Chefs “From All Over the Planet” Learn About Michigan Potatoes

May 27, 2015  

Michigan fresh potatoes. Michigan chipping potatoes.

They got plenty of exposure at the NRA Show 2015, the extravaganza billed as “the international foodservice marketplace” that was put on by the National Restaurant Association from Saturday, May 16 to Tuesday, May 19 in Chicago. The Michigan Potato Industry Commission had an exhibitor’s booth there and made countless contacts, said the Commission’s business/program manager Adam Novello.

“The show is massive,” he said. “People from all over the planet come to this thing. It takes up three full show floors of McCormick Place.” That complex is the largest convention center in North America, and the National Restaurant Association’s is among the three largest trade shows that exhibit there each year. Attendance at the 2015 event was more than 44,000.

“We met with people ranging from small shop owners to head chefs for major restaurant chains,” Novello said. He and the Commission’s executive director Mike Wenkel arrived the Friday before the opening of the convention to set up the booth. Representatives of two Michigan chip manufacturers, Better Made Snack Foods of Detroit and Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. of Traverse City, also were at the booth promoting chips from Michigan-grown raw product.

“Our chip processors made some great connections,” Novello said. “Both the companies believe it was a great show, and they are excited about returning for next year.”

He noted also that fresh-market Michigan potatoes have an expanding potential as chefs compete to create unique culinary attractions that can set them apart from other establishments. The scale of that competition can range from local Mom-and-Pop restaurants all the way up to celebrity chefs and to larger chains, he said.

“Mike and I interacted with a lot of restaurant people interested in Michigan fresh potatoes,” Novello said. “We were very pleased.”

It was a heady experience, he said—44,000 people milling about through the more than 2.6 million square feet of McCormick Place’s exhibition space across four days through a weekend and more. For all the contacts and interest shown in Michigan potatoes, his summary of the Commission’s participation is that “it was a great success.”

The Weekly Potato Report