When I first attended the Research Chefs Association show, it was a moment where I had the opportunity to finally meet other chefs in non-traditional roles and share our experiences and tribulations. Even with the small number of people in attendance that first year, I left invigorated and inspired about a new network of colleagues I could use as a new found resource. Almost 15 years later, I am happy to say the conference still provides the same experience, only on a much larger scale as attendance is now in the thousands.
The RCA conference has a tradeshow as one of the many highlights, offering an opportunity to see new products and meet vendors to our unique industry. Held in Atlanta, GA this March, the conference was full of new, innovative ideas that reflected the diversity and knowledge of the membership. Here are a few interesting products I saw that I thought were innovative and made me yearn for a kitchen to go play in to experiment with new found inspiration:
1. Cryovac/Sealed- Plated Ready Meals
With a new dynamic team with chefs and food scientists, Cryovac is living Culinology (the combination of culinary arts and food science) to bring innovation to foodservice through new packaging. Long the leader in packaging, Cryovac showcased beautiful presentation plates that were fine dining quality but were covered with a transparent film that created a steam environment when microwaved. The plated meals using a technology called Simple Steps® provide a new glimpse of how packaging can offer solutions to foodservice and provide high quality products with low labor skill and maximum efficiencies. With plated meals such as “Pan Sautéed Chicken Breast with Truffled Israeli Couscous and Sweet Peppers with Broccoli”, these products opened my eyes a little further on how packaging can impact foodservice and offer solutions.
2. Quantum Foods
I always knew Chef Newman could cook a mean meal, (he won me over with his Kentucky style biscuits and gravy!) but the products he made at the RCA tradeshow were all outstanding, not an easy feat serving that many samples in a tiny space with limited resources and maintain great quality and flavor. Best meatballs in a fantastic tomato sauce I’ve ever had at a trade show!
3. Almond Board of California
Chef John Csukor, representing the California Almond Board, created a decadent chocolate almond creation that was the perfect finishing note to the tradeshow. With a crunchy croquant style crust topped with a rich, smooth, chocolate-fudge like top, this dessert was simple, elegant, and full of flavor. The contrasting textures and flavors were a perfect partnering.
Honorable mention goes to Fontanini, who must add something addictive to their Italian sausage, because I can’t stay away from sampling their products whenever I see them! I have yet to find another Italian sausage that tops theirs, so keep on doing whatever you do to make it taste so great, and I will keep on eating it. My taste buds thank you even as my waistline curses you, but it is worth it!
As you can probably tell, I left full and satisfied and brimming with new ideas for my own product development. I encourage you to check out the Research Chefs Association at www.culinology.com . The annual conference (San Antonio in 2012) is an incredible place to have one-on-one contact with the chefs and food scientists who are responsible for developing the menus and products found across retail, industrial and foodservice markets, as well as offering great education sessions and inspiring speakers. The RCA also has very well designed regional meetings that are not only great for networking but are always relevant to the industry. Check one out today or ask me for more information about this group!