Celebrations, collaboration and comedy in Colorado

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The 2018 FCSI The Americas Conference on 19-21 April in Denver, Colorado, expertly mixed education and insight with a party mood for the division's 10-year anniversary, reports Michael Jones

As FCSI The Americas commemorates its 10-year anniversary this year, the dial was very much set to ‘celebratory’ at the 2018 conference in Denver, Colorado.

Fun, fun, fun

The fun factor was always in play throughout the conference. It set a relaxed tone and ensured members enjoyed the informal atmosphere.

A series of videos of the planning committee telling their best/worst ‘Dad jokes’ aired throughout the conference; cocktails at The Pinnacle Club were supplemented with hits at an ‘oxygen bar’; a silent disco after-party saw FCSI members throwing shapes on the dance floor; street performers entertained the 400-strong attendees over delicious bites and local brews from Denver’s craft beer scene; a bowling tournament at Punch Bowl Social was replete with FCSI members in fancy dress and high-profile US comedian Tom Papa brought the house down on the final day with an hour-long set of superb stand-up comedy.

Education, education, education

But it wasn’t all fun and games. There was high-quality learning to be had too. Conference chair Tara Bliss promised two-days of “phenomenal education” and the conference program certainly delivered that to attendees (nearly half of whom were consultants), between the laughs.

A high-energy opening address from keynote speaker Chip Eichelberger delivered some salient, perhaps life-changing points about what individuals can do to change their mindset. “You are your number one asset. So take care of you,” said Eichelberger, who encouraged attendees to identify the ‘gaps’ in their careers and lives and to “not major in minor things. Never underestimate the power of one decision.”

Self-professed “author, speaker and nerd” Beth Ziesenis (Beth Z) educated attendees with a run-down of the coolest, most helpful apps they can download to make a difference to their working and personal lives.

Larry Scott of Las Vegas food bank Three Square spoke passionately on the subject of food waste, stating Americans throw away enough food to fill the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California, each day, despite 40m Americans who are “food insecure” not knowing where their next meal will come from.

While 600bn lbs of food produced in the US every year, 160lbs minimum gets scrapped. Initiatives like Three Square’s can make a huge difference but the “moral obligation to affect change” needs to gain more traction within the foodservice industry. FCSI presented Three Square with a $2,500 donation after Scott’s presentation.

Breakout sessions at the conference ranged from an eclectic mix of topics such as the business of cannabis, Revit, virtual reality in foodservice, resolving labor issues, food display trends recruiting and retaining talent, technology return on investment and ventless technology.

Awards and honours

The conference saw the ‘two Ed’s’, Edmeston Bernard FFCSI and Edwin Norman FFCSI, inducted into FCSI’s Council of Fellows. Both gave emotional speeches.

“To all of these members, friends, associates with whom I have worked and served, a sincere thank you for allowing me to be a part of the movement, for supporting my leadership and for continuing the journey,” said Bernard.

“I’m humbled and honored,” said Norman. “It’s an extreme honor to be here.”

Brazilian consultant Jose Aurelio Claro Lopes, a senior associate of FCSI, received the 2018 Bob Pacifico ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’ award for his outstanding contribution to foodservice in Latin America. “He is a great man who has been a mentor to so many consultants in Brazil,” said Marco Amatti FCSI.

Jimi Yui FCSI was also awarded with the prestigious FCSI Trendsetter award for his outstanding work at Duke University West Union.

Meanwhile, the FCSI Green Award, given for “exemplary efforts in ecology” was presented to Andrew Shakman of LeanPath.

Cutting-edge products

The event saw 43 applications for the esteemed prize of FCSI The Americas Product of the Year at the conference’s Innovation Showcase. Ten products were shortlisted and exhibited at the conference for professional members to vote on.

The winner was the Eliminator from Gaylord, which was praised for its evolutionary design, high-efficiency and advanced technology

“We are so proud to have the Eliminator recognized as the FCSI The Americas Product of the Year,” said Keven Hass, national sales manager for Gaylord Industries.

“There is no greater compliment than that which comes from your peers and we want to say thank you to all the consultants who reviewed our wonderful innovation at the event. There were a great number of Gaylord employees who contributed in the development of this product and I cannot thank them enough for their hard work and dedication providing another great solution to the foodservice industry.”

For Hass, as well as the consultants who voted for the Eliminator, what makes it so unique is it’s the first ventilator of its kind “designed to meet the growing need to abate smoke and diminish odour in a small, cost-effective footprint.”

“Everything on the Eliminator is easy to access and this product can be molded to fit the need for each unique cooking line-up. It also offers additional savings due to the reduced need for hot water, electrical and sewage infrastructure, depending on the size and layout of your operation.  Thank you for allowing us to participate in the Innovation Showcase,” he said.

Bringing value

After a highly entertaining after show party, James Camacho FCSI former chair of FCSI The Americas said: “I’m second generation FCSI and let me tell you, last night’s party was not my father’s FCSI!”

He added: “There’s a value to our membership – and it’s each other. FCSI defines excellence and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as chair.”

Camacho passed on the ceremonial gavel to new chair William Caruso FFCSI, whom he called “the godfather of FCSI The Americas” and praised for his “great heart” for the Society.

Caruso promised members more “unique experiences and adventures” during his tenure. “We will continue to grow and prosper and we will all be successful,” he said.

Martin Rahmann FCSI, worldwide chair praised the tireless contribution of his predecessor in the role, William Taunton FCSI, who was awarded the FCSI The Americas Service award. He also spoke of the value of personal relationships within FCSI.” We are a family. Our intention is to do the very best for the Society.”

And with that, the conference was at an end, but memories will linger for a long time of an entertaining and insightful few days, impeccably organized and enjoyed in the right spirit. To quote Tom Papa’s catchphrase: “Good job…”

Michael Jones