ultimately national growth. He launched award winning plant-based brands at Natural Products Expo East & West and has developed vegan products for Fortune 500 companies such as Unilever. Daniel served as President & COO for a successful natural foods start-up growing them from start-up to prominence as a national CPG brand. Prior to CPG, Daniel held senior management roles with national restaurant and contract dining groups and spearheaded restaurant and culinary concept development for Starwood Hotels Worldwide.

He is a Mentor and Advisor to food incubators and accelerators such as the Chobani Food Incubator and Food-X and New Hope and is a speaker in the natural foods community and a contributing writer to New Hope’s IdeaXchange. Daniel acts as Board of Advisor member for numerous brands.
Lisa Kartzman
Senior Director of Supply Chain
Lisa Kartzman has spent her entire career in the food industry, which now spans 35+ years. Beginning in the family deli and bakery business in Irvington, N.J., Lisa has always joked that she was born with corned beef grease in her blood and the smell of good rye bread in her nose. Lisa’s distribution background stems from 7 years as Director of Purchasing for Ciavarella Foodservice in Riverdale, N.J., and Senior Manager of Dry Grocery, Dairy and Non-Foods at A. Bohrer Foodservice in Moonachie, N.J. Lisa left distribution to work for American Roland Food Corp. to spend 15 years as their Director of Marketing and Public Relations. This well-rounded career allowed Lisa the opportunity to land a position with Shake Shack 4 years ago. She now serves as Senior Director of Supply Chain for all domestic U.S. locations. Arriving at Shake Shack when there were 24 locations, Lisa has participated in the expansion and significant growth for this dynamic chain, which currently has 132 U.S. locations. Lisa manages a team of four as part of Shake Shack’s Supply Chain Department encompassing food, beverage, disposables, equipment and smallwares.
Paul King
The Write Services
A journalist for 40 years, Paul King is the owner of The Write Services, a company that provides editorial services to corporations and institutions, including news articles, profiles and corporate histories. From 2006 to 2015, Paul was the editor-in-chief of FoodService Director magazine. In his career as a trade journalist, he also worked for Nation’s Restaurant News and Food Management. A native of Pittsburgh, he also is writing a book about his hometown, entitled “Iconic Pittsburgh: 30 People, Places & Things That Make The ‘Burgh Memorable.”
Ashlee Knuckey
Locke Lord
Ashlee M. Knuckey is a Partner in Locke Lord’s Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice group and Leader of the Firm’s Food, Beverage & Cosmetics industry group. Ashlee has also been recognized as an Emerging Lawyer by Leading LawyerSM for Commercial Litigation and Insurance, Insurance Coverage & Reinsurance Law (2015-2018) and as a Rising Star by Illinois Super Lawyers (2018).

Ashlee focuses her practice on complex litigation and arbitration, including handling matters involving breach of commercial contracts, fiduciary duty and/or the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent transfers, unfair business practices, successor liability, competition/antitrust issues, regulatory compliance and enforcement issues and all manner of insurance and health care disputes involving losssensitive insurance programs, insolvency issues and Medicare/Medicaid issues. She represents clients throughout the country in state and federal courts, arbitrations, mediations, and before state and federal regulatory agencies. She has experience with all aspects of the litigation process including initial case evaluation and risk assessment, discovery, depositions, pleadings and motions, hearings, pre-trial, trial, post-trial and appeals. Ashlee has defended and prosecuted numerous multi-million dollar cases.

In addition, Ashlee handles various corporate and regulatory matters. She regularly counsels clients on antitrust, competition and other regulatory compliance issues. She also assists clients in obtaining regulatory approval of acquisitions from state insurance departments. She also drafts and negotiates a wide range of contracts, such as non-disclosure, membership and customer agreements, both up and down stream.

What sets Ashlee apart from other attorneys is her business acumen. Ashlee’s business background has given her the understanding that all companies, even when faced with legal issues, must make business decisions, and the lawyer’s role in dealing with any transactional, regulatory or litigation issue is to assist the client in weighing legal costs, benefits and risk in making such business decisions.

Ashlee is also dedicated to all manner of Firm activities, serving as Co-Chair of the firm-wide Associates Committee, Chair of the Chicago Associates Committee, and participating in all facets of the Firm’s law school recruiting and the summer associate program for the Chicago office. In addition to those more formal roles, Ashlee also mentors the Firm’s junior and mid-level litigation associates, providing them the informal training and guidance needed to succeed. Ashlee was also the inaugural recipient of Locke Lord Chicago’s Mike Ditka Award.
Mark Kraner
Executive Director of Campus Retail Operations
George Mason University

Mark has been involved in Higher Education administration for forty-three years. Starting out in contract dining with Saga Corporation, moving into self-operated dining, to today being a contract manager.

Starting his career at South Dakota State University and moving through several schools increasing his responsibilities and becoming an auxiliaries director at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. He moved to Louisiana State University in 2001 and then to George Mason University. Today his responsibilities included retail leasing, dining, and campus card operations.

Mark has served on the Nacufs board of directors and is a past president of the association. He has also served as a regional president for Nacas. He has received awards from Nacas and Nacufs for his service and from Naccu for being a pioneer in the campus card programs.

He has been a volunteer in the communities he has lived in during his career, serving as a school board member, city councilman, and with the Kiwanis and Lions clubs.
Jack Li
Haiku Master
Jack Li spearheads Datassential's custom insights and new products initiatives. Jack has led hundreds of research studies for foodservice manufacturers and distributors across a broad array of topics. Jack holds an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA and is a 2003 recipient of the IFMA Sparkplug award.
Chris Martin
A founder of Tibersoft, Chris now serves as President. Over his 20+ years of experience, he has helped shape how the foodservice industry uses data to decrease costs and increase revenue. His current focus is leading the company to find practical, yet innovative ways of visualizing the data amassing within the OPTRADE community.
Ram Muthukrishnan
Vice President – Advanced Analytics & Consulting
Muthu’s area of expertise includes analytics, supply chain operations and consulting. He began his career at United and G.E. optimizing some of the most complex transportation networks. He then moved to McKinsey where he built an analytics center of excellence, the Global Operations Management Center, and led teams to solve high priority client business problems across industries and functions. More recently, he has been a C-level advisor with Cisco’s Consulting Services group and the Chief Product Officer at TADA Cognitive Solutions, a Midwest-based start-up, where he led the design, development and delivery of an innovative platform that allows enterprises to create a digital duplicate of themselves.

Muthu holds a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Southern Methodist University, where he also earned a M.S. in Operations Research and Engineering Management. In addition, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Madras, India. He loves golfing, traveling with his family, and photography.
Larry Oberkfell
President & CEO
Larry Oberkfell is President & CEO, International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), representing the foodservice manufacturing industry. He is responsible for overall leadership of the organization and the board which is comprised of 30 industry leading manufacturer companies. IFMA’s primary business areas are insights, best practices, and industry collaboration. Larry has been active in the food industry serving in President/CEO roles at Schwan Food Company, Anchor Food Products, Orval Kent Foods, and the SureBeam Corporation. He has participated in all channels of the industry; foodservice and retail. Larry serves on the National Restaurant Association Board and Advocacy Fund Committee, as well as represents IFMA with several other industry organizations including; IFDA, NCCR, GS1, and FSMA. He has an MBA from St. Louis University and a BSBA from University of Missouri. Married 44 years to Sandra Oberkfell, with two children Melissa and Thomas.
Kevin Otto
Senior Director, Industry Development, Foodservice
Kevin Otto is currently the Senior Director, Industry Development, Foodservice at GS1 US. He is responsible for driving the adoption and voluntary usage of GS1 Standards and GS1 US offerings within the Foodservice channel, managing all business development initiatives and customer relationships. Kevin has been with GS1 US since September 2013.

Prior to joining GS1 US, Kevin worked in various supply chain roles for large CPG companies. At Unilever, Kevin worked in several customer facing roles collaborating with companies like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco and BJs Wholesale Club to drive greater business efficiencies. At L’Oréal, Kevin led the team responsible for the global supply of all Ralph Lauren Fragrances, as well as domestic supply of several top European cosmetics and fragrances.

Kevin received his Master of Business Administration from the University of Arkansas and received his Bachelor of Science in Business Logistics from Penn State.
Joe Pawlak
Managing Principal
Technomic, Inc.
Joe Pawlak is head of Technomic’s Advisory practice. He has 30+ years of extensive food industry experience in both consulting and packaged goods manufacturing, and his experience covers virtually every food and beverage industry category and channel. Joe has been a frequent featured speaker for countless food industry events and conferences, including IFMA, and is often cited in a variety of business and trade publications including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and U.S. News & World Report. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio and CBS Radio and has appeared on CNBC, CBS News and Fox News, providing insight into food industry trends. Prior to joining Technomic, Joe held food technology management positions with the Campbell Soup Company, Marie’s Salad Dressings Division.
Dr. Morris Pickens
Sports Psychologist
After 23 years coaching world class athletes and golfers that have won four Major Golf Championships and 27 PGA Tour victories, Dr. Mo understands that business leaders too, face many of the same pressures and selectively began coaching executives to improve their business performance. He has proven that his processes translate directly to the needs of executives, and, has helped the companies he coaches to drive impressive performance improvement, while maintaining and helping to improve the overall culture. He understands the boardroom and the pressures you face and your need to be able to react quicker, but with the confidence that you and your team do not stray from your core values or mission. Helping you apply the same disciplines and processes with your executive teams and up-and-coming leaders that world-class athletes use to overcome fear and perform under pressure is Dr. Mo's greatest teaching asset.
C.Dennis Pierce
Executive Director of Dining Services
University of Connecticut
C.Dennis Pierce has more than 44years of leadership experience in the college foodservice arena. An accomplished food service administrator, his vision and expertise in college dining services has driven notable enterprise growth in resident board operations, retail, and catering service sectors. His achievements have been featured in Food Service Director, Food Management and Restaurant & Institutions magazines and has been the recipient of the National Association of College & University Food Services Association, Ted Minah award, the most prestigious recognition that the association offer and IFMA’s Silver Plate, Class of 2018.

Offering a blend of creative and operational strengths, Dennis has achieved exciting changes in college dining and is recognized for his success in the onsite marketplace. Dennis’s experience was founded on a strong culinary background. His college dining experience included employment with the Seiler Corporation (now Sodexho), the University of Delaware, Dartmouth College and the last thirty two years with the University of Connecticut. Currently as the Executive Director of Dining Services he is reorganizing his operation to prepare for increased enrollment and entrepreneurial growth.

Dennis’s exceptional track record of business improvement is based on his philosophy of total enterprise engagement in change. He is known for his creativity through marketing, commitment to sustainable practices and sharing the stories of UConn’s successes.

Dennis received his education at Saint Joseph’s College, Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut. He is a past National President for the National Association of College & University Foodservice Association and has resided on the NACUFS governing board in various capacities. Dennis has been an organizer of a local community sustainable farmers’ market and in 2011 and 2014 was awarded the State of Connecticut’s journalism award for his regular newspaper column, From the Ground Up – Buying Local In Connecticut. Dennis also received the 2010- 2012 University of Connecticut, Environmental Leadership Staff Award from the Environmental Policy Advisory Council
Rick Post
Chief Operations Officer
Compass Group USA
Rick Postiglione, well-known as 'Rick Post' in the industry, is the Chief Operations Officer for Compass Group USA. He is responsible for a distinguished portfolio of food and support service businesses in the U.S.; Canteen Vending, Eurest, Eurest Services, FLIK Hospitality Group, Gourmet Dining LLC, CulinArt Group, Mazzone Hospitality LLC, Morrison Community Living, Restaurant Associates, TouchPoint Support Services, Unidine and Wolfgang Puck Catering. Prior to his appointment as COO in November 2014, Rick served as the CEO of Contract Foodservice in the USA.

A 2007 International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) Silver Plate Winner and the 2006 recipient of Thompson Hospitality's Fred D. Thompson Sr. Award, Rick was also honored as the 43rd Distinguished Visiting Professor at Johnson & Wales University Hospitality College in Providence, Rhode Island in May 2005. He is an active member in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and maintains a Board position in the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management (SHFM) organization and in October 2015 was presented with their SHFM Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rick came to Compass Group North America in 1997, assuming Presidency of FLIK International. Working closely with company founders, Ruëdiger and Julie Flik, Rick helped grow the business substantially and was promoted to President & CEO of the Business & Industry Sector in 1999. In 2007, Rick's responsibilities were expanded beyond B&I and he was appointed CEO of Contract Foodservices. With over 4,000 locations representing $9 billion in revenue and 110,000 team members, Rick's "ownership" philosophy has sparked tremendous business growth across all of the Compass Group sectors.

Raised in a family with two generations of food industry tradition, Rick has been involved in foodservice for over 25 years. His career began at the age of 16 in his family's small retail store, Pastosa located in Brooklyn, New York and the rest is history.

Rick is a graduate of Staten Island College; he also attended Brooklyn College where he studied business administration, marketing and advertising.

Rick is married with four children and resides in New Jersey.
Hugh Roth
Senior Vice President - Chief Customer and Business Development Officer
PepsiCo Global Foodservice Division
Hugh is currently responsible for the strategic business development of PepsiCo’s largest current and prospective national and Global Foodservice chain customers, representing $3.0+ billion in annual sales for PepsiCo’s Foodservice division. Under his leadership, Hugh’s team leverages the best of PepsiCo to bring insights-driven innovation, breakthrough experiential marketing programs, and a diverse food and beverage portfolio led by Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Lipton Iced Tea, Starbucks, Lay’s, Doritos, Gatorade, Quaker and Tropicana, to help PepsiCo’s customers differentiate themselves in the market, drive revenue and profit growth, and create consumer loyalty.

A 29 year veteran of the food service, consumer packaged goods and services industries, Hugh joined PepsiCo in 2013. He has held various senior sales, marketing and general management positions with PepsiCo, ARYZTA / Otis Spunkmeyer, The Coca-Cola Company and American Express.
Nadia Salem
Director of Culinary
Oregano’s Pizza Bistro
Mike Schwartz
Vice President, Member Value
Alvyn Severien
CEO and Co-Founder
Alvyn Severien is the CEO and Co-Founder of Algama. Food lover and passionate entrepreneur, Alvyn founded Algama with two childhood friends. After several years of experience in consulting and finance, he decided to launch a company aiming to have a positive impact on the food industry. Algama develops tasty, sustainable and healthy products bringing Microalgae to their full potential. Since its inception, Algama has received multiple international awards for its products, its pioneering work on microalgae, and is now running operations in France and in the USA.
Dawn Sweeney
President & CEO
National Restaurant Association
In her role as president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, Dawn Sweeney has been instrumental in focusing the mission of the Association through a unique, multi-year strategic plan, highlighting key areas of opportunity within the restaurant industry. Since taking the helm at the end of 2007, Sweeney has led the Association in addressing a wide-range of issues, offering services and products that promote the industry, and helping individual operators and large multi-unit companies succeed. She has strengthened the organization’s core operations, including consolidating its Foundation around a mission to develop a strong workforce and build the next generation of industry leaders.

Sweeney’s 25+ years of marketing, advocacy and policy experience include serving as president and CEO of AARP Services, the wholly owned taxable subsidiary of AARP, and holding leadership positions at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a membership organization of consumer-owned electric utilities, and the International Dairy Foods Association, the trade association for the nation's dairy foods industry, where she played a key role in the launch of the “milk moustache” advertising campaign.

Sweeney has been named one of the perennial top association CEOs in the country for each of the past several years. She serves on the boards the U.S. Travel Association and the Women’s Foodservice Forum. She is also a charter member of Child Obesity 180, a unique initiative of private, public, non-profit and academic leaders who have committed to taking a leadership role in preventing childhood obesity through evidence-based initiatives.
Rafi Taherian
Associate Vice President
Yale Hospitality
Rafi Taherian is an innovative food industry leader with a passion for creating concepts that support and enhance food system resiliency. Rafi believes that campus dining operations can be a testing ground for positive and pragmatic change. He has forged collaborative partnerships within Yale University and in the food industry that have created a benchmark reputation in dining services for one of the most prominent institutions of higher learning.

Since 2008, Taherian has guided the continued development of Yale Hospitality’s well-known sustainability initiatives and robust, viable, culinary concepts by merging principles of a healthy plant-based Mediterranean diet with an operational approach that promotes regionally-based and sustainable food systems. He is a member of many industry councils and advisory boards promoting the integration of manufacturers and distributors to address the key issues facing the industry. In 2014, he hosted a regional conference focused on food system issues in and around the I-95 corridor.

Taherian has received numerous prestigious awards for his vision and leadership. These include Food Service Director of the Year award in 2013, the Illuminating Excellence and Leadership award from Premier, one of the industry’s largest procurement organizations, in 2014, Yale University’s Seton Elm-Ivy Award in 2016, and FARE’s 2016 Excellence in Leadership award. Ultimately, Taherian’s contributions were recognized by his peers in 2016 when he was awarded both the Silver and the Gold Plate Awards sponsored by IFMA, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (the Gold Plate is widely recognized as the most prestigious award in the industry).

Yale Hospitality serves more than 15,000 meals per day with a staff of 840; it includes culinary, service, management and clerical personnel. Taherian’s organization is comprised of three operational divisions with shared business and administrative support and an annual budget of $55 million.

Before joining Yale, Taherian was the Executive Director of dining at Stanford University. Prior, he held various management positions in the hospitality industry. As an undergraduate, he studied architecture at IUAV in Italy and later earned a hospitality degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Chuck Templeton
Managing Director
S2G Ventures
Chuck Templeton is a long-time entrepreneur who has a deep passion for helping early-stage, emerging entrepreneurs and companies across multiple verticals. As the founder of OpenTable and founding Chairman of GrubHub he watched as the internet changed how restaurants marketed to their guests. As an investor in several dozen companies, he has seen a lot of businesses be innovative and disruptive. Inspired by the promise of building a better future for his daughters, he has focused on using business innovations to find solutions to the most urgent environmental and societal problems facing humanity today.

Chuck joined S2G Ventures because of a deep-rooted belief that it holds a unique opportunity to help reimagine our food system to move from cheap calories to cheap nutrition, while also mitigating and adapting to climate change. A healthy and sustainable food system could both dramatically reduce our health care costs while regenerative ag practices can help reverse climate change. Because of his experience as an entrepreneur, he focuses his work there on supporting portfolio companies in operations, sales, marketing and team building. He loves problem solving with the portfolio, helping each entrepreneur reach their true potential. As an ultra-runner and former Army Ranger, Chuck is well-versed about the importance of healthy, nutritious food for maximum mental and physical performance. And as a father, a citizen and a business person, he believes the only solution that makes sense, is one with nutrient dense, affordable, sustainable and climate stabilizing food.
Mike Walpole
Director of Supply Chain
Mike Walpole is Director of Supply Chain for Chick-fil-A International, where he is responsible for strategy and development of supply chain networks outside of the domestic United States. These responsibilities include sourcing, inventory, distribution & logistics and supplier quality for Chick-fil-A restaurants in global markets.

Mike joined Chick-fil-A in 2009 to provide leadership to the Supplier Sourcing Team, helping manage a current $3.1 billion annual spend and ensuring the timely distribution of products to the company’s 2,370 restaurants. He went on to manage the U.S. distribution for the organization before formally joining the International Team to lead International Supply Chain.

His work experience prior to joining Chick-fil-A includes 17 years as Director of Engineering for BKI, a worldwide provider of restaurant cooking equipment, and United States Army Officer at Fort Rucker in Alabama where he served as a helicopter instructor pilot. He graduated first in his flight school class.

A native of South Carolina, Mike is a graduate of Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. In 2015 he completed executive programs at Harvard University and Stanford University.

Mike and his wife, Becky, live in Newnan, Ga., and have two adult children: a son, Michael, and a daughter, Shannon. He serves as an elder at Four Corners Church and is a member of the Foodservice Advisory Board for VantagePoint. He is an avid scuba diver – a sport he started in college – and enjoys diving with his family members, who are also certified scuba divers. His favorite dive sites are along the coasts of Bonaire.
Dr. Michael Wu
Chief AI Strategist
PROS, Inc.
Dr. Michael Wu is a passionate data science thought leader, strategist, author and international speaker. He joined PROS recently as Chief AI Strategist to help other companies outperform via the use of big data, machine learning, and AI. Prior to PROS, Michael has served as the Chief Scientist at Lithium over the past decade, where he focuses on developing predictive and prescriptive algorithms to extract insights from social media data. His research spans many areas, including customer experience, CRM, online influence, gamification, digital transformation, AI, etc. His R&D won him the recognition as an Influential Leader by CRM Magazine along with Mark Zuckerberg and other industry giants.

Michael has served as a DOE fellow at the Los Alamos National Lab conducting research in face recognition and was awarded 4 years of full fellowship under the Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. Prior to industry, Michael received his triple major undergraduate degree in Applied Math, Physics, and Molecular & Cell Biology; and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley’s Biophysics program, where he uses machine learning to model visual processing within the human brain. Michael believes in knowledge dissemination, and speaks internationally at universities, conferences, and enterprises. His experiences and insights have inspired many global enterprises and are made accessible through “The Science of Social,” and “The Science of Social 2”—two easy-reading e-books.