New faces in the food and hospitality industry to speak at the Symposium

Beyond the headline celebrity chefs including David Chang and Jock Zonfrillo, The World Gourmet Symposium has a line-up of exceptional talent from the worlds of business, technology and leadership as well as visionary hospitality entrepreneurs who will share their experience and life lessons.

Robert Laing, Farm.One

Rob Laing describes himself as a technology guy who loves food. He is the founder of Farm.One, an indoor vertical farm in the middle of New York’s financial district, which grows rare herbs and greens which can be cut, packed and delivered to chef customers around the city (usually by bicycle) within a few hours.

The Australian entrepreneur moved to New York City to follow his passion and skill as a tech start-up founder. As his lifestyle changed to be plant-based, he also saw a need for restaurants in New York (and elsewhere) to adapt to consumer demand and be able to access any herb or plant they want in any season at any time.

An inspirational presenter, Rob will talk about the lessons he learned from turning his idea into reality. He’ll advise on how to keep going despite the challenges that you face, and the rewards of persistence. Farm.One is emblematic of how food supply for hospitality has changed, how specialised farms – including urban farms – are enabling restaurants to adapt to consumer demand, be agile and create the menus they want.

Asim Hussain, Director, Black Sheep Group

Asim Hussain opened his first eatery in Hong Kong in 2012. He had grown up eating and working in his father’s Hong Kong restaurants during summers home from school in Pakistan and developed a love affair with the storytelling and hospitality of the restaurant industry. After studying finance and international relations in the United States and working in finance in New York, the restaurant world lured him back.  Immersing himself in restaurants in Hong Kong, he met Christopher Mark and in 2012 they opened their first eatery. Seven years later he has more than 20 venues in the Black Sheep Restaurants portfolio, including two – New Punjab Club and Belon – that hold Michelin stars. Their intention is to create a dynamic community and enriching team culture while telling compelling stories through food.

Scaling up your business almost always comes with growing pains, but Asim Hussain has managed to scale with purpose, passion and profit. He will share the secrets of how he manages to maintain the culture, quality and intimacy of his first restaurants, now that the business has grown to over 1,000 staff and more than 20 locations.

Catherine Rex, Head of Strategy and Planning, Google APAC

As head of corporate strategy and planning at Google, Catherine Rex is fascinated by data and how it can provide meaningful insights into consumer behaviour. As a passionate foodie, she is particularly engaged with how technology is influencing our food decisions.

She’s also interested in the analogue and digital collision of food and technology. For example, these days we don’t use maps to simply to get from A to B; instead we use maps predominantly to find, explore and check reviews on restaurants, cafes and bars.

At The World Gourmet Symposium Catherine will share her vision for how hospitality business owners and operators can use technology to market their businesses better. How will artificial intelligence and voice search impact food and food businesses? What will they have to consider in five years’ time, or even one year from now? What will the future look like?

Mike Weeks, CEO, Frontline Mind

You can teach any skill – whether that’s cooking, business building or marketing – but if you haven’t got the right mindset, you will fail. That’s where free solo climber and ultra-marathon runner Mike Weeks comes in. The former special forces trainer has coached clients, ranging from Haiti earthquake survivors to celebrity chefs, to reprogram their brains and behaviours so that they can take control of their own success and change their lives for the better.

Mike is fired up about the future of food. He’s well aware of the paradox of chefs working under intense conditions – long hours, stress, abuse in some cases – preparing food they’ll never eat, for customers they rarely see. He’s also concerned about the erosion of community and connection through food: people eating with their heads buried in phones instead of talking, connecting, sharing around a communal table or people working by day in boxes, driving home in a box to watch the box, eat from a plastic box rather than talking, connecting, sharing and experiencing flavour.

With mental health being talked about more and more in the food and hospitality industry Mike sees a simple paradigm shift: don’t overcook your food, don’t overcook your people. Learn to control and manage yourself, influence others, level up as a leader and inspire and lead others for optimized performance in the kitchen and beyond.

Join us on Thursday 14 November and be inspired by Asim, Catherine and Mike as well as hear from David Chang and some of the world’s top chefs and business minds.

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