Part of my work here at Nino’s gives me an opportunity to attend food shows. Some are regional, like the 2015 Carmela Food Show, which this year took place in the new Shed 5 at Detroit’s Eastern Market. Others are national/international events, such as the Fancy Food Show, which takes place twice annually: June in New York City and January in San Francisco.
This year, I skipped the Fancy Food Show to attend a show I hadn’t been to in quite a while, The 96th National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago. It was held May 16th -19th at the McCormick Place Convention Center.
“The Show,” as many chefs call it, is the largest trade show in our industry, and its ONE big party.
You literally can’t tell the food without a program.
This year, over 63,000 attendees traversed nearly 2/3rds of a million square feet of exhibition space over the course of four days to view new product innovations; state-of-the-art food service equipment; electronics; and 3-D food printing, to get nutritional and food sustainability updates and information about franchising and marketing, and of course, to sample food.
The first order of business is to pick up your credentials, i.e. show your badge, then grab a catalogue, and last but not least, get a sturdy bag for all the goodies. Thankfully, all await you as you enter the massive show halls.
Lots and LOTS of food…
For me, seemingly endless aisles of colorful displays, food samples, product literature and cooking demonstrations just fuel my imagination. It’s a sensory overload.
My three days were barely enough time to see and digest it all, including keynote presentations, educational seminars, a place called Startup Alley for the newbies, and the ever-popular World Culinary Showcase Demonstration Theater, showcasing the talents of Food Network and the James Beard Award Winning Chefs.
This year’s taste makers included celebrity Chefs Rick Bayless, Anne Burrell, Terry French, Marc Murphy, Takashi Yagahashi, Robert Irvine of Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible, and the ever-popular Andrew Zimmern.
And what would a food show be without food awards? The National Restaurant Show has them. They’re called the FABI Awards (Food and Beverage Awards).
FABI honors food and beverage products that go above and beyond with creative development to bring delicious, unique, and exciting new experiences to the table.
This year’s recipients included a Volcanic Water, Organic Black Bean Spaghetti, a Gluten-Free Whoopie Pie (seriously), a Flavored Liquid Cane Syrup, some new teas, and an assortment of other innovative products.
If the food part of this show isn’t enough to wear you out, for another $45 you can also purchase a ticket to BAR.
BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) is held in conjunction with the NRA Show. BAR is where the wine, spirits and beer flow freely, so restaurateurs can spend an afternoon exploring and discovering the elements to perfect their bars by sampling and comparing products and learning about emerging trends, products and techniques right from the experts themselves.
Oh, and in case anyone at Nino’s thinks I was enjoying myself just a little too much, I assure you it was all business. That’s my story anyway.
Someone has to do this, so I volunteered.
To learn more about the NRA Show, take a look at the helpful links below and within this YouTube video. Get a feel for just what it’s like to be in food heaven.
2015 Show Highlight
NRA 2015 Facebook