Imagine being able to raise your hand and ask Barbara Lynch — chef, restaurateur, James Beard winner, and all around badass — anything you wanted. That’s the kind of access Randi Weinstein’s FAB Conference offers women in food and beverage.

Now preparing for its second year, FAB (June 10-12, 2018) just announced its 40 speaker lineup.

“Last year was way more successful than I could have ever have dreamed,” says Weinstein. Beyond networking, Weinstein has seen all kinds of connections made from the inaugural year. A group of FAB attendees in New York have stayed in touch and are preparing to hold their third FAB reunion dinner in January, others have had employment opportunities come out of the conference, but for Weinstein the biggest vote of confidence has been the number of speakers who asked to come back.

This year’s FAB will see 14 returning speakers. “I love the mix this year. There’s some great gems that are among the speakers,” says Weinstein.

FAB follows a two-track format where attendees can select the 101 course ($500) for those looking to grow in their F&B careers or the 202 track ($700) designed for the executive level chef or restaurant owner growing their businesses. The panels handle topics on everything from restaurant sustainability to sexual misconduct, a subject that’s just as timely this year as it was at last year’s FAB.

“Sexual harassment was huge,” says Weinstein of the 2017 FAB. But the way next year’s conference will address it will be different. “I consciously didn’t want a panel just on that. Because I feel that, I want to be really careful about how we’re talking about harassment. You could have a whole two days on it. It’s gonna weave its way, but I really wanted to talk about some of the positive things — culture in the workplace, leadership, the environment you want to establish and where you’re going.”

In that vein, FAB will have HR members from some of the biggest restaurants in the U.S., like Leslie Ferrier from Momofuku, on hand to discuss their own policies and procedures. Weinstein also cites speaker Martha Hoover, an Indianapolis restaurant owner, who will discuss developing a positive restaurant culture. “She’s looking at her next generation and how she can essentially empower them. She’s putting Indianapolis on the map and is a huge resource for that community.”

In addition to new speakers like Hoover, Weinstein has also taken feedback from last year’s FAB attendees to make some adjustments. Unlike 2017’s FAB, this year’s conference will not have special dinners with speakers. Instead, Weinstein is adding more cocktail hours to allow guests and panel members a chance to casually meet.

But perhaps the biggest change to this year’s conference is the addition of Pitch It, a closed room session with a handful of speakers where an attendee can pitch their restaurant concept.

“It’s an application process,” explains Weinstein. Only six women will be selected to pitch. But this isn’t exactly Shark Tank. Weinstein isn’t setting up the applicants for failure. “Patricia Duffy is going to help establish their pitch deck, business plan, and elevator pitch,” says Weinstein of Duffy, the curator Curator of Foodmaker Campaigns for Women You Should Fund. After working with Duffy, the panel will help the applicant see where they’re lacking and help them develop their plan. Those interested in applying to Pitch It can begin sending in applications on Jan. 15, the same day FAB Conference tickets and scholarship applications open. Pitch It and scholarship applications will close March 31.

And best get your application early. FAB has only 300 spots.

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