NRA Show 2015 Recap

One of the most anticipated four-day events of the year in the food and beverage industry was held in Chicago last month when industry leaders and world-renowned chefs came together for the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Hotel-Motel Show.

The NRA Show is one of the largest annual gatherings of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals, attracting more than 63,000 attendees and visitors from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The trade show showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and more growth opportunities than any other event, the NRA says. 

More than 2,000 exhibitors were ready for face-to-face interaction to take home quality leads, increase brand awareness and make better connections. “Exhibitors get back to business with an average of $1.3 million in domestic sales and $1 million international sales as a result of exhibiting,” the NRA says. 

World Culinary Showcase

In addition to visiting exhibits on the show floor, we stopped by the World Culinary Showcase where world-class celebrity chefs served up their culinary expertise. Chefs with a wide range of culinary specialties prepared new recipes, showed off different techniques and provided insight during the four-day show.  

Chef Jehangir Mehta, owner of Graffiti in New York City and an “Iron Chef” contestant, took the stage May 18 to make a mushroom-blended burger and talk about the importance of adding ingredients, such as mushrooms, to eat healthier. “Adding mushrooms and other vegetables to the Graffiti Burger is something I have done since Graffiti opened [in 2007] thus advocating this move and promoting the Better Burger Project is a way of life,” he says. “It’s healthier as it’s a perfect way to cut down on red meat consumption and enhance a lifestyle change.”

Mehta is participating in the James Beard Foundation and Mushroom Council’s “Better Burger Project” that runs through July 31. With so many ways to be creative when it comes to making a burger, the foundation wants to see what chefs and restaurants around the country can do with finely chopped mushrooms blended with ground meat.

The Better Burger Project is an in-restaurant promotion from now until July 31 that strives to improve the burger with a ground meat and mushroom blend that introduces a more delicious, healthier and sustainable burger. Adding diced mushrooms at any ratio to ground meat – even just 25 to 50 percent – has incredible nutritional impact, the foundation notes. A beef and mushroom patty has 149.4 calories based on a 50/50 blend compared to the all-beef patty that serves up 307 calories.

Not a fan of mushrooms? Give it a try. Mehta says the average person needs to try something about 20 times before your brain says you like it. “Twist your idea of the food,” he advises. “Train your palate to eat the ingredient in a different way.” 

Food & Drink International also attended Chef Robert Irvine’s session where he interacted with the audience while providing cooking lessons. He also gave us a peak into the making of his Food Network show “Restaurant: Impossible.” Proudly sharing that he is on the road nearly every day of the year – 345 days to be exact – Irvine added one more project to his list this year: a daytime talk show. Unfortunately, he did not provide further details about the show. 

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