Greg Drescher is vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where he oversees the college’s leadership initiatives for the foodservice industry, including conferences, invitational leadership retreats, digital media, academic and other strategic partnerships, and other initiatives.
The Culinary Institute of America (www.ciachef.edu), founded in 1946, operates campuses in New York (main campus), California, Texas, and Singapore; conducts professional development programs around the world; and currently enrolls 3,000 students in its various degree programs.
He is the creator of the college’s influential Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival (www.worldsofflavor.com) (now in its 20th year); the annual Worlds of Healthy Flavors presented in partnership with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health—Department of Nutrition; Healthy Menus R & D Collaborative; Healthy Kids Collaborative; Appetites + Innovation: Shaping our Future; as well as numerous other CIA “think tank” and change initiatives.
For the past decade, Mr. Drescher has co-directed a CIA-Harvard Chan School initiative, Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives (www.healthykitchens.org), to advance a new paradigm around food and culinary literacy, health, and lifestyle change within and through the healthcare sector. Each year the initiative stages a sold-out conference at the CIA’s Napa Valley campus of 400-500 physicians, healthcare executives, nurses, and registered dietician nutritionists. As an outgrowth of this long running program, CIA and the Harvard Chan School have recently launched the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative to “advance personal and public health through culinary literacy and integrative lifestyle transformation.”
In 2013, also in collaboration with Harvard Chan School, Mr. Drescher created Menus of Change (www.menusofchange.org), a national leadership initiative to foster innovation at the intersection of health and environmental issues, business imperatives, and culinary insight. The initiative’s Menus of Change Annual Report, developed in conjunction with the annual Menus of Change conference, takes a cross-sector look at the future of the $800 billion American foodservice industry and sets out a comprehensive set of Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus and an annual State of the Plate Dashboard on sector progress around key health and environmental indicators. Mr. Drescher recently co-developed a complementary initiative, the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, co-presented by the CIA and Stanford University (Stanford Prevention Research Center and Stanford University Residential & Dining Enterprises) in association with more than 50 leading American and international colleges and universities.
In 2014, Mr. Drescher and the CIA’s Strategic Initiatives Group created reThink Food (www.re-thinkfood.org), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, focused on “innovation at the intersection of technology, behavior, design and food.”
In 2005, Mr. Drescher was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, in 2006 was honored with Food Arts magazine’s Silver Spoon Award, and in 2007 and 2009 shared a second and third James Beard Award for his team’s work in developing the CIA’s “Savoring the Best of World Flavors” digital media series, filmed on location in food cultures around the world. In March of 2017, Foodservice Director magazine included Mr. Drescher in its “20 People Shaping Foodservice Today.”
In 2008, he was appointed by the President of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine to its “Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States,” whose final report was published in 2010. Mr. Drescher has previously served on the Board of Executives for The Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science at UC Davis, and the Board of Advisors of UC Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute and its Olive Center. Additionally, he has previously served on the Foodservice Board of Directors for the Produce Marketing Association. In 2011, he was inducted as a member of the Accademia dei Georgofili, Europe’s oldest agricultural academy based in Florence, Italy.
Before joining The Culinary Institute of America 23 years ago as its Director of Education for its Greystone (California) campus, he jointly spearheaded a multi-year collaboration of some of the world’s leading health experts and organizations—including the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the World Health Organization—in researching and authoring the “The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: A Cultural Model for Healthy Eating.” The cumulative results of this initiative’s research were published in a special edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1995), creating a strong platform for much of the academic, public policy, and media interest in the Mediterranean Diet that has followed.
Mr. Drescher travels widely around the world to track flavors, culinary traditions, innovation, and inspiration for delicious, healthy, sustainable eating. A profile in Bon Appetit magazine dubbed him the “Flavor Hunter.” He has conducted international conferences and other leadership programs on food, culture, and health in Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Singapore, China, and Vietnam.
He has participated as an invited speaker at numerous conferences over the years in the United States, Europe and Asia, and his work has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Asahi Shimbun, and hundreds of media organizations worldwide.
Mr. Drescher lives in Sacramento, CA, and is married to chef and author Mai Pham, founder/owner of the Lemon Grass and Star Ginger Restaurant Group.