C+RC’s Editor recaps the high points from the 2020 Chef to Chef Conference in Charlotte.
When we first announced a few years ago that the 2020 Chef to Chef Conference would be in Charlotte, North Carolina, I wasn’t super-psyched. Charlotte is a lovely city, but it doesn’t have the same allure as some of the other destinations we’d been to. No matter, though. The contracts were signed, and we were going.
Fast forward to 2019: We’re deep into the planning process and the ideas are flowing. Let’s do a local club tour. Let’s move Iron Chef to Tuesday afternoon. Let’s host a sponsor raffle. Let’s bring in a celebrity chef to keynote. Let’s talk about topics that we’ve never discussed before.
Every idea was vetted by the team. And almost every idea made the cut.
In the run-up to the event, we marketed all of those ideas, and attendee after attendee registered. Ditto for sponsors. The city didn’t matter. The content mattered. The camaraderie mattered. The opportunity to network, learn and grow drew hundreds of club chefs to Charlotte, just as it had for previous Conferences.
The event kicked off on March 1st with a riveting keynote address by Michelle Bernstein, where she discussed the drive and passion it takes to be a chef. I was lucky enough to sit next to Chef Bernstein during dinner. We talked about totally normal things, like how nervous she was, and how excited she was to talk to a room full of chefs, and how big the slice of cheesecake was.
Monday was even more powerful. Four insightful presentations preceded our first ever “Inside the House” club tour. Jerry Schreck, our National Program Coordinator for the Conference and the Executive Chef of Merion Golf Club, stationed himself at Carmel CC, while I hung at Quail Hollow Club.
Watching the staff at Quail wait for our buses to arrive was one of my proudest moments. The team was so incredibly excited to host us. Later, Jerry told me the Carmel team gave him the same feeling, too.
From Quail and Carmel, we all landed at Myers Park CC, where attendees were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour before ending up in the ballroom, where we were able to network and sample all sorts of innovative bites.
Tuesday’s presentations continued the momentum and touched on mental health and women in the industry. Then, after Chef to Chef Live, we concluded with the Iron Chef Cook-Off in the Grand Ballroom, where four two-person teams, staggered in 20-minute waves, battled for the title.
I got to MC the cookoff along with Tom Birmingham, CEC, Director of the Club + Resort Chef Association, which gave me a front-row seat to eight incredible chefs doing exactly what they love—albeit under immense pressure and scrutiny.
That was the “official” end of the Conference, but many attendees also stayed around for a tour the next day of one of Charlotte’s special attractions, especially for those in the culinary and hospitality fields: the city’s Johnson & Wales University campus.
All told, the 2020 Conference was unbelievable, and Charlotte proved to be an incredible host city. One that will be hard to top, in fact—but I know that with the team we have in place and the network of chefs we have supporting this platform, no idea is too big.
Austin (our 2021 site), we’re coming for you.