Published March 16, 2016
Culinary professionals from more than 100 colleges and universities across the Northeast and Canada are in Buffalo this week to celebrate the dining hall experience at a four-day, activity-laden, food service conference featuring a keynote speech by Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
The National Association of College & University Food Services’ Northeast Regional Conference, which runs today through March 19 in the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, is expected to attract more than 400 participants and generate $500,000 for the Western New York economy, UB officials say.
“Our conference theme is ‘You Be the Leader,’ and we are excited to welcome our colleagues from across the Northeast and Canada to Buffalo,” says Jeff Brady, executive director of UB’s Campus Dining & Shops, which is hosting the conference. “We are proud of the dining program we have built here at UB. This is a great opportunity to share how our students dine, live and learn while exploring all of our roles in becoming high-functioning leaders.”
The conference features three motivational speakers highlighted by Kelly, whose keynote address will be conducted in interview format by Bills play-by-play announcer John Murphy.
Food and its inspired preparation also holds center stage. The event includes sessions on such topics as nutrition and culinary trends, networking opportunities and “It’s About the Food: Tips. Tricks and Trends” in campus dining. There is also an American Culinary Federation-sanctioned Culinary Challenge taking place at Rich Products, and the Industry Showcase featuring more than 120 vendors at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Ten visiting chefs will compete in the Culinary Challenge in which the chefs must incorporate the featured ingredients of red rice, edamame and black kale into their dishes. The winning chef of the regional competition earns a spot in the 2016 National Culinary Challenge in July.
Brady says given the hundreds of vendors and campus dining professionals attending the four-day conference, the event can be expected to generate as much as a half-million dollars to the local economy.
“What better city to host a conference about food and food service than our own Buffalo?” asks Kristen Przybyla, conference co-chair. “Our conference goal is to promote high-quality food service by providing members with exceptional educational programming and numerous professional networking opportunities.”
The four-day event also will include tours of Crossroads Culinary Center, UB’s state-of-the-art dining hall and site of the conference’s final dinner.
UB food service workers, who organized most of the wide array of activities, used the leadership theme in creative ways. Conference “breakout sessions,” the smaller groups meeting around a food-leadership-empowerment theme, include “Management Make-Em Ups: Using Improv Comedy to Improve Your Work” and “It’s Not a Doughnut. It’s an Experience,” a seminar given by Tracey Eastman, senior associate director for content marketing, University Communications, on how social media and content marketing can attract more students and keep them coming back.
Additional program information, as well as the custom-made conference promotional video, can be found on the conference website.