Log in

  • Home
  • Is Chicago the "Capital" of the Food Industry?

Is Chicago the "Capital" of the Food Industry?

  • 5 Dec 2019
  • 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Kent College of Law at IIT, 565 W Adams St, Chicago, IL 60661


Registration is closed

Chicagoland was recently called “the Nation’s Capital of Food & Beverage Manufacturing” .  But, what makes this great city such a hub and home base for so many looking to innovate, to disrupt, or to carry the traditions of food manufacturing forward?  About 4,500 companies call the metro area home today, employing more than 130,000 people - and, by all projections, the industry is continuing to adapt, change and grow!  

Join us for a conversation on why those companies wouldn't be - and shouldn’t be - located anywhere else! 

Our panel of food industry insiders will take a look backward at the history of how Chicagoland became the center of the food universe...and where food and the industry is headed in the future. 

A can’t miss conversation for anyone working in “food”!

Opening Comments:  

Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood & Economic Development

Samir Mayekar fills a newly created role designed to further develop and support Chicago’s neighborhoods. Samir has significant experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Samir previously served in the Obama administration in the White House and at a federal infrastructure finance agency. As co-founder and CEO of NanoGraf Corporation, a global manufacturer of advanced materials, Samir built a green energy company that continues to grow in Bronzeville. Samir has deep neighborhood roots in Chicago, having served as board chair for a community-engaged youth theater in Albany Park and a GRAMMY-winning music ensemble serving the Back of the Yards. He holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management, where he received the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. He also serves on Northwestern’s board of trustees. Samir is fluent in Spanish and married to Dr. Emily Mayekar, an orthopedic surgeon working at Illinois' largest trauma center serving Chicago's South Side.  

Opening Presentation:  Inventing Modern Food in America & Chicagoland

John Coupland, Professor - Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University

John Coupland is a professor of food science at Penn State and a former president of IFT. He is an expert in the physical chemistry of foods, especially lipid emulsions and crystals, and his research program strives to connect measurements of food structure with functional properties such as flavor, texture and stability.  Dr. Coupland is also interested in the social context of food processing and in advancing the status of the food science profession.

Panel Speakers & Moderator:

Marc Schulman, President, Eli's Cheesecake Company

Marc S. Schulman is President of the Eli’s Cheesecake Company, one of the country’s largest specialty cheesecake and dessert bakeries, located on the northwest side of Chicago.  The Cheesecake was the dream of Marc’s father, famous Chicago restaurateur, Eli Schulman, who created the signature dessert for his legendary restaurant, Eli’s the Place for Steak, and which made its public debut at the first Taste of Chicago in 1980.  Eli’s Cheesecake was named a Chicago food icon by the Chicago Tribune, Pure Wow and Eater, as well as being featured in all forms of media, including the "O" List, Bon Appétit, The Food Network, Vice/Munchies, The Today Show and Good Morning America.  Eli's has also had the distinction of going to Washington, DC and creating giant celebratory cheesecakes for the inaugurations of President William Jefferson Clinton and President Barack Obama.   

Schulman and Eli’s are committed to promoting educational opportunities and careers in the food industry through partnerships with programs for individuals with disabilities,  Refugee One, and the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, where Schulman serves as a co-chair of the Business Advisory Board.  Schulman is a past President of the Magnificent Mile Association, was the founding Chairman of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and with his wife Maureen, co-chaired  the Seneca Park/Eli M. Schulman Playground Committee which rebuilt the park and created a playground in memory of his father, a fitting tribute since the park is located directly across the street from the former site of the restaurant, now Lurie Children's Hospital.   

Schulman currently serves on the boards of the Illinois Council on Economic Education, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Lincoln Academy, The Happiness Club and the Chicago Cook County Workforce Board appointed jointly by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.  Schulman is a graduate of Northwestern University Law School and the University of Denver. He and his wife, Maureen, have three children, two cats and live on the near north side of Chicago.

Jacob Shapiro, Principal - Investments, Cleveland Avenue

Jacob Shapiro is a Principal on the investment team at Cleveland Avenue. Prior to Cleveland Avenue, Jacob was a member of the Consumer Investment Banking team at Robert W. Baird & Co. where he advised corporate and private equity clients on M&A transactions and provided other financial advisory services. Previously, Jacob advised high net worth families through various roles at Citi Private Bank.  Jacob also has extensive investment experience in the Real Estate and Restaurant sectors including in fund syndications. He has been an active investor and adviser to several young companies in the Chicagoland area. 

Jacob received his MBA in Finance and Real Estate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in History from Columbia University and Talmud (Jewish Law and Ethics) from The Jewish Theological Seminary. Jacob is active in several community organizations and just completed a four-year term on the Young Leadership Board of the Jewish United Fund.  An entrepreneur at heart, Jacob founded an event ticket management company in 2011. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the Chicago restaurant scene, reading non-fiction and rooting for the Chicago White Sox and Blackhawks.

Daena Rexho, Director of Growth Solutions, KeHE Distributors

Daena is a Director of Growth Solutions at KeHE Distributors, where she develops merchandising retail strategies based on data analytics/trends, consumer insights, and industry knowledge. Over the course of her career, she has partnered with large CPG companies in food, beverage, spirits and more. For the past 4 years at KeHE, she has had the opportunity to work exclusively with Albertsons Safeway and now serves other major chains across multiple formats including e-commerce. Daena received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Boise State University. In addition to that, Daena was the recipient of KeHE’s Unsung Hero Award in 2017.

Matthew Bell, Managing Director, University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute

Matt joins DPI as Managing Director after spending six years with Chicago-based venture capital firm Cultivian Sandbox Ventures and nine years at the University of Michigan where he led efforts in entrepreneurship and technology transfer. He serves as DPI’s Managing Director advising the Director on strategic, administrative and operational needs of the institute. He works with the director to establish and execute the strategic and business vision for DPI while overseeing all of the institute’s managerial functions and operations.  As Managing Director with Cultivian Sandbox Ventures Matt helped raise over $250 million in capital, participated on several company boards and identified and invested into several disruptive food and agriculture companies.

At the University of Michigan Matt was the Director for the Coulter Translational Partnership Fund based within the Biomedical Engineering Department which provides close to a $1 million annually in translational funding to faculty originated translational research projects.  Matt also was a member of Michigan’s Office of Technology Transfer where he spent several years offering faculty intellectual property advice, regulatory guidance, business mentorship, and business development throughout the campus.  Matt has two degrees from the University of Illinois including a bachelor’s degree in Crop Sciences and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

(Moderator) Alan Reed, Executive Director, CFBN

Alan Reed is the Executive Director of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, a startup, nonprofit organization that brings industry players together, provides a forum for collaboration and support, and better connects the 4,500 companies in the industry across Chicagoland to drive innovation and growth in the region.  The group leverages the power of the food & beverage industry in Chicagoland to grow the industry, and the local economy.

Networking events with The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network are an opportunity to access an inclusive network dedicated to bringing together all of the industry players of the greater Chicagoland area to develop meaningful and mutually beneficial business connections.  The event provides a great opportunity to enjoy drinks and appetizers and an opportunity to mingle - forging new connections and circling back with contacts from other events, all while experiencing the power of the CFBN network!

Happy Hour beverages and light refreshments will be provided.

We are very appreciative of our event sponsors and partners for this event:

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software