Chef Max Knoepfel  

Travel & Leisure Category

Executive Chef at Music City Center in Nashville, the chef has been with the facility since the doors opened in May 2013. Max was born in Switzerland in a family that was passionate about food and dining experiences. He became an apprentice in the Swiss culinary tradition at the age of 15 and learned classic skills for food preparation and his trade.  

Chef Max has worked in Luxury Hotels in Europe, Canada, and the United States for Intercontinental Hotel, Hilton Hotels, Canadian National Hotel at four heritage hotels now Fairmont properties, as well as the Pentagon Food Services, the International Monetary Fund, Aramark, Anton Airfood, the Westchester Country Club in Rye NY, and Belle Haven CC in Alexandria VA, and currently with Sodexo Live! at the Music City Center in Nashville TN.  

In His Own Words

How did you get your start in the foodservice industry? 
I had been exposed to a variety of fine food and dining experiences as a child. At the age of 15, I entered an apprentice program at the Hilton Geneva, learning the trade in the classical way, part of a Kitchen Brigade...I am thankful for the countless amazing people in this business that have helped shape my career. 

What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice? 
I love that I can be a teacher to people. I have worked in some truly amazing hotels, private clubs, and venues. In every position I remember the people, associates and staff, employees, colleagues, vendors, and our guests and clients! I want to be a good steward to the land, the sea, the world with an awareness of the region I am working in, by making connections with farmers, purveyors, team members, guests, and clients.  

Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had along the way. 
My most proud moment is when I see my team experience the connection between where our food comes from and why using quality products creates an exceptional food experience when it is respected and prepared the right way. At the Music City Center in Nashville, we trained staff members in bee-keeping – and use the honey harvested in our products as much as possible. We visit local farms where the team can meet the farmer and their teams to learn about the products we are using and the heritage and love that goes into growing the food we will present. The learning experience and pride that is a result of these connections make me most proud.  

How would your team describe you as a leader? 
My team would describe me as a compassionate leader who is precise and exact in the expectations of the finished products that we provide our guests and clients. Our goal is to provide a product not often experienced in a convention center setting, in large quantities. We expect to WOW our guests.  

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry? 
Take advantage of all opportunities to learn! Be determined to learn from all opportunities that present to you...Love what you do. It is not always going to be easy, not always fun. Do not do things halfway, you must dedicate yourself to the passion you are pursuing. 

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you? 
It is very humbling. It is such an honor to be recognized with the award....I am emotional, reflecting on my many years of hard work, continual learning, and leadership that are paying off with this award.  

What is your favorite meal? 
I must confess it would be my late Mom’s Goulash with handmade Spaetzli and her famous Palacsinta (a Hungarian crepe dessert). I miss my parents’ cooking - my dad was an amazing cook too. I teach my daughter Maxine the way the dishes are to be made, and I look forward to meals with her as she develops into an amazing woman.