Exhibitors at the 15th Annual International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York demonstrated products ranging from the fun to the functional and from the foreign to the familiar.
International flavors were one of the highlights of the show, held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York March 9-11.
Alberta Heredia, a salesman with Colton, Calif.-based California Churros, offered show attendees samples of the popular Latin pastry. California Churros distributes frozen churros, which are tubes of fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
"Churros are all over the market now," Heredia said. "It used to be only Latinos who would recognize them, now the whole industry knows about them."
The Japanese Demonstration Theater and Pavilion, organized by The Japan External Trade Organization, allowed visitors to experience the flavors and textures of Japanese foods. Attendees had the chance to meet with 25 food- and product-vendors who showcased preparation techniques and highlighted new trends and innovations.
Environmentally friendly products and food prepared without trans fat also ranked high on the list of products on display at the show.
"Our products have been made with trans fat free sunflower oil or canola oil since day one," said Thomas Stacey, vice president of sales for Canton, Mass.-based Harbar, a maker of tortillas and related products. "It's not just a fad, it's here to stay."
Pizzeria operators share concerns
The New York Pizza Show, co-located with the restaurant show, offered a look at what's new in the pizza business. In terms of equipment, one of the hottest trends at the show seemed to be a look back at history.
Several operators were displaying the latest in deck pizza ovens as well as enclosures designed to replicate the look of an old-style brick oven.
"Years ago, a lot of people were using conveyor ovens and now they are going back to the more traditional deck ovens," said Vince Dattolo, director of sales, Eastern region, for New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Bakers Pride Oven Co. "People are taking our ovens, building them in and making them look like something from the old country, and at the same time they are giving people the good quality product they want."
Operators are looking at ovens as something that provides an element of theater to a pizzeria, he said.
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"A lot of pizzerias went to a conveyor oven and cut down on a lot of labor, and that's how they can sell pizzas for $5," Dattolo said. "Someone who is using an oven like ours is probably selling pizzas for $13 or $14, but on a Friday night there is a line outside the restaurant."
The pizza show featured several competitions testing skills ranging from pizza making to dough tossing. The America's Plate prize for pizza was awarded to Jarmo Valtari of Koti Pizza in Vaasa, Finland.
Valtari's entry featured a Fazer Rye fiber crust, tomato sauce and cream cheese, topped with reindeer meat, local trumpet mushrooms and red onions. The Finnish pie beat out regional champions from Italy, China, Australia and the United States.
Casey Cole from Pisanello's Pizza in Franklin, Ohio, won a spot on the U.S. Pizza Team, which will head to the World Championships in France on March 26, 2008. Juan Hermosillio from Pizza Pizza in Toronto, Canada, won the individual acrobatics competition.
High on the list of discussion topics for pizzeria operators and vendors on the show floor was the skyrocketing cost of commodities such as cheese and flour. According to Anthony Caliendo, national sales manager for Linden, N.J.-based cheese distributor Milano's, the falling dollar has made importing cheese from Italy extremely expensive, so the company has been looking at cheese from countries such as Syria and Argentina.
Many operators also have expressed an interest in cheese blends as a way to mitigate rising prices, he said.
"A lot of pizzeria operators obviously want quality at a lower price," said. "We are seeing a little more blending in order to bring the price down a little bit, but still have a great flavor. That is one thing we do better than anyone."
Product innovations highlighted
According to show organizers, more than 18,000 industry professionals including chefs, restaurant owners, operators and caterers walked the show floor during its three-day run. Preliminary reports indicate that attendance at the show was up 14 percent over previous years and that attendance at the educational sessions was up 300 percent.
Educational topics included sessions on boosting beverage sales, restaurant marketing and ways to deal with romance among restaurant staff.
A popular spot on the show floor was the Innovative New Product Gallery, where two dozen new and innovative products were introduced to attendees.
Brothers Joe and John Hatjopoulos showcased the Grill Advantage, a detachable grill backsplash that helps prevent exhaust-vent fires.
Brothers Joe and John Hatjopoulos showcased the Grill Advantage at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. The grill is designed to prevent exhaust-vent fires.
During the first two days of the show more than 3,000 attendees cast their votes for their favorite new products. On March 10, The Best of Show Award was presented to the Brooklyn Bagel Slicer, a tool for slicing bagels.
"We showcased our product and met with hundreds of potential customers, received really strong sales leads, and ended up receiving a best new product award," said Michael D. Moss, co-inventor of the Brooklyn Bagel Slicer with his father Dr. Dennis Moss. "We couldn't be more excited with the results of this show."
In other show news:
- The judges of the 19th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition, held during the show, awarded first place to Wing Cheung from the Grand Hyatt in New York. Cheung won $4,000 and a gold medal for his "Under The Sea" themed sculpture. Second place went to Anthony Smith from The Cosmopolitan Club in New York, and third place went to Salvatore Settepani from Pasticceria Bruno in Staten Island, N.Y.
- The Ultimate Barista Challenge USA was a competition where baristas competed in a dueling stage of identical espresso stations to shake their espresso cocktails, prepare cafe latte art, blend espresso frappe and brew the best coffee. Winners included Mike Love of Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown, N.Y., who was named the Latte Art Champion. Greg Suekoff from Coffee Pronto in Annapolis, Md., was name the Espresso Cocktail Champion, and the UBC Ultimate barista Ryan Dennhardt from The Daily Grind in Kearney, Neb., was named winner of the Espresso Frappe and the Best of Brew Challenges.