reThink Food: Mind, Behavior, and Culture is a new conference series co-presented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the MIT Media Lab to explore how people experience food—from the workings of humans' sensory systems, to the impact of new technologies on food systems, to the habits and rituals.

In its first year, reThink Food will bring an audience of 300 from the science, marketing, technology, food, and media industries to the CIA's Napa Valley campus, Nov. 7-9. The three-day program will include research presentations, panel discussions, tastings, culinary demonstrations, and a variety of sensory experiences led by world-class experts who include behavioral economists Dan Ariely (Duke University) and Michael Norton (Harvard University); scientists Stuart Firestein (Columbia University) and Howard Shapiro (Mars, Inc.); chefs Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood), Daniel Patterson (The Daniel Patterson Restaurant Group), and Maxime Bilet (Art for Food); Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss (The New York Times); inventor and author Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures); and CIA President Tim Ryan along with MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito.

At the most basic level, emerging brain and sensory research is upending what is known about how individuals develop biases in their food and beverage choices, whether it is at home, at the grocery store, or in restaurants. At the same time, understanding the complex factors that drive change in American food culture is critical to identifying openings for innovation. reThink Food will also review and reveal cutting-edge ideas in product development and marketing that are spurring growth in the trillion-dollar American food sector.

"From the latest chef-curated food experiences to robotics in the kitchen to the splintering of consumer aspirations, the pace of evolution of food in America has never been more kinetic than it is today," says Dr. Tim Ryan, president of the CIA. "The fresh insights offered by this inspired joint venture between the CIA and the MIT Media Lab will allow us to delve deeply into the possibilities of design, science and technology, flavor discovery, and entrepreneurship that are disrupting how we're collectively re-imagining what's next for dinner."

With over 10,000 years of innovation in agriculture and cooking, food represents some of the earliest and most transformational technologies. 

"There is no reason to slow down now," says Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. "We should be rethinking production, distribution, preparation, and the interactions of food with our brains and bodies. On a human level, we are beginning to understand taste and are shedding light on the multi-sensory activity of eating. Collaborating with the CIA, we look forward to bringing our unique research capabilities to the rich traditions and the remarkable future of how, and what, we eat."

reThink Food will provide crucial insights and strategies for those launching a new restaurant or retail food concept, researching cultural behaviors around cooking and eating, developing advances for healthier eating practices, creating new food and distribution technologies, or seeking to understand flavor preferences.

Industry News, Culinary Institute of America