Some of the nation's most influential players in the food-service industry have founded a new association benefiting corporate chefs and menu innovators from leading multi-unit foodservice operations. The Global Culinary Innovators Association (GCIA) board of directors and sponsors were introduced during the foodservice industry's largest annual gathering, the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. The launch took place during a networking reception at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago with more than 100 industry leaders in attendance. GCIA members will include company founders, leading culinarians, and marketing experts who are spearheading the menu innovation for their company within many different segments of their industry.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help establish what I know will be an extremely valuable organization for the development and enhancement of culinary careers throughout the industry," says GCIA President Bill King, corporate executive chef for Crave Restaurants. "In addition, with a focus on global culinary advancement, from procurement to menu evolution, we hope to have an impact on the dialogue between menu innovators and all manner of food vendors, growers, manufacturers, and restaurant professionals."

The Global Culinary Innovators Association is the second association designed for corporate chefs and menu innovators from the largest multi-unit foodservice operations. Its counterpart, the International Corporate Chefs Association (ICCA), focuses on the top 200 multi-unit companies, while the GCIA will focus on the next 200 multi-unit restaurant companies, many of which are the fastest growing chains in the nation. 

Ongoing web-based education, an annual conference called the GCIA Culinary Combine, and regional Culinary Connections for members will be held, with a primary focus on trends, current issues and topics that will assist in their day-to-day operations. Examples of programs or activities at the annual conference include: international trends, menu development systems, food merchandising, scientific research panels, flavor tastings, training techniques, innovation with products, and new technology.

The primary purpose of the organization is to form a network of the nation's leading menu developers from the growth chains in the U.S., with the purpose of advancing both the individual and their corporation they represent. The board of directors is indicative of the broad scope of the targeted membership.

The membership drive will begin in June and prospective members will need to apply and qualify for membership. A numbering system including the applicant's job description, size, and scope of the company will be evaluated. Corporate chefs and menu innovators from the nation's operators ranking 201-400 in annual sales are the targeted membership.

Founded with the help of industry veteran Kevin Ryan, president of MARKETING A LA CARTE, the organization has access to chefs, farmers, learning institutions, and manufacturing resources worldwide. A large percentage of members will have international operations and the need for new skills and contacts around the globe.

The first Annual Culinary Combine will be held in Seattle in November. Details will be forthcoming on the exciting educational programs from this highly influential culinary region. Doug Czufin, GCIA vice president and corporate executive chef for Egg & I, with help from the education committee spearheaded by Jeff Sinelli, founder of Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, will have the responsibility of overseeing all educational activities including the conference and development of programs on the Web site.

“I look forward to the stimulating discussions and interaction with the talented members as well as the innovative annual events," Czufin says. "I am also excited about the unique way this association has structured the interaction with their highly respected sponsors. Involvement with the GCIA will truly be a productive learning experience."

Tavistock Restaurants culinary director Patrick Quakenbush will be the GCIA Treasurer and assist in the selection of the financial planning professionals and all budgeting activities, and Secretary Tim Griffin, director of culinary innovation for Ignite Brand’s Brick House Tavern + Tap, will oversee the creation of the website. The officer selections were a result of an election process by the board of directors at the inaugural board meeting in December 2013.

Global Culinary Innovators Association Board of Directors:

  • Bill King, President; Corporate Executive Chef, Crave
  • Doug Czufin, Vice President; Corporate Executive Chef, Egg & I
  • Tim Griffin, Secretary; Director of Culinary Innovation, Brick House Tavern & Tap
  • Patrick Quakenbush, Treasurer; Culinary Director, Tavistock Restaurant Group
  • Mark Lewis; Quality Assurance Representative, Burgerville
  • Jeff Sinelli; Founder and Chief Vibe Officer, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches
  • Kimberly Myers; Vice President of Marketing, zPizza
  • Bill Hancox; Vice President of Purchasing and International Development, Boston Pizza Restaurants
  • Matt McMillin; Director of Culinary and Beverage Operations, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants

Many leading food manufacturers and trade association marketing boards have lent their support to help this association become a reality. There are two levels of sponsorship available for food, beverage, equipment, or service organizations to support these dynamic corporate chefs with their mission. Their generous donations have helped establish the organization and fully funded the activities leading up to the membership drive beginning in June. 

Founding and Corporate Sponsors announced include:

Founding Sponsors: Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, California Avocado Commission, Dole Packaged Foods, Idaho Potato Commission, Meat & Livestock Australia, National Pork Board, Sweet Street Desserts, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wrigley Foodservice

Corporate Sponsors: Barilla, Illes Seasonings & Flavors, Kagome, The Mushroom Council, Vulcan Food Equipment Group

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