Rafi Taherian is an innovative and passionate food industry leader with a zest for creating exciting new concepts in campus dining. At his core, he believes that collegiate dining experiences provide ideal settings to incubate and develop pragmatic solutions for food literacy, R&D and sustainability. When it comes to achieving transformative initiatives – he places confidence in leveraging academic strength, industry resources and community engagement.
Yale Hospitality’s renowned sustainability initiatives were developed by Rafi to emphasize principles of humane and ethical treatment of animals, support for local and regional food systems and minimal processing of food in a fair and just manner. Rafi remains devoted to promoting “culturally-based” menus with a Mediterranean diet and plant-centric focus, facilitating a system that not only supports human health, but also protects the environment.
The support of local and regional producers with an aim towards building community resiliency is equally important to Taherian. It’s a local to global viewpoint that translates across departments at Yale Hospitality, from Student Dining and Sourcing to Retail and Catering.
Rafi’s professional influence extends to memberships with several industry councils and advisory boards. Among them, he chairs the Colleges & University Advisory Board for International Food Manufacturers Association (IFMA), is a member of the Culinary Institute of America’s Sustainability Leadership Council, and serves on the board of directors for Produce for Better Health Foundation. He is also a frequent keynote speaker at various food industry conferences and seminars. Among Rafi’s ongoing initiatives, he is collaborating with industry partners in the Northeast corridor, China and Italy to identify best practices in leveraging campus dining for democratizing a planetary diet that is good for people and good for the planet. Rafi profoundly believes that we cannot operate within individual bubbles; and that with true agile collaboration across various operations, foundations and within the industry – we can achieve our shared objectives more efficiently – and with a more impactful footprint.
Consequently, Yale Hospitality hosted a ‘Mediterranean Diet Roundtable’ (MDR) conference in 2018 to promote their plant-forward approach to eating.
In 2017-2018, Rafi was invited on a speaking tour by the Good Food Fund which spanned across six universities and U.S. embassies located in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China. He delivered lectures on the evolution of campus dining, better health and wellness initiatives, and the opportunity for transformational change in support of a resilient food system.
Throughout Rafi’s career, his transformational and innovative initiatives have earned him top honors within the food industry, including: Ivy Award for Distinction; the Food Service Director of the Year Award; the Innovation and Illuminating Award, Yale University’s Seton Elm-Ivy Award for Civic Service on Common Ground and FARE’s Excellence in Leadership Award. Rafi has also been acknowledged by his peers by being presented with the Silver and the Gold Plate Awards, sponsored by IFMA. Of which, the Gold Plate prize is widely recognized as the most prestigious in the industry.
Yale Hospitality is a vast organization that serves more than 15,000 meals per day with a staff of over 800, spanning fourteen dining halls, eleven retail units and three operational divisions. Before joining Yale in 2008, Taherian was Executive Director of Dining at Stanford University. Under Taherian, Stanford Dining was transformed into a customer-based premiere program with a highlight on environmental sustainability. He holds an A.A. in Hospitality from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and studied architecture at University IUAV in Venice, Italy.