Rafi Taherian is the Associate Vice President for Yale Hospitality. Rafi is an innovative food industry leader with a passion for creating new and exciting concepts that support health and wellness. Rafi believes that campus dining operations provide an ideal setting to develop memorable experiences for students and guests while being a testing ground for positive and pragmatic change. He has forged collaborative partnerships within Yale University and in the food industry that have created a benchmark reputation in hospitality for one of the most prominent institutions of higher learning.
Since 2008, Taherian has guided the continual development of Yale Hospitality’s well-known sustainability initiatives and robust, viable, culinary concepts. He has done so by merging principles of a healthy plant-based Mediterranean diet with an operational approach that promotes regionally-based and sustainable food systems. He is a member of many industry councils and advisory boards promoting the integration of manufacturers and distributors to address the key issues facing the industry. Rafi has been an active leader in promoting menus and food that are culturally based, plant-based and plant-centric.
In 2014, he hosted a regional conference focused on food system issues in and around the I-95 corridor. In 2017 and 2018, Rafi was invited on a tour of six universities and U.S. embassies in Beijing and China. He provided presentations and lectures related to the evolution and transformation of campus dining with a belief that these operations can become incubators and enablers for change and promotion of sustainability and health and wellness. In 2018, Yale Hospitality hosted a Mediterranean Diet Roundtable (MDR) promoting plant forward food that is inherently better for you.
Taherian has received numerous prestigious awards for his vision and leadership. Most recently these include Food Service Director of the Year award (2013), the Illuminating Excellence and Leadership award from Premier, one of the industry’s largest procurement organizations (2014), Yale University’s Seton Elm-Ivy award (2016), and FARE’s Excellence in Leadership award (2016). Ultimately, Taherian’s contributions were recognized by his peers in 2016 when he was awarded both the Silver and the Gold Plate Awards sponsored by IFMA, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (the Gold Plate is widely recognized as the most prestigious award in the industry).
Yale Hospitality serves more than 15,000 meals per day with a staff of over 800 which includes culinary, service, management and clerical personnel. Taherian’s organization is comprised of three operational divisions supported by shared business and administrative services and an annual budget of $55 million.
Before joining Yale, Taherian was the Executive Director of dining at Stanford University. Prior, to that he held various management positions in the hospitality industry. As an undergraduate, he studied architecture at IUAV in Italy and later earned a hospitality degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.