The Art of Awareness: How Being Aware of our Surroundings Fosters Inclusivity in Your Business


For the annual American Craft Spirits Association conference which was held virtually in 2020, I was honored to deliver a keynote about how to make business, distilleries in particular, more inclusive, diverse, and accessible to all their customers and employees. Joining me in the discussion were my business partner, Jody Tucker of Tucker Creative, and dear friend, Maggie Campbell of Privateer Rum.


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How to advocate for ourselves: A panel discussion about higher education

On November 11, 2020, I had the honor of sitting on a panel with my former graduate advisor, Prof. Dean Tantillo of UC Davis, and Prof. Eric Anslyn of UT Austin. The talk was moderated by Nick Winges-Yanez. On the panel we had a wonderful and lively discussion about making college learning more accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities. Lots of insights were given which are very helpful for anyone, disabled or not, on how to kindly advocate for oneself.

Partnership between The Dreaming Tree Wines and The Culinary Institute of America

Overview We often think of pairing wine and food, but what else can wine pair with? Dr. Hoby Wedler, adjunct faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), was asked by the CIA to innovate a closing plenary lecture of their Summit for Beverage Professionals all about wine paired with music. The result was a partnership with Dreaming Tree Wines, a creative collaboration between award-winning winemaker Sean McKenzie and musician Dave Matthews, to innovate a unique afternoon of pairing wine with music from the Dave Matthews Band songbook. Dr. Ali Bouzari of Pilot R&D was also invited to participate in the discussion. The Task The task was to create an impactful, interesting, and creative tasting experience where the tasting notes of the wines at hand would literally be told by music. This was an exciting opportunity to pair Dreaming Tree wines with music from the Dave Matthews song book. Guests were under blindfold for most of the experience. Outcomes were striking for all guests. Perhaps the most striking outcome was achieved  when the same wine was served twice but paired with a different song. The participants described the same wine completely differently depending on the music it was paired with. When art, science, and emotion intersect, amazing experiences come to life involving every sense we have at our disposal. We use eyesight to obtain 85-90% of information from our surroundings. Hoby regularly collaborates with brands like the Culinary Institute of America and The Dreaming Tree Wines to bring our four non-visual senses to the table along with eyesight to create everlasting memories and highly engaging experiences which allow guests to remember brands like The Dreaming Tree and The CIA very positively. Outcomes During this 90-minute custom experience, attendees were blindfolded and led by Dr. Wedler, McKenzie, and Dr. Ali Bouzari of Pilot R&D through a discussion and tasting of Dreaming Tree wines while listening to carefully curated music. The team created this experience to be emotive and memorable and to show participants how wine and music can pair elegantly, much like wine and food. Pairing wine with music creates an experience much like pairing wine with food where each component of the experience complements the other. This was the first ever wine and music pairing-specific event offered at The Culinary Institute of Senspoint’s expertise in custom experiences led to this pioneering partnership. “This experience changed the way I will drink wine and listen to music forever. It was that impactful.” Event Attendee “That was the most unique wine experience I’ve ever attended. I have hosted dozens and attended hundreds.” Event Attendee “I had no idea that the second Rosè was the same wine! The song made it taste absolutely different. I thought it was a white wine and definitely not a rosè.” Event Attendee “I never thought experiences could be so mind opening and game changing. Now I do. Best-ever wine tasting I’ve attended.” Event Attendee

Launching Vero Gusto with Barilla and Edelman

Overview Barilla Inc. is the largest pasta and sauce company in the world. Running large operations in over fifty countries is very demanding and requires the efforts of thousands of employees. Barilla Inc. develops new products frequently. Barilla North America aimed to launch a brand-new line of sauces in the United States near the end of 2019. These sauces are positioned as a super-premium brand and Barilla sees it important that their employees have a strong understanding of these sauces including their origin, their story, and what sets them apart in the marketplace. Furthermore, Barilla wanted to build a very impactful launch event for influencers and media in the heart of Manhattan. The Task Barilla Inc. sought to provide an opportunity for their employees in the United States office to better understand their new line of super-premium sauces. Barilla tasked the team with designing and executing a series of tasting experiences that would assist Barilla employees in better understanding the sauce line including the story behind it, the ideas which generated it, and its super premium niche in the ever-growing and ever-changing sauce market. Each sauce has a “hero ingredient”, one ingredient featured “front and center” in the sauce and on the package. All hero ingredients are sourced from specific regions of Italy and the new sauce is made in a traditional Italian method in Parma, Italy. This relationship led to Barilla working with Dr. Wedler to build and execute a launch event featuring the sauce for key influencers and media.  Outcomes Dr. Wedler and his team curated, prepared, and executed two experiences, each with approximately 60 Barilla employees, to help familiarize participants with the brand-new line of sauces. We used a proprietary tasting technique developed by Dr. Hoby Wedler which includes temporarily removing the eyesight of all participants using a blindfold. One benefit of this technique is that participants are not distracted by their mobile devices, computers, etc. and are more equipped to focus on what they hear, feel, taste, and smell. Participants said they felt a new level of ownership and passion for Barilla products. They also expressed a newfound ability to describe Barilla products and, ultimately, represent the brand in a more authentic, genuine way. Finally, in collaboration with Edelman, we designed and executed an exclusive brand activation for media and influencers from around New York City and the tristate area. Barilla requested an experience revolving around all five senses. To build the most impactful experience possible, Dr. Wedler and his team travelled throughout Italy to gather hero ingredients and learn about each hero ingredient’s region and how it is produced. Together, we designed an evening beginning with guests tasting Italian Prosecco in a stark white “waiting lounge” to deprive their senses. Guests were then blindfolded and led completely in the dark into the event space where they were seated at long tables. Dr. Wedler then led the guests through a journey of the sauces using all non-visual senses including sound, taste, smell, and touch. Guests embarked on a tasting tour through Italy where they examined each hero ingredient along with its corresponding sauce. Hero ingredients were sourced by Dr. Wedler from Italy. While in Italy, Dr. Wedler interviewed many stakeholders around the hero ingredients and played sound bites of those interviews as well as general sounds of Italy during the experience. Once the tasting portion of the evening concluded, before removing their blindfolds, guests were invited to describe their impression of the room. They eagerly described it as being empty, having high ceilings and hard surfaces, and being cavernous. They removed their blindfolds to find they sat  in a space ornately decorated with art installations perfectly highlighting this line of sauce. Guests were invited to taste passed bites containing the “hero ingredients”, taste cocktails crafted and inspired with each ingredient in mind, to sit in a chair made of fresh herbs to represent the Mediterranean, and so much more. This experience utilized each of our five senses to tell an inspiring, eye-opening, and unique story of exciting new product in the marketplace. Previous Next