Chef Homaro Cantu Joins the UnleashWD Line-Up of Speakers

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Chef and owner of a Michelin-rated restaurant will speak at UnleashWD the only innovation conference for the wholesale distribution industry.

“When I started UnleashWD in 2012 I had one rule,” Dirk Beveridge, Founder of UnleashWD says. “I wanted no speakers from within the industry.

Why would a world-class Chef with a Michelin-rated restaurant speak at a conference aimed at the wholesale distribution industry?

A glance at the offerings at the Chicago-based Moto Restaurant provides a hint at the answer. Moto’s menu does more than whet your appetite.

It challenges your perceptions of how food should taste and be presented. Moto is less a restaurant than an experiment on blending food with art and experimenting with new techniques to enhance the flavor and presentation of the offerings. Chef Homaro Cantu describes his restaurant as a food laboratory.

Cantu started his culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu, but his route to Moto included working in nearly 50 kitchens on the West Coast to build up his experience and resume to the point that he could land a job at the world famous Charlie Trotter’s. Cantu earned the title of sous chef at Charlie Trotter’s before deciding to venture out on his own.

“Starting my own restaurant has been a dream of mine since I was 16,” Cantu says. “I like challenges and restaurants are always a good challenge. There is always something to reinvent.”

With control of his own kitchen, Cantu pushed the limits of what restaurants could offer. Moto’s food offerings have been “printed” on an edible menu that assumes forms including risotto, alphabet soup or a Vietnamese spring roll. This type of experimentation shapes the entire experience for diners at Moto. Depending on what they order, guests at Moto may be presented with a self-contained, opaque box made out of a self-insulated polymer, which has been brought to 350 degrees and is cooking the meal when delivered to the table. This innovative culinary invention cooks the meal at the table, and it is only a glimpse of the creativity that has set Cantu’s menu apart from others.

He was the first Chef to cook food with a laser, a technique Cantu debuted in Spain. At Moto, Cantu continued his innovative journey by creating a viable and economically feasible indoor farm within the restaurant. This innovation has turned Moto into more than just a restaurant. It is a model of sustainable local food in an urban environment.

My business model is simple, provide a delicious experience that we have never seen, heard of or thought of,” Cantu says. “As long as we do that, we will be relevant.”

While this goal might seem lofty, Cantu has been able to continuously challenge perceptions and dazzle taste buds while breaking need ground in fine dining. Cantu opened the restaurant iNG, which stands for Imagining New Gastronomy. iNG promises diners a “flavor-tripping” experience, which means that the flavors change in depth and scope while dining.

Cantu’s innovations have allowed him to step outside of the kitchen. He has been featured on “Good Morning America” and on the Discovery Channel’s “Future Foods.” Cantu spoke at TED conference, and he will continue to share his innovative journey at UnleashWD, the only innovation summit for the wholesale distribution industry.

“Anything dealing with innovation is interesting to me,” Cantu says. “Food or not.”

UnleashWD offers a format that Cantu should be familiar with. The TED inspired conference brings in 18 speakers from outside of the wholesale distribution industry to “lift and shift” the best ideas from other industries.

“When I started UnleashWD in 2012 I had one rule,” Dirk Beveridge, Founder of UnleashWD says. “I wanted no speakers from within the industry. I could not envision that this stance would lead me to Chef Cantu’s kitchen, but I could not be more pleased that it has.”

At the end of the first day of the innovation summit on Oct. 29, a group of attendees, speakers and sponsors will dine with former Allied Supreme Commander at NATO Admiral (Ret.) James Stavaridis. Stavaridis will give the keynote address at the Oct. 30 session of UnleashWD.

“Chef Cantu is showing that innovation can change any industry,” Beveridge says.

Cantu wanted to speak at UnleashWD to teach a new audience about the possibilities of new and better food offerings. Food is going to change for the better he says. And at UnleashWD he will not only speak to it but also provide guests with a taste of the Moto experience.

If Cantu can change the way diner’s perceive the restaurant experience, how can wholesale distribution alter expectations within their industry? UnleashWD will explore this Oct. 29-30 in Chicago.

UnleashWD is the only conference dedicated to bringing innovation to the wholesale distribution industry. UnleashWD features eighteen storytellers from outside the wholesale distribution industry. Modeled after TED’s short-session format, UnleashWD’s speakers share how to add business value through inspiring presentations on topics such as innovation, leadership, business model design, and corporate culture.

For the last twenty-five years, UnleashWD Founder Beveridge has worked with more than 3,000 firms as a leadership consultant, facilitating how wholesale distributors and manufacturers can increase market share through examining and improving their relationship with customers. For more information please visit:

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Christopher Troksa
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