Forward Food – Sustainable Food Systems Student Conference

On Saturday March 16th a team of University of Guelph students from the School of Hospitality, Food, and Tourism Management will be holding a conference on food systems.  The conference, “Forward Food“, will host 100 hospitality and culinary students from colleges and universities across the province.

The student team has assembled a world class field of speakers to educate, and discuss, how relevant food topics such as plant-based menus, food waste, and sustainable seafood are related to the world of food-service.

The conference is being funded by the Arrell Food Institute with additional sponsorship from Earls’ Kitchen and Bar, The Neighborhood Group of Restaurants, The School of Hospitality, Food, and Tourism Management (Guelph), Lamb Weston, and Gay Lea Foods.  UGSRP is proud to play host and welcome all of the participating students, speakers, and faculty members.

Below you will find a bio of some of the great speakers the students have lined up for Forward Food 2019!

jon bloom

Jonathan Bloom, Author of “American Wasteland” 

Jonathan Bloom is a journalist, consultant and thought leader on the topic of food waste. Jonathan wrote the book American Wasteland and created the web site Wasted Food. He has spoken on food waste from New York to New Zealand and has consulted with the United Nations FAO, Harvard Law School, NRDC, General Mills, and Minneapolis Public Schools. Most recently, he helped create Food Matters, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s free educational resource. In 2017, he was an Expert-in-Residence at Concordia College. A Boston native, Jonathan now lives Durham, NC, with his wife, two sons and many, many containers for leftovers.

shanna munro

Shanna Munro, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada

With a career in the foodservice industry that spans more than 25 years, Shanna has earned a reputation as a dynamic visionary. She won’t hesitate to agitate the status quo to bring the strategic transformations required to gain competitive advantage and secure long-term sustainable growth. She excels at providing financial and strategic guidance to diverse business concerns, engineering economic models, and orchestrating brand plans that impart energy and focus throughout the organization. Dead set on the target, she delivers with passion and resolve.

Shanna brings her talent and stamina to Restaurants Canada, uniting the supply chain for an industry that generates more than $84 billion a year in economic activity, employs 1.2 million Canadians, and serves more than 18 million customers every day. One of Restaurants Canada’s most value-added annual initiatives is the RC Show, a state-of-the-art forum where food-service operators explore innovative equipment and products, menu ideations, and leading-edge trends: an industry must.



Long-time sustainable seafood ambassador Ned Bell is the Ocean Wise executive chef based at the Vancouver Aquarium. Bell’s cooking philosophy is globally inspired and locally created. His love of sport, travel and adventure have taken him around the world, creating memorable experiences and cooking up a storm along the way.

With the support of the Ocean Wise seafood program, Bell founded Chefs for Oceans in 2014 to raise awareness about sustainable seafood by riding his bike across Canada. Bell’s dedication to sustainable seafood has inspired many Canadian chefs to get involved in the cause – a movement that is having a meaningful impact on the way consumers think about the seafood they eat, where it comes from and how they, too, can help protect our oceans by making ocean-friendly seafood choices.  Bell was recently awarded the Global Seafood Award for Advocacy at the 2017 Seaweb Seafood Summit. His ongoing efforts have landed him another nomination for this same global award to be announced this summer in Seattle. This recognition, paired with Bell’s diverse British Columbia upbringing, instills a passion for fresh, sustainable and locally sourced cuisine.

He has experience working in some of the country’s top kitchens and was, most recently, executive chef of Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and YEW seafood + bar, a proud Ocean Wise partner. Bell’s diverse background includes seven seasons on Food Network Canada’s Cook Like a Chef and he has been recognized as Canada’s Chef of the Year at Food Service and Hospitality magazine’s 2014 Pinnacle Awards, Best Overall and Rising Star by Where magazine and Top 40 Foodies Under 40 by Western Living magazine in 2008.


Dela Karimi – Supply Chain PepsiCo Canada

Dela has been in the food and beverage industry for the past 8 years with PepsiCo. She has spent the first half of her PepsiCo career on the food side at FritoLay and the second half on the Beverage side all within manufacturing however various roles in production, maintenance, and project executions. Prior to PepsiCo, she spent 4 years in Engineering Consulting at Giffles IBI Group leading electrical portion of engineering design projects for commercial and industrial clients. Dela started her career after graduating from Ryerson University in Electrical Engineering at GM Canada in Oshawa then later she got her MBA from Laurier University.

She also leads the National Canadian Million Women’s Mentor (MWM) as part of STEM for PepsiCo Beverages; Dela has a passion for inspiring and empowering young females to their full potential and create more diversity in the workforce.


Dr. Simon Somogyi, Arrell Food Institute (University of Guelph)

Dr Simon Somogyi is the Arrell Chair in the Business of Food and a faculty member in the College of Business and Economics.

He was previously an Associate Professor in Agri-food Value Chain Management in the Department of Business & Social Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada and is an Honorary Senior Fellow in Agribusiness in the School of Agriculture & Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia. He has a PhD in Agribusiness Marketing from the University of Adelaide, Australia and he is a teacher and researcher in the area of agri-food value chains, food business sustainability and international market development.


Maggie Skelton, Sous Chef at Planta

Maggie Skelton learned how to cook at the young age of 10 and by the time she was in high-school, she was in charge of the dinner table. Following a stint at chef Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy restaurant in New York, Skelton developed a love for veggies and was drawn to plant-based cooking. Today, Skelton is Sous Chef at one of the city’s hottest restaurants, Planta, where diners are introduced to new perspectives on plant-based cooking.


Chef Daniel Hadida, The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette

Chef Daniel Hadida originally joined Pearl Morissette as the vineyard’s Chef in 2015. Inspired by the environment and the importance of small organic farming, Hadida introduced the idea of opening a restaurant at the winery. The idea later came to fruition and the culinary experience at the Restaurant at Pearl Morissette reflects the integrity of the local ingredients.  Prior to joining Pearl Morissette, Hadida held esteemed positions at premier restaurants worldwide. For three years, Hadida worked as the Chef Tournant at Toronto’s highly rated Nota Bene restaurant. Yearning to travel and learn more about the culinary arts, Hadida made his way to Europe where he worked as a Chef at Le Châteaubriand and after, as a Pastry Chef at the Michelin-starred Septime, two of Paris’ trendiest restaurants.

Hadida spent time working on organic and biodynamic farms around France and Belgium – some of the most significant experiences he’s had in terms of influencing the operations at The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette and impacting its success in terms of cultivating relationships with farmers and producers. After returning to Canada and working at Edulis restaurant for ten months, Hadida moved to South America, where he worked as a cook at the Pujol Restaurant and at Central in Lima. Above all else, from these experiences, Hadida learned that he was ready to run a restaurant.


Court Desautels, President of the Negihbourhood Group

Court Desautels is the President of the Neighbourhood Group of Companies, a Certified B Corporation that operates various restaurants in Guelph & Kitchener under the names: The Wooly Pub, Borealis Grille & Bar (Guelph & Kitchener), Miijidaa Cafe + Bistro and Park Grocery Deli & Bar. Court’s previous experience in the hospitality sector has included being the Event Coordinator for Sleeman Breweries and managing restaurants in South Western Ontario and Eastern Australia. He is an innovative leader who has a vision of combining first-class hospitality with a dedication to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. His restaurants support local initiatives and use regional farmers and producers as their primary suppliers for their restaurants.


Molly Gallant, M.Sc. University of Guelph

Molly Gallant is a Research Assistant at the University of Guelph in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics. Since completing her Master of Science in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, Molly has worked on several research projects pertaining to food waste, food literacy, sustainability and workplace health and wellness. Believing in the power of applying academic research to contemporary problems, Molly is passionate about public outreach and education. She is a regular author for the Guelph Food Waste Research Project blog and Food Focus – a new platform discussing topics of interest in the food system through a blog and podcast series.

vijay nair

Vijay Nair, Executive Chef, University of Guelph Hospitality Services

Born and raised in Trivandrum, a city in the southernmost state in India, Vijay enrolled in culinary school after grade twelve. After three years working at hotels in India, he joined Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 1999. He spent the next five years travelling the world and gaining valuable experience with many large foodservice operations.

After moving to Canada in 2003, Vijay enjoyed opportunities to work at the Metropolitan, Four Seasons and Fairmont Royal York hotels in Toronto, Ontario. In 2005 he had the opportunity to develop a new concept Vegetarian restaurant for McMaster University. Bridges Cafe received two awards; The CCUFSA Shine Award for Best Stand-alone Dining facility at a Canadian campus and the NACUFS Silver Award for Best Concept Restaurant in a College/University campus.

In the fall of 2007, Vijay returned to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as Executive Sous Chef. He was an integral part of the team for the largest cruise ship afloat, the Oasis of the Seas, which accommodates 5400 guests and 2400 crew members.  Vijay joined the University of Guelph’s Hospitality Services in March 2010. Hospitality Services has been consistently voted best campus food in Canada for over 10 years in a row. Vijay brings authentic ethnic flavours and professional cooking techniques to his kitchen. He loves the challenges of menu development, kitchen organization, team building and large scale operations for college and university foodservice dining.

Vijay has won awards at competitions held by the Escoffier Society of Toronto, Gold at the ACF Competition at University of Massachusetts Chefs Conferences (June 2010) Gold and Peoples’ Choice Awards at CCUFSA Conference (June 2013), Silver and People’s Choice Awards at CCUFSA Conference (June 2014 and 2016). He also had the opportunity to be part of a team of Canadian Chefs who cooked at the prestigious James Beard House for a Food Day Canada Dinner in May 2016.


Dr. Carrie Herzog, Conestoga College

Bio: Dr. Carrie Herzog is a faculty member in the School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts at Conestoga College.  Her areas of interest include services management, sustainability in hospitality and tourism, and food and culture.  She enjoys maintaining ties to the hospitality industry to inspire both her teaching and research activities.


Ron Walters, Manager – Innovation and Product Development High Liner Foods

Ron Walters is Manager – Innovation and Product Development for High Liner Foods. He has worked in the food business and consumer packaged goods industry for over 35 years, 24 years specifically in seafood.

Ron has a passion for the outdoors – hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain biking, and birding. He’s a supporter of Ontario Nature, Canadian Wildlife Federation, and Ducks Unlimited. It’s Ron’s personal passion for the outdoors and the environment that makes him proud to serve as an active member of High Liner’s Sustainability Council since its inception in 2009. Ron has been married to his wife Cynthia for 25 years and they have two very active daughters.

lamb weston

Michael St. Marie- Lamb Weston

Mike has been in the food-service industry for over 25 years and with Lamb Weston for the last 10 years of that.  He has been the Sr. Sales Manager for Canada for a year.  Prior to that he spent 7 years covering Regional, Key and National Accounts across Canada.  Prior to Lamb Weston he has spent 7 years working for a Foodservice Broker in Ontario selling pretty much everything the foodservice world has to offer.  Prior to that he worked as a Dishwasher, Line Cook, Busser, Server, Bartender and Manager at various types of foodservice establishments which included independent operators and large national chains.  He is married with 3 kids and currently resides in Uxbridge, ON.


Dr. Mark Holmes, School of Hospitality, Food, and Tourism Management (University of Guelph)

Dr. Mark Holmes is an Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management in the College of Business and Economics. Mark also holds a Research Fellowship in Sustainable Tourism within the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph. He has over 10 years of experience working for quick service and full-service restaurants in various positions ranging form cook to management, and over ten years teaching for academic institutions across Canada (University of Guelph, Ryerson University, York University, Royal Roads University, and George Brown College). He holds a Philosophy Doctorate in Environmental Studies from York University, and both a Master of Spatial Analysis and Bachelor of Commerce in Hospitality and Tourism Management degree from Ryerson University. Beyond his teaching, Mark has conducted research for restaurants, banks, hotels, municipal governments, community groups, and marketing organizations, as well as publishing in the areas of sustainable and/or wine tourism (International Journal of Tourism Research; Journal of Sustainable Tourism; Journal of Vacation Marketing; Ocean and Coastal Management), food service (Journal of Food Products Marketing; Journal of Food Service Business Research), and diversity management (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal; Journal of Industrial Relations; Journal of International Migration and Immigration). Mark has also presented at several domestic and international conferences, as well as speaking at the UNWTOs 3rd Global Conference on Wine Tourism. Mark’s areas of research include sustainable tourism, food and wine, rural economic development, and diversity management.”


Rebecca Gordon, General Manager Miijidaa Cafe + Bistro

Rebecca Gordon has over 8 years of experience working in restaurants in a variety of roles. She currently is the General Manager of Miijidaa Café + Bistro where she is able to work with an entire team that is passionate about making the restaurant more environmentally and socially sustainable.  Rebecca creatively uses her power of having hundreds of guests come into Miijidaa every day to help educate them on the restaurant’s sustainable initiatives and to try to empower them to do the same at home.

Rebecca is a graduate of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph and it is there that she was able to first see and learn about sustainability in restaurants.

In 2015, Rebecca was named to the “Top 30 under 30” by the Ontario Hostelry Institute. She also currently sits on the board for Slow Food in Canada.

forward food

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