MRCA Crew at NRA 2015 in Chicago

The World At NRA

We literally talked to hundreds of people at the NRA show in Chicago last week, as we made some great contacts and learned a whole pile of stuff about the food biz in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as in Central and South America. We left our mark on Chicago and even got a mention in the Chicago Tribune. Here’s just a handful of the cool people we met.

Fueling the Hungry MRCA crew was the always awesome Chef Rodney Bowers. Rocking an MRCA apron, Chef Rodney was on hand working with the folks from Boulart, to create some of the tastiest sandwiches anywhere using their all-natural, non-gmo bread. You won’t believe how good fully baked and frozen can be until you try this product.

We found a new convert in Chef Lena Kwak, CEO of Cup4Cup, who grabbed a brand new MRCA apron on the spot. Chef Lena developed her company’s gluten-free flour replacement when working for Thomas Keller as Research and Development Chef at the French Laundry in Yountville, CA.

Chef Lena Kwak

We talked to dozens of chefs and chef-owners who were stoked about their businesses, but probably no one was as passionate about their restaurants – and our gear – as Sergio Diaz, Executive Chef at Ambia in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Listening to Sergio and looking at pix of how this dude plates his food made us all want to head south for a month-long stage.

Serving up what we thought was about the best coffee at the show was Tim Fleming and the crew from Caffé D’arte, based out of Seattle. This company is ground zero for the Seattle-based coffee explosion, predating a certain global monster brand and all the hipster newcomers. Sometimes, old school rules.

On the non-Alcoholic beverage front, we chatted with Breeanna Marchitto from Seattle-based Dry Soda, and Kevin Li from Brooklyn-based Bruce Cost Ginger Ale. Dry Soda was featuring new packaging across the entire line-up, while Bruce Cost was introducing a new Blood Orange flavor (packed with the usual 40g of ginger in every bottle). Can’t think why every restaurant isn’t carrying alcohol alternatives like these for their non-drinking customers.

Visiting the show from the future was Sandy Villetti and the crew from 3DS Culinary demonstrating the ChefJet Pro Culinary 3D printer. This gizmo prints edible, full-colour sugar candy and frosting with amazing detail. The company is opening the first 3D printing culinary innovation centre in LA later this year.

Ever been pissed off by a bad Yelp review but were too busy to deal with it? We hung out with Carol Malakasis from Main Street Hub and got the lowdown on how this shop can help restaurants manage their online reputations. Definitely worth a look.

Canadians have long felt sorry for our American cousins because their breakfast cocktail of necessity is the Bloody Mary (most of us Canuks prefer the Clamato juice-based Bloody Caesar). We’re a little less sorry now that companies like David van Alphen’s Suckerpunch are stepping up the Bloody Mary mix game with tasty, high-quality product.

On a final note, we were happy to share a corner of the MRCA booth with two of the nicest folks ever: Ryan Costantini of his wife, Sarah Rankin, an aspiring chef. Ryan was on hand testing the NRA waters for the Portland-based hospitality recruiting tool.

This week, we’ll be following up with everyone we met at the show, especially those folks who wanted to get their hands on our 2015 Lookbook. We’re firing that out in a newsletter today (Monday) to everyone whose badge we scanned. Watch for it.