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Chef Talk: Industry Innovators Reveal How to Cook Up Competitive Menus

Creative and high-quality menu items are the top things separating fast casuals from their fast food competitors. Predicting trends, however, instead of simply jumping on the band wagon is a fine art.

This session brings together several chefs who understand their customers and what offerings they’ll embrace, whether its matcha-covered grasshopper pizza or a new form of “bubbles” in their tea.

The experts will also share their strategies on how to develop, source and market menu items in a profitable and creative fashion.


William Eudy | Executive Chef | McAlister’s Deli

William Eudy brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to his current role as Corporate Executive Chef for McAlister’s Deli, where he oversees the menu concepts and kitchen operations for the company’s 380+ restaurants. Since joining McAlister’s in April 2015, Will has been responsible for bringing a wholesome, clean approach to crafting McAlister’s menu items from recipe development and sourcing, to the building of each dish. Along with a focus on handcrafted food and beverage offerings, Chef Will assists purchasing in the selection of quality products and strategic partners, while finding ways to improve current vendor relations and efficiency.

Brad Kent | Executive Chef | Blaze Pizza

Brad Kent has always focused on the taste and science behind food. He quickly learned that food was more than just ingredients put together. His natural talent evolved from dorm room creations as a marketing major at the University of Southern California to his first business as a tapas and small plate catering company. Kent studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and later earned a food science degree at Cal State Long Beach. After honing his craft on a private yacht, he opened Olio Pizzeria in Los Angeles. Kent is responsible for creating Blaze Pizza’s recipes and manufacturing partnerships.

Pat Peterson | Executive Chef, Beefsteak | Think Food Group

Pat Peterson is the executive chef of Beefsteak, José Andrés’ vegetable-centric fast casual, where he is responsible for menu development and back of house operations for all current and future locations. Pat joins Beefsteak with more than 27 years of experience in the restaurant industry and has developed menus and kitchen systems for large national brands. He comes to Beefsteak from Focus Brands where he led culinary research and development as VP/ Executive Chef for Moe’s Southwest Grill. Prior to that, he spent 19 years at Ruby Tuesday where he served in various operations and R&D roles, ending his tenure as VP of Culinary for Emerging Brands.


Jason Herron | Director of Insights & Innovation | Simmons Foods

Jason Herron is the Director of Insights + Innovation for Simmons Foods. Over the last decade, Jason has developed various observational-based research programs for clients that have gained Simmons many coveted thought leader roles and first developer advantages. Jason holds a B.A. in Marketing, Advertising, and an M.A. in Consumer Behavior. He recently accepted a fellowship with the iDNA Innovators program based on the NY-Times bestselling book Innovator’s DNA. At Simmons, he conducts custom primary research for the restaurant industry and frequently speaks and consults on a variety of topics surrounding the consumer experience. His mission at work is to drive more valuable engagement across his clients’ broad range of brands and market environments.

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