On The Road–NRA Show Chicago

Well, back from another year at this largest of all Restaurant Shows in the USA……The McCormick Center is so large it is next to impossible to actually talk to all the manufacturers, suppliers and operators there. However, I did manage to find some terrific companies who have great products.

I usually arrive at the Center just after 10 a.m. and look for one of the soup companies, where I have a taste of several,  as my breakfast (I have always thought Soup was a nice way to start the day).   This year, I  enjoyed NORPAC’s product my first morning; then KETTLE CUISINE the next.    While both are “organic” and flavorful, I thought KETTLE’s was the higher quality. Perhaps because the ingredients were local and fresh.

There’s a company from Canada called GARDEIN, which is a meatless food product company, but without any additives or non-natural ingredients.   They stressed the importance of being VEGAN rather than Vegetarian. The difference, in case you were wondering, is that Vegetarians can eat dairy products, but not VEGANS. And all the items I tasted were absolutely delicious and very low in calories and fats…….

In order to cover all the great companies represented there it would take a while, so I’ll just mention one other new aspect at this show:  SOCIAL MEDIA.    I talked with several new companies–both under two years old, and was quite impressed:   LOSO and PUNNCH.   The young CEOs are enthusiastic and “rarin” to go.   And in case you’ve been living under a rock the last 5 years, Social Media is fast becoming THE Marketing Tool for all business.

A number of great chefs are always at this event, giving demos, signing books and just being around. And each year,  FOOD ARTS magazine, which is the vanguard publication for restaurants and chefs worldwide, honors these chefs with the annual BBQ on Sunday afternoon.  This is not only a way for these chefs to showcase their talents and restaurants , but it brings together the real movers and shakers in the industry….This year, more than 2000 invitees attended.  The Navy Pier was cordoned off and the Grand Ballroom as well as space on the pier were filled with aromas and sizzles of some great food.

Chicago is also fast becoming one of the premier Restaurant Cities in the country…..(I know some Chicagoans will say they’ve been number one for years, but who doesn’t feel that way about their own place.)  While the windy city, so named because of long-winded politicians from a century ago–rather than the wind from the lake–does have some great eateries, I will mention several in my next blog……and one which I consider a place no one should spend any time waiting for or going to.

To Your Health,

Jim