An important part of being a successful chef or culinary leader is staying at the forefront of trends across the industry. It also helps to interact with other chefs from across the country. One of the best ways to do so is to attend culinary expos. These events, which occur in different cities across the country, bring together the best in the industry and often feature seminars, keynote speakers, and plenty of opportunities to mingle. Here are six culinary expos you should consider attending:
ACF National Convention
This five-day summer conference, which is put on by the American Culinary Federation, is full of useful workshops, such as how to make sushi, and seminars that cover topics like how to motivate employees. A job fair and meet and greet sessions with well-known restaurateurs make this conference, which was held in sunny Arizona this year, a must for industry professionals interested in networking.
NACUFS National Conference
Food Network star Jeff Henderson and fitness guru Jillian Michaels were two of the featured speakers at this year's annual conference, which took place in Anaheim. The breakout sessions are organized along tracks that include training and human resources; culinary and nutrition; and operations, administration, and planning, so you can really target what you want to learn at the conference. On top of all that, the conference features a fun culinary challenge to bring out a little competition among the attendees.
The 11th annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress takes place in Brooklyn this year (October 23-25), and the theme is "What Is Progress?" This conference brings together some of the world's best chefs to explore cutting-edge trends and techniques. Speakers this year include Daniela Soto-Innes (Cosme), Abe Conlon (Fat Rice), and Johnny Iuzzini (Iuzzini Chocolatiers). The conference offers cooking demonstrations, bartender workshops, wine-tasting seminars, and business panels.
Taking place in Louisville, Kentucky next year (March 3-5, 2017), this conference always features big-name speakers. Past speakers include Sam Kass, who was the former executive director of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign and President Obama's senior policy adviser for nutrition policy, Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), and Ferran Adria (elBulli). The expo always includes an award ceremony, and aims to celebrate the creativity in the culinary space. The conference also includes scheduled networking events and sessions that take place at notable food education spots in the city, such as Kendall College or the James Beard House.
For chefs or culinary leaders in the fast-casual space, the NACS Show is a good expo to attend due to its vast array of product demonstrations. There are more than 1,200 exhibiting companies at this year's expo in Atlanta (October 18-21). The event also provides education sessions that discuss everything from being a food truck operator to leveraging a beverage program. The kickoff party gives attendees the opportunity to connect and network with other like-minded individuals.
This National Restaurant Association show takes place every year in Chicago (May 20-23, 2017), and brings together some of the greatest restaurant vendors for jam-packed days of exhibits, demonstrations, and plenty of food. Last year's show included a world culinary showcase with demos from chefs like Robert Irvine and Ming Tsai, along with a studio that offered hands-on cooking with other well-known chefs, and educational sessions on business operations and food preparation. The biggest draw is the expo itself, which features exhibitors that range from major food brands to fire and safety products.
Regardless of which expo you attend, they all offer a great opportunity to hone your craft, check out the latest and greatest products, and most importantly, network with other colleagues and mentors.