Welcome to NRA 2009! I got in on Saturday afternoon-took the 6 AM in from San Francisco and was looking forward to adding myself to the very diluted NRA crowd at the McCormick center this year. I didn’t pre register because I was not planning on attending this year but VERY last minute-as in Friday night- I booked a flight using only 25,000 miles and my friend got me a great room at the Chicago Hilton for $150 a night ;all the cheap deals were coming my way, a sign that I was meant to attend! So I tossed all my usual pre planning conservative behavior to the Chicago wind, flew in, did lunch with Jay Kimball (ya’all know Jay-that’s Chef Jay from John Folse Co !), got in thirty minutes of expo time and then did dinner at Vermillion www.thevermillionrestaurant.com, a Latin Indian fusion place that serves strange tasting cumin ice cream desserts with my very best food industry friend Ellen-who lives in Canada and works at Giraffe Food and Beverages, her husband REA and Aaron Aboud, one of their food technologists.


The show is indeed not heavily populated this year, and while of course the more the merrier, we have to look at the positives. More food for everyone else on the expo floor, less crowds at the restaurants, and I MIGHT even get a reservation at Alinia www.alinia.com tomorrow night-which would be unheard of back in 2007 without a reservation made 9 months in advance!


Since I am in name-dropping mode, I should probably mention that I saw all the famous people at the RCA reception (at the Union League club Chicago -which I hope everyone knows by now does NOT allow jeans), including Harry Krane (our RCA  president who just flew in minutes before the event in the Kellan Company private jet), John Matchuck, famous Greek Chef from Chicago, Robert Danhi, James Beard Award nominee, Albert Celantano ,Chefcowww.chefco.com Chef and RCA certification commissioner , Tim Rosendahl from … well, from everywhere but mostly the Dakota Food Group! Aaron Novashen, Jeff Decker, Kurt Stiles, Paul Forde, who is no longer with Peer Foods but is now with the Kansas City Sausage Company Mariano and Judd from Wixon  Brian Averna, a chef from Sarah Lee, his friend Remi, and Art Michaels, who works at a company called Souk www.soukfoods.com , that has something to do with East Mediterranean Food and who I wish I had met BEFORE I wrote my Mediterranean article. Chef J was there, he follows me on twitter and “tweeted up” a live pix of me and Doug Peckendough, editor in chief-Culinology Magazine (that’s his twitter name BTW). Right before I left I saw Kit Keifer, Craig “Skip” Julius-and Anne Drushchitz, who wore a fabulous red dress! The only element missing from the party tonight was no Jason Grunlund, everyone’s favorite Tabasco King!

The reception (I think) was very well attended, no one wore jeans, everyone dressed in Union League approved attire. The room was packed and if anyone is wondering who the young (as in underage) guy was, that’s Greg Grossman from Culinaria Group he is 13 years old, comes from NY and is doing all kinds of staging at different restaurants, catering gigs, learning about industrial ingredients, and trying to figure out what he is going to do with it all in about 10 years. He wants to be a food scientist, but the specific details TBD when he graduates high school.


Have fun at the show-if you get a chance, stop by the Grecian Delight booth, Chef Matchuck is there waiting to serve you a beautiful meze platter of hummus and feta cheese dips!


About rachel zemser