Foodservice professionals from all around the globe got together at the industry’s largest tradeshow this past week at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The NRA Show had over 1,800 suppliers selling everything from sophisticated sous vide machines to fine seafood to fresh micro-greens. The speakers’ topics ranged from how to minimize food safety risks, to the importance of sustainability, to what’s hot in 2013. And the Celebrity Chef lineup was a who’s who of today’s biggest stars including Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, Aaron Sanchez, Anne Burrell, and the man himself, Anthony Bourdain.
My Markon colleague and I flew to Chicago to walk the floor, learn about new trends, and meet with several of Markon’s national accounts customers and member distributors that were also attending the show. Let me tell you, if you haven’t been to this show, it’s hard to really understand how immense it is. The main floor itself is a huge maze of booths that seemingly goes on forever. We met up with suppliers like Calavo and Fresherized, saw unique equipment such as three-foot tall pressure cookers, and sampled foods as varied as coffee, burritos, pizza, and Chicago-style hot dogs. Upstairs we had the chance to listen to some very informed speakers and learned how healthy eating through fresh fruits and vegetables is the hottest trend of the year.
In the evening we enjoyed some delicious food with Markon customers Texas Roadhouse. Since Chicago is one of the best cities for foodies, we were able to experience the local cuisine while discussing critical points about the test markets that are underway and plan for the needs of future Texas Roadhouse regions.
The last night there we attended the Restaurants Rock industry celebration hosted by Anthony Bourdain at The Castle, a four-floor Chicago institution. It was great to see so many faces from every facet of the restaurant world come together to unwind after the show.
Much fun was had and many connections were made at this meeting of the world’s best foodservice minds. Although we appreciate the opportunity to rub elbows with the culinary elite, we know that it’s the real people behind these celebrity chefs that make this industry tick. It’s those folks that we learned the most from, the people who supply the delicious ingredients, plan the trend-setting menus, and serve the food we all crave and love. We send a big thank you to them all.