Chefs, restauranteurs and yes, even specialty gourmet food retailers like Nino’s all have one thing in common,
Food…and customers who love it.
That’s why on the 3rd weekend of May each year, tens of thousands of professional “foodies” flock to Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center to immerse themselves in 3 days of food demonstrations, sampling and everything that has anything to do with food.
If you have an insatiable appetite for Culinary Arts, this is where you want to be because it’s a place where you’ll fall in love with food, over and over again.
It’s the Woodstock of gastronomy.
Besides all the food (if that wasn’t enough), nearly every food equipment manufacturer is there.
Looking for a new range? Pots and pans? Knives?…..Maybe the latest culinary attire? When it comes to outfitting a kitchen, if you can’t find it at the National Restaurant Show, it either doesn’t exist or, you probably don’t need it.
Yet with all the culinary “eye candy” to see, it’s what you can eat that really draws the crowds.
Whether its baked, fried, sautéed, steamed, seared, griddled, roasted or toasted, attendees line up to sample everything from hot dogs to sushi, and some of the craziest culinary concoctions imaginable. Sometimes it’s best not to even ask what awaits you at the head of the line, just get in the que, grab your sample…swallow gratefully and ask questions later.
When you’ve assembled 2,200 vendors representing over 900 different product categories in a massive 2 million square feet of convention space, seeing the uncommon…is,….well? Common.
Yet not surprisingly, and its true of all food shows (and I’ve been to a TON of food shows), by far and away the most effective way to get anyone to try something is to put it on a pizza.
Pizzas have this universal appeal. As the saying goes, when you’re hungry, any pizza is a great pizza.
The National Restaurant Show may be the only place where you’ll (thankfully) have the opportunity to sample slices of pizzas with toppings of smoked exotic fish with pickled seaweed or artisanal charcuterie drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and pink Himalayan salt.
Speaking of pizzas (and breads), the gluten free segment is another huge draw at the show. Everyone seems to be touting breakthroughs in gluten free doughs (as in doughs that you’d actually enjoy eating even if you WEREN’T gluten intolerant.)
Truthfully, some of them weren’t half bad?
Buying a $50.00 ticket (which you can only do if you’re a member of “the trade”, entitles you to graze the entire show floor and attend the hundreds of demonstrations, lectures and featured presentations scheduled throughout the building during its 3-day run.
If this ambitious program of eats and greets makes you thirsty, they have something to cure what “Ale’s” you.
Bar 17…another round.
Bar 17 (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) piggy backs on the NRA show as a natural pairing of beverages to food. A separate ticket is required to attend and includes tastings of beer, wine and spirits as well as demonstrations from some of the nation’s leading mixologists. If you’re looking for innovative ideas for cocktails, new mixers, bar wares, bar management suggestions from industry experts or, you just like to drink, Bar 17 serves up another sensory overload.
In the end, loaded down with sacks of brochures and dozens of contacts, I brought back plenty of ideas for future recipes and products you might just see on the shelves of Nino’s in the near future.
The National Restaurant Show and Bar 17 is always an inspirational journey.