The opening reception of the 2011 Research Chef’s Association conference was held inside the Georgia Aquarium. Corporate chefs, culinoligists, and patrons enjoyed the night amongst the Aquarium’s huge salt water tanks. The event was sponsored by Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings and ConAgra Mills. The sponsors and nine local Atlanta restaurants put on cooking demos and served small plates to a crowd of several hundred of the toughest food critics around. A few of the offerings were instant hits and seemed to echo many of the food and ingredient trends that highlighted the chef’s conversations.
Spicetec had fun with a play on popcorn shrimp, by combining tiny rock shrimp with fresh popcorn in an intriguingly textured pesto seasoning. ConAgra Mills Chef Stephen Hodge updated a 19th century southern classic and served chicken on a waffle with maple syrup. The waffles where a 9-grain whole wheat flour blend, and the chicken had a coating made from Ultragrain white whole wheat flour. The competing textures went together superbly for a very interesting treat. The local restaurants attracted a lot of attention as well. Two standouts were Rosebud, with pickled liver toast, and the Sweet Auburn Bread Company with a charming sweet potato cheesecake.
The most curious collision of culinary trends came together with King of Pops. A food cart business that posts daily cart locations on social media sites, the King of Pops makes artisan, hand-crafted popsicles on a stick that are an absolute explosion of flavors and styles. Two of the favorites seemed to be a fiery sweet mango habanero and a delightful chocolate sea salt for yet another low-sodium flavor blend. There was a line at the King of Pops cart all night long.
The RCA Annual Conference and Product Expo is a great source of information on the leading trends in food and food ingredients, as well as a chance to see many of the latest applications and newest product offerings. Look for our follow up blog posts on the top trends and the best marketing tactics at one of the most important culinary events of the year.