Two hundred and fifty enthusiastically innovative people attended Roots 2017: Innovate from September 24th-26th, and here is how Farmer Lee Jones summarized the experience. “As we explored symbiotic relationships that exist on the journey from the farm to the plate, it was an exciting, even profound, experience. We shared ideas, listened to creative thinkers and worked together. It was inspirational, innovative and invigorating. At Roots, the most brilliant minds in the industry had the unique opportunity to be even more brilliant collectively.”

The event was emceed by Kat Kinsman, the Senior Food and Drinks Editor at Time, Inc. Additional notable guests included Susan Ungaro, James Beard Foundation; John Miles, President/CEO of Steelite; Chef Brad Nelson, Marriott International; and Chef Andy Ricker, Pok Pok restaurant.

Thought-provoking presentations were given over a two-day period, and Dr. Tim Ryan from the Culinary Institute of America offered an energizing keynote presentation about Creativity and Innovation using the concepts of music and art to inspire chefs and restauranteurs. As promised, he provided a keynote presentation unlike anything else that has ever been offered at culinary conferences.

During this conference, attendees were invited to reconsider virtually everything they think and know about the culinary world, including a chef’s work-life balance, how to follow your dreams while remaining sustainable and so much more. The information was presented in a way that encouraged everyone to be innovative day in and day out, year-round. “Possibilities are limited only by our imaginations,” Lee says. “Why, for example, do we only use the part of the carrot that’s traditionally eaten in dishes? What’s a better way? Why can’t we use the parts of a Brussels sprout plant that are normally considered waste? How can we work in harmony with nature while more quickly replicating what can take dozens of years to compost in a forest?”

The creativity of chefs and their willingness to share their knowledge has made the annual Roots conferences possible, and this allows people involved in the culinary industry to listen to and network with numerous other innovative professionals. For context, here is how Lee decided upon the theme of innovation for this year’s culinary conference.

“I think back,” Lee says, “to when the Spanish chef Ferran Adriá visited the farm a few years ago and I reflect upon the wisdom he shared. Chef Adriá is renowned for turning foods into foam and the New York Times said he belonged in the ‘rarified air of the gastronomic geniuses.’ I agree. But, Chef Adriá actually told us that he didn’t invent food as foam. Instead, the creation of foam, he said, was how he interpreted the food. What he’d done was to be innovative in the preparing and presentation of the dishes he’d created.”

Over the next several months, we will be sharing information gleaned during Roots 2017, and you will be able to follow along in this blog and in The Chef’s Garden blog. And, know that we’re already planning the 2018 culinary conference. If you couldn’t attend this year’s conference, we really hope to see you next fall. If you were with us, please put next year’s conference on your calendar!