Give a Girl a Knife: Growing up in the Midwestern Kitchen 


Synopsis: Via personal anecdotes from the author’s life, and her journey from a small town in northern Minnesota to her career cooking in top kitchens in New York City, and then back again to northern Minnesota, Amy Thielen champions the underdog in all its guises. Her stories reveal the rural influence in the international, gourmet food scene and the importance of life's fleeting pleasures—including natural beauty, small family moments—the more mundane the better--and last but not least, dinner. 


Amy Thielen is the author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook The New Midwestern Table and the host of Heartland Table on Food Network. She worked for celebrated New York City chefs David Bouley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud before moving back home to the Midwest, and now speaks and writes about home cooking for radio, tv, and magazines, including Saveur, where she’s a contributing editor. Her memoir, Give a Girl a Knife, will be published by Clarkson Potter in the summer of 2017. She lives with her husband, visual artist Aaron Spangler, their son, his dog, and a bunch of chickens, in rural Park Rapids, Minnesota, and can be found on the web at and @amyrosethielen on Instagram and Twitter. 

The Midwestern Plant Based Diet


Chef John Byrne 

Kicking off the conference is John Byrne, Food Fanatics Chef for US Foods will lead us on “A Culinary Journey through the Continental Region” by incorporating new trends into our Midwestern diet.

John is the first Food Fanatic at US Foods in Minnesota. US Foods is one of the largest American food companies focused on foodservice. John’s focus is creating ideas that help his customer base and others in the industry to be on the “cutting edge” of all food concepts including recipe formulation, menu design, hospitality service, product development, and menu profitability.

Energy Management: Recharging Yourself and the Employees You Lead! 


Lori Mason

“As in many performance-driven industries, NACUFS members face increasing demands on their time and energy.  But people don’t work the way that machines do … continually able to contribute more, faster, and better than ever before.  While we may desire to stay sustainably engaged, many of us are running on empty – unable to exert the physical, emotional, and social energy required to perform at a high level.”    In this presentation, Lori will draw on her training as an executive life-coach, as well as her recent experience as the regional training manager of the Midwest Region of Whole Foods Market.  “At Whole Foods, we had the pleasure of working with Tony Schwartz and the findings of “The Energy Project,” a research-based organization that helped everyone from senior leaders, to operational or unit managers and individual performers regularly recharge themselves and the people they lead.”

It's about the Food: Tips, Tricks, and Trends


Market forces are shifting the ground beneath university food services, and most of them are far beyond what operators have the power to control. While they are hard to predict, they are easy to understand, because they all spring from evolving student demand for healthy, sustainable food. Major moves from the large food service organizations toward more humane supply chains, plant-based proteins and sustainable menus are just a few of the changes being dictated by student preferences. Join this panel of food service experts as they review the trends in plant-based dining and share how to deliver healthy sustainable menus that will help operators exceed student expectations.

Dr. Nancy Berkoff is both a chef and an R.D. follows a family tradition, with the study nutrition, dietetics and food science at Rutgers University. After several years as an RD in health care and education, she traveled abroad to complete a culinary apprenticeship then returned to the U.S.  to complete her MS and EdU in nutrition education. Dr Berkoff is a proud member of the Vegetarian Resource Group and currently divides her time, as a chef and a dietitian, between writing, consulting and training folks in the food service industry around the world.

Robert M. Zeit, MD, known as " Dr. Bob" to patients and friends, is a nationally-recognized radiologist and long-time proponent of healthy eating for a healthy, long life. Dr. Bob is pleased to attend his first NACUFS conference ( go, Continental District!) and looks forward to both sharing his knowledge and being enriched by the knowledge and life-experiences of the NACUFS members.

Ken Botts has over 35 years of food service experience. He was previously with the University of North Texas where he helped launch the nation’s first vegan dining hall.  His work has been covered by USA Today, ABC News, and Food Service Director Magazine. In 2014 he joined the Humane Society of the United States as a food policy manager. Since then, he has helped food service leaders around the world meet the demand for more sustainable dining through menu design, culinary education and concept development. His mission in life is to help make the world a better place, one plate at a time.