The 81st Annual Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, held last week at the Los Angeles Convention Center was filled with exciting events, awards presentations, celebrity chefs, education, product demonstrations and more. Over 10,000 restaurant and foodservice industry professionals saw new products and services from nearly 500 exhibiting companies at the event, which was started in 1936, and is sponsored by the California Restaurant Association.
“The three days of the Western Foodservice Expo were jam-packed with exciting special events, new product launches, education, culinary demonstrations, and so much more for the thousands of restaurant and foodservice professionals who attended this long standing event,” said Tom Loughran, Vice President. “We would like to thank our exhibitors, attendees, speakers, chefs and partner, the California Restaurant Association, for making this event more than a tradeshow – it is the must-attend event for the industry.”
On Sunday afternoon the California Restaurant Association hosted the 6th Annual Culinary & Cocktail Clash: Battle Los Angeles and raised more than $100,000, which will provide educational resources to ProStart programs in California high schools. The Culinary & Cocktail Clash Winners were:
Golden Glove: Urban Plates
Coca-Cola Champ: Lawry’s Prime Rib
Foster Farms Turkey Champ: Specialty Restaurants Corp.
Ecolab Champ: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and BJ’s Restaurants
KitchenAid Commercial Champ: Hard Rock Cafe
Team Spirit: Hard Rock Cafe
People’s Choice: Wedgewood Wedding and Banquet Center
Best Bite: Urban Plates
Golden Plate: Lawry’s Prime Rib
FreshPoint Secret Ingredient Champ: Specialty Restaurants Corp.
Jose Cuervo Golden Goblet: Lawry’s Prime Rib
Coca-Cola Champ: Coasterra
Best Garnish: Lawry’s Prime Rib
The Craftiest: Lazy Dog
On Monday, in front of a standing room only crowd, the Torch Award was presented to Curtis Stone, Chef and Owner of Maude & Gwen. During his cooking demonstration, he made his award winning lamb and discussed his commitment to Chrysalis, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to helping low income and homeless individuals become self-sufficient through jobs. Curtis signed copies of his new book Good Food, Good Life.
There were several new product awards presented at the Show. The Overall Winner in the Innovative New Product Showcase was Oumph! a 100% plant based product that comes in a variety of shapes and consistencies. It is extremely rich in protein and fibers and a perfect source of folic acid and iron. The 1st Place Runner Up was Pure Napkin for their bio-degradable compressed napkin. The 2nd Place Runner Up was Big Mama’s Gumbo for their delicious Creole Gumbo from a secret family recipe. Best New Product in the Food Trends Experience was Mommy Sauce for their Korean sauces. Best in Show for Pitch the Press was NavyZebra for their Elephant Foot Stamp Technology.
Thousands of attendees took advantage of the 30+ education sessions offered during the show. Panel discussions featured interesting and timely topics including; The Foodservice Council for Women panel discussion with Sandy Korem, The Catering Coach; Lusy Gradzhyan of Lusy’s Mediterranean Café; Barbara Lazaroff, Restaurateur; and Suzanne Tracht of Jar Restaurant. Other sessions focused on How to Easily Survive Increasing Minimum Wage and Food Costs; Legal Center Live; Understanding the Latino Consumer; Winning the Confidence of Gluten Free Diners; How to Turn Your Restaurant into a Standout; and many others.
Hundreds of attendees watched as rising star chefs competed in the Rapid Fire Appetizer Competition: Sandwich Edition, sponsored by Great Taste Magazine and moderated by Publisher, Terri Williams. Chef Paul Cao of Burnt Crumbs won the competition for his Fried Chicken Sandwich. The other two chefs who competed were Chef Stephen Agosto of Kelsey’s at Pechanga Resort & Casino who prepared a Smoked Lechon Sandwich and Chef Max Schultz of Sessions West Coast Deli who prepared a Summer Zephyr Sandwich.
Presenters on the Center Stage demo theater were Shaun O’Neale, Winner of MasterChef Season 7 and Author of “My American Table”; Rob Floyd, RX Liquid Chef, Sip Boldly & Bar Rescue; Chris Sayegh, Chef & Owner of The Herbal Chef; Celebrity Chef Frankie the Bull; Jenny Ross, Executive Chef at 118 Degrees and Cookbook Author; Denise Vivaldo, Culinary Consultant/Chef/Author; and Dakota Weiss, Executive Chef + Partner, Sweetfin Poke. And a new offering, “Why Whiskey Tasting” embraced the current trend of whiskey and bourbon popularity.
Other feature areas on the show floor included the Food Trends Experience where 75 companies displayed healthy, organic sustainable, ethnic artisanal, fusion and more; The Education Station, which featured business strategies from leaders in the field; The Beer, Wine and Spirits Pavilion, which offered access to new craft beers and other products; The Sabor Latino Pavilion which focused on Latin and Hispanic products for the foodservice market; the NEW Healthy Pavilion which offered healthier option and was sponsored by Healthy Dining, and much more.
At the close of the Show, the exhibitors of the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo donated thousands of pounds of food to the LA Regional Food Bank, to be distributed through the Salvation Army.
The 2018 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, will be held Sunday, August 19 – Tuesday, August 21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Show is produced and managed by Urban Expositions, a Clarion Events Company (www.urban-expo.com) and sponsored by the California Restaurant Association (www.calrest.org). In 2018, The Western Foodservice Expo will co-locate with Coffee Fest (https://www.coffeefest.com), a trade show and conference specifically provided for those involved with retailing coffee, tea and related products.