Culinary Arts Career Conference

Thursday October 4, 2018
Palmer Events Center

The Culinary Arts Career Conference (CACC) was developed to give Central Texas high school culinary arts students the opportunity to learn and gain inspiration through direct connection to people from a wide spectrum of career paths in the culinary world.

Culinary Arts Career Conference

The CACC offers a one-of-a-kind immersive experience for aspiring culinarians to interact with top culinary pros in the following ways:

  • Panel discussions featuring top local food entrepreneurs and culinary experts
  • Engaging workshops with artisan producers
  • Cooking demonstrations from high profile local chefs
  • Opportunities to compete with peers in cooking competitions and rub elbows in the kitchen with real-life cooks

Since its inception in 2013, CACC has hosted more than 2,000 students from over 70 Central Texas high schools, connecting them to more than 75 unique panelists, speakers, chefs and local culinary mentors.

Download the 2017 Culinary Arts Career Conference Program

Meet this year’s Keynote Speaker!

Alejandro Velez, Co-Founder of Back to the Roots

Alejandro Velez was born in Medellin, Colombia and moved to the U.S. in 1998 at the age of 11 with his mom and older brother. Alejandro was just fifteen when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer but battled the disease which has now been in remission for twelve years. Alejandro founded the Sage Mentorship Project during his sophomore year of college at UC Berkeley. Sage is a 1,000+ member non-profit that is the largest college mentoring program in California. The program matches student mentors with elementary school-aged mentees to foster life skills and personal growth. Alejandro graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a degree in business administration and a minor in education.

Back to the Roots was founded in 2009 by then college seniors Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora after discovering how to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. Back to the Roots has evolved from urban mushroom farming to a thriving business on a mission to undo food and reconnect families to it through fun, innovative, and delicious Ready to Grow and Ready to Eat products (Organic Mushroom Farm, Water Garden, Garden-in-a-Can, Organic Stoneground Flakes, Organic Breakfast Toppers, and Organic Stoneground Crisps). Back to the Roots currently sells its products in over 14,000 stores worldwide, including Whole Foods Market, Target, Costco, The Home Depot, Nordstrom, Petco, Cost Plus World Market, Loblaw, Giant Eagle, Wegmans, The Fresh Market, Crate & Barrel, Urban Outfitters, Safeway, and Kroger.

Alejandro and Nikhil have been honored with several awards recognizing their efforts in sustainability and entrepreneurship including BusinessWeek’s “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25,” Inc.’s “30 Under 30,” Inc. 500, Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” and CNN’s “10 Next Entrepreneurs to Watch.” In addition, Back to the Roots was named a 2013 Martha Stewart Top Ten American Made honoree and recognized by President Obama as Champions of Change.




Get Involved

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance needs your help to continue to inspire, inform, educate and connect these students to our culinary community.

A gift of $35 will send one high school student to CACC, and a gift of any amount would grow the impact we have on Central Texas students. Customized sponsorships are also welcome and encouraged!



Culinary Pros

The support of the Central Texas food community for aspiring youth in culinary arts is unparalleled. By taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in the Culinary Arts Career Conference, these generous local food heroes are truly investing in the future of our culinary landscape.

Past Keynote Speakers include:

  • Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster & Owner of Franklin’s Barbecue
  • Clayton Christopher, Founder of Sweet Leaf Tea
  • Hoover Alexander, Chef & Owner of Hoover’s Cooking
  • Jae Kim, Owner of Chi’Lantro
  • Kari Underly, Butcher & Owner of Range, Inc.
  • Rene Ortiz, Chef & Owner of Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon, Launderette

Past Education Panels Include:

  • Grub on the Go: Exploring the Food Truck Business
  • Landing The Job: Do’s & Don’ts in the Professional World
  • Making Big Ideas Happen: Entrepreneurs Speak Out
  • Starting a Food Business: Artisans & Innovators
  • Taking Charge: Success Stories of Women in Food
  • Will Write for Food: The World of Food Media

Thank You To Our Sponsors