NRA Show 2015: Sweet home Chicago

From 3D food printing to innovation awards, the NRA Show has it all, as Amelia Levin discovers

In mid May, tens of thousands of people will descend on Chicago to attend or exhibit at the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show), held from 16 to 19 May at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Last year’s show drew a record 65,000 attendees, and the National Restaurant Association expects similar numbers this year as well as approximately 2,000 exhibitors.

Back again this year, the third annual Restaurants Rock industry celebration and official party of the NRA Show will showcase live music, food and drinks as well as the Star of the Bar mixology competition finals. Debuting this year, a new pop-up pavilion will feature 3D food-printing, including some high-tech models that can create shapes out of pasta and print cake decorations.

Education sessions: tech at the forefront

This year’s education session line-up runs the gamut from the legality of cannabis in restaurants to cultures that work, food nutrition and info on food allergies.

“Foodservice consultants and designers might enjoy some new sessions on the Internet of Things, which will explore how it enhances operations and guest experience from both a front-of-house and back-of-house standpoint,” says Leana Salamah, senior director, convention marketing and communications for the National Restaurant Association. “There will also be a session on designing for sustainability and one that takes a look at how food trends shape equipment needs.”

This year the tech pavilion will also host a wide range of educational sessions with a focus on data security and mobile payments. There will also be a series of single speaker “tech talks,” including one with the IT lead from Wendy’s, which recently developed a proprietary system integrating mobile, drive-through and ordering technology.

FABI Awards

The Food and Beverage Innovation (FABI) awards recognises progressive food and beverage innovations, such as versatile new ingredients, on-trend, consumer-driven products, progressive delivery systems and packaging. Selected by an independent panel of operator experts, past award-winners have won for their gluten-free, allergen-free and vegan products and others that improve labour efficiencies and sustainability. This year is the fifth anniversary of the FABI awards.

KI Pavilion

Every year the Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards pavilion draws a steady stream of visitors searching for the latest and greatest in commercial foodservice equipment and supplies. The interactive space features the winning products of the KI Awards programme as well as live equipment demonstrations, meeting space and other activities. For details of all this year’s winners, visit

Celebrity chefs and Foodamental

Top chefs will demonstrate their culinary insights and prowess in the World Culinary Showcase – which will take place this year on the Lakeside Concourse – and in some cases, sign their latest books. Some of this year’s chefs include Rick Bayless, chef/owner of Chicagobased Frontera, Xoco and Topolobampo restaurants; Elizabeth Falkner, award winning chef, author and participant on Top Chef, Iron Chef and Kitchen Inferno; Maneet Chauhan, judge of TV show Chopped and author of Flavors of My World; and Robert Irvine, host of the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible.

Back again this year will be the Foodamental Studio, held in the South Hall, where chef/instructors will offer hands-on, how-to sessions, such as pickling, fermentation, food photography and more.

BAR at the NRA Show

The International Wine, Beer and Spirits (IWBS) show has been aptly renamed BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) at the NRA Show and will take place in the Lakeside Ballroom, May 16-19. “We expanded the education programme and this year opened the Lakeside Ballroom to NRA Show exhibitors to make the show and BAR more fluid than in previous years,” says Salamah.

Amelia Levin

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