PX+ Festival: Celebrating & Challenging Hospitality

People in the hospitality industry are great at eating, drinking and enjoying each other’s company––and now we’re starting to get just as good at discussing our industry’s issues as we are at celebrating what we love about our work. And the 2019 PX+ Hospitality Festival in England is the event where we can do both! This is so important, because the problems facing hospitality, like the climate crisis, diversity, mental health, and the integrity of the media, affect all humans, not just people working in our industry.

Table set and the team finalizes details for the service at one of the Chef’s Tasting Communal Dinner experiences in the kitchen tent at PX+ 2018. (Image courtesy Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

Whatever the challenges we face, it’s up to everyone involved in restaurant culture to make some serious changes moving forward. This year’s PX+ Festival is not only an exciting weekend escape for some of the most influential people in hospitality, but CulEpi is proud to announce that this year, we’re co-producing PX+ ‘Let’s Talk About It’ – a series of candid conversations that will take center stage at the event.

At the PX+ Hospitality Festival, in the “Let’s Talk About It” Barn, a frank discussion about challenges facing the industry, led by CulEpi Founder & Editor-in-Chief Regina Varolli (far left), with panelists (second from left to right) Anna Sulan Masing, co-curator of Voices at the Table, Alexa Welsh of Netflix’s 42 Grams documentary, Rob Rose, Director of Core by Clare Smyth, and Martin Morales, founder of CevicheUK and BBC host (Image Marie Holm | CulEpi)

This three-day long festival will take place August 17-19 at Duchess Farms in Sawbridgeworth, UK. Prior to last year’s PX+ Festival, founder Katie Bone wrote a piece for CulEpi discussing the motivations behind its creation. “The founders of PX+ want to grow a community that supports rather than competes with each other,” Katie wrote. “It’s time to treat each other as well as we treat our own customers.”

Dining al fresco for one of the many chef’s table dinners at PX+ Festival 2018 (Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

Treating each other well, in PX+ terms, comes in the form of an all-encompassing outdoor retreat with incredible food, wine, panels, drinks, workshops, live music, entertainment, and even a rejuvenation tent.

CulEpi’s Editor-in-Chief, Regina Varolli attended last year’s event and has been working tirelessly alongside Co-Directors Katie Bone and Isabel Kelly to put together this year’s thought-provoking panel lineup. “PX+ is an awesome experience and it’s just fantastic to be involved on such a deep level,” Regina exclaimed. “On top of that, I’m just really excited to get back out on Duchess Farms, relax in nature, hang out with fun people and eat some amazing food!”

An Isle of Mull scallop cooked over a wood-fired grill with a dulse beure blanc by Jonny Bone of Core by Clare Smyth at the 2018 PX+ Festival (Image courtesy Regina Varolli | CulEpi)
The inside of Jonny Bone’s delicious scallop dish from above (Image courtesy Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

While celebration is the overall vibe of the weekend, we are all eager to hear from the rockstar team of panelists who will be hitting the main stage.

“I’m so honored to be co-producing Let’s Talk About It at the PX+ Hospitality Festival this year,” Regina continued. “I’m super proud of the lineup of speakers! We have so many amazing people participating, and it’s a really diverse group who will bring great insights on these important topics.”

Below is the complete list of Let’s Talk About It topics and the influencial panelists we’ll hear from this year.

Investigating the Investigators: Food Media in the Age of Awards, IG and Click-Bait: What do we want the food landscape to look like as we fight against the pressures of social media, popularity contests, the lure of celebrity chefs, and the demand for advertising dollars? Panelists include: (Host) Regina Varolli of CulEpi; Clare Smyth of Core by Clare Smyth; Lisa Markwell of CODE Hospitality; Howard Chua-Eoan of Bloomberg; and Will Goldfarb of Room4Dessert

Clare Smyth of Core by Clare Smyth, who last year was named “World’s Best Female Chef” with CulEpi Founder and Editor-in-Chief Regina Varolli, snapping a selfie after speaking together on a panel at last year’s PX+ Hospitality Festival. This year, Regina will host the media panel “Investigating the Investigators” and Clare will be a panelist. (Image Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

Give & Take: Swapping Ideas with Other Industries to Benefit Us All: An open exchange of innovative ideas and best-practices across industry lines can help everyone create better workplaces, better business models, happier teams and a better future. Panelists include: (Host) Anne de Kerckhove, CEO of Freespee; Danny Pecorelli of Exclusive Hotels and Venues Group; Henrietta Lovell of Rare Tea Company; and attorney Razwana Akram.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall: Striving for Inclusion and Community in A Divisive World: Brexit, Trump, the rise in anti-Semitism, vilifying immigrants and refugees, marginalizing women…there are many expressions on the ugly face of exclusion. Let’s instead show the world, by our own example, what it really means to be hospitable. Panelists include: Ravneet Gill, pastry chef and founder of CounterTalk; Santiago Lastra of Kol, formerly Noma; Mohammed Rahimeh of Mo’s Eggs and Refugee Food Festival; and Céline Nasution of Ferrandi Paris

Santiago Lastra cooking in the courtyard at PX+ Hospitality Festival 2018. This year Santiago will join Let’s Talk About It on the Main Stage as a panelist discussing diversity on the “United We Stand” panel. (Image Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

Don’t Keep A Lid on It: Opening Up and Seeking Support in The Industry: Mental health, drug and alcohol dependency, financial issues, workplace bullying and harassment, the list goes on, and too often we don’t open up and talk about the problems we face. We’ll explore PX Listens as well as other sources of support for people in crisis. Panelists include: (Host) Jan Seymour of PX+ Listens; Merly Kammerling of Me, Myself and Mind; Jan Konetzki, Sommelier; Will Goldfarb of Room4Dessert; Victoria Stewart of Hospitality Speaks; and Andrew Clarke of St Leonards restaurant and Pilot Light Campaign.

The Brigade on the Brink: Harnessing Strengths & Overcoming Weaknesses To Determine Our Future: There’s a staffing crisis in hospitality. How can we maintain the many strengths of the brigade – like our work ethic and our passion – while eliminating its setbacks and save the future of the hospitality workforce? Panelists include: (Host) Regina Varolli of CulEpi; Jonny Bone of Core by Clare Smyth; Emma Underwood of Darby’s; Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins of El Jardin, San Diego and Top Chef; Peter Gunn of IDES, Melbourne

Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins cooking at last year’s PX+ Festival. This year, she is a panelist on The Brigade. (Image Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

See-Through Food Systems: Transparency, Impact, and the Demand-Driven Supply Chain: A deep look into the wide impact of our food systems (as chefs, consumers, producers, retailers). We’ll aim to clarify our understanding of the supply chain from a wider perspective and address concerns from fair pay, sustainability and food waste. Panelists include: (Host) Alexandra Welch of Harvester City; Doug McMaster of Silo London; Illtud Dunsford of Cellular Agriculture; Abby Rose of Sustainable Food Trust; and Franco Fubini of Natoora.

A Ticking Time Bomb: The Urgent Need for Industry Solutions to Combat Climate Crisis: No more making excuses or procrastinating, we need to be blunt about the very real dangers we’re facing, and we need to implement industry-wide solutions, even as they entail sacrifice and change. Panelists include: (Host) Alexandra Welch of Harvester City; Richard Dickson of Carbon Free Dining; Oscar Harding of Duchess Farms; Imogen Davis of NATIVE, Josiah Meldrum of Hodmedod’s; and Illtud Dunsford of Cellular Agriculture.

Roasted Cornish monkfish with artichoke, olive and coriander by Mark Abbot of Midsummer House at last year’s PX+ Festival (Image courtesy Regina Varolli | CulEpi)

I think we all agree that these conversations are long overdue, but there really is no time like now to challenge and inspire each other to achieve greater goals, make better choices, and stand up for what’s right, both within the industry and beyond.

This is something we take very seriously here at CulEpi, and it’s the fabric of everything we do here. “CulEpi shares PX+’s commitment to giving a real platform to the voices of the culinary and hospitality industry,” Regina added. “A place where we can come together and have meaningful exchanges and share ideas that can and will make a difference in not just our industry, but the world.”

I couldn’t think of a more fitting collaboration for our team than this exciting PX+ event, and I look forward to the sparks of change that are about to fly out of Duchess Farms this weekend.

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