Sunday, June 5, 2011

NRA 201

The NRA put on another great show this year and I am proud to report that I actually behaved myself – unlike last year. I didn’t eat everything in sight…just half of it.

From the long list of celebrity chefs to all of the great food samplings, this was the foodie heaven that you never want to come back from.

There were so many food samplings that I quit counting after the third aisle. Unfortunately reality set in on Tuesday morning when I stepped on the scale.

So what did I learn this year besides I had better exercise more self control again next year.

Lesson One: Who is the REAL Barilla Chef?

Who is the chef behind all those great Barilla commercials that sends every woman I know into a complete frenzy?

Roberto Farnesi? EnricoMutti?

Both strikingly good looking, 100 % Italian and certain to make every women on the planet feel like she can cook perfect pasta and fall in ever after love with her next door neighbor.

The Barilla commercials are a work of branding genus.

This ladies is the real face at Barilla and I can tell you that he was unexpected…and amazing.

Lesson Two: Take it all in…

From McCormick’s master chef Kevan Vetter,

Rick Bayless and all the other celebrated chef at the NRA, I took it all in.

You can never learn enough about the food industry as a foodie. In fact, this year’s sessions convinced me that I need to take more cooking classes.

From mastering a difficult technique or trying something new – I discovered so much about cooking and food presentation at the show this year that I went away with a whole lot of ideas that I want to put in writing in the coming year.

This show was a total eye-opener for a Foodie!

Lesson Three: You don’t have to own the latest and greatest…but it helps!

Like Rick Bayless said, the temptation was overpowering. He wanted to rip out all of his kitchens and start over.

Keeping up with the new technology is a challenge…but certain that you’ve got to do it to stay ahead of the game.

My new technology venture this week instead of buying the Viking stove I feel in love with?

I purchased an Ice Cream maker. They have come a long way from the hand crank churn that my dad owned. I am inspired to turn out some good flavors and I am hoping by the end of the summer I can master a few.

New technology? You don’t need it but it sure helps.

Lesson Four: Nobody has more fun than the chefs at Rational.

RATIONAL revolutionised the catering industry back in 1976 and continues to do so today.

Just look at their new digs. I was flying by and didn’t get a seat but I saw a lot of people fighting for one.

Lesson Five: Chef’s Fun Foods. Did someone say French Fries?

Chef’s Fun Foods is transforming the way French Fries look and taste. My favorite – the salt and vinegar… of course!

Lesson Six: Sunday is just another day…think again!

Sunday was the opening of the International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event. Did everyone come…just about. All my favorites were there including Blue Moon and Simi…just to name a few.

What I truly love about cocktails is that they have taken on a life of their own. Infusions, herbs, spices and a whole lot more. There are cocktail “chefs” out there who can teach us a thing or two about what is ordinary and what is over-the-top. Even if you don’t drink, there are plenty of non-alcoholic versions that will make you think you do.

              Photo: NRA

Lesson Seven: Who can get this party ended?

Gale Gand, partner and executive pastry chef at Tru of course. Her lead of Flash Mob was another great hit this year!

Lesson Eight: Been there – done that? Boy, do I have news for you!

Every year there is something new that totally surprises me. From the food, to the exhibitors, to the celebrity chef line up and the international guests…I encounter so many new things about this show it’s no wonder that I need to do a lot of homework before I go.

Lesson Nine: Lots of discussion on Yelp, Google, Open Table, et all...

My take on the whole thing? Pay attention but in the end, it’s your own opinion that counts.

Glance at the bad reviews if you want but trust your instincts and follow your gut. Your palate will never fail you.


I’m so happy I live in Chicago. Chicago has so many great restaurant offerings you could go for years without experiencing the same thing twice. Get out there.

I do a new restaurant every Saturday and I have yet to find one that I haven’t loved.

Whether it’s a dive... or a five star...

there is something about each one of them – particular to their neighborhood or their ethnic offerings – that makes them unique.

The 93rd Annual NRA Show is May 19-22, 2012 at McCormick Place.

Bon Appetit!