This past weekend, Chicago hosted the ultra-massive NRA show. No, not guns, the National Restaurant Association. One million sq. feet of all the things, we restaurant folk, get nerdy about. We were there for over 4 hours and barely saw half of the show – it’s THAT big.
We went on Monday, the final day of the show. By no means was it less busy. People flooded every corner of every gigantic room. Pushing and shoving to get to the samples first, even though they were swiftly replenished. I literally ate an entire meal made out of samples, from sockeye salmon to hemp hearts, and a beer tap that fills your cup from the bottom, up…wut? Though, my personal favorite was the machine rolled sushi. I was skeptical at first, but besides the rice being a little dry, it was pretty dang good for a robot.
Some of the most incredible kitchen equipment was found at the Jade and Hestan booths. Jade had duck, tandoori and pizza ovens that made you want to open a restaurant around those foods. While Hestan boasted giant majestic ranges is baby blues, oranges and reds. These clearly were the winning booths according to the chefs I went with.
For me, the best part was seeing old friends doing a demo in the Italian Pavilion. It was great to be there to support them. When Giuseppi from GT Fish & Oyster, an old colleague of Marks, pulled Mark on stage to help with his gnocchi demo, I pretty much lost it.
Nonetheless, it was an exciting, but exhausting day. Was it worth it? Absolutely. If any of you are at all interested in any of the cool things we get to play with in restaurants, this is definitely the show for you. Just be sure to book your hotel room early!