NRA 2011: Oregon in Chicago highlights local bounty

May 20, 2011 | by Valerie Killifer

Oregon in Chicago has become an NRA Show tradition among attendees and continues to highlight the growing trend of traceability from farm to fork. Traceability was highlighted by Technomic in 2010 as a crucial foodservice trend based on consumer desire for the fresh products and an increased environmental and economic awareness.

For the fifth year in a row, Salem-Ore.-based Truitt Bros. has hosted its chef’s showcase, Oregon in Chicago, at the Chicago Art Institute. The event is designed to introduce Oregon-grown products to attendees of the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show this week in Chicago.

The event was held in partnership with Plate magazine, which helped Truitt Bros. recruit the Oregon chefs on display during the event. The chefs were selected based on their prowess in the kitchen and for their use of ingredients produced in sustainable environments.

“The trend really started in Portland, which was the spawning of great food and access to great food,” said Truitt’s Rod Friesen. “Each year, we highlight chefs that showcase what can be done when you use great ingredients.”

This year, Truitt was looking to highlight its Anjou Pear product. Dishes included a Pepper-cured Oregon Chinook Salmon with Gingered Pear Compote and Spent-grain Pumpernickel. The dish was prepared by Greg Higgins from Higgins restaurant. Additionally, chef David Padberg from Park Kitchen prepared Pork Belly with Pickled Pear and Red Cabbage Kimchee.

In addition to the attendees, Truitt Bros. also had several of its suppliers at the event to further promote the farm to fork approach.

Frenchglen, Ore.-based Stacy Davies and his wife, Elaine Davies, are part of Country Natural Beef, a co-op of ranchers who provide beef to restaurants and retailers. The co-op started with 14 members in 1986 and has grown to more than 100 today.

The Davies operate Roaring Springs Ranch and sell their products to Whole Foods as well as other local retail and foodservice chains.

Stacy said the couple has seen an increase in consumer awareness in regard to where their beef comes from, a trend substantiated by their retail partners.

“Our retail partners asked us to develop a sustainability system so the consumer knows which ranch the steak in the case came from,” he said. “We also have a program where ranchers hand out samples in-store and meet the consumers. It’s amazing how often a consumer will thank us, sometimes with tears in their eyes, for producing quality food utilizing sustainable practices. The consumer really likes to have a face that they can relate to and identify with the food they’re eating.”

The Davies said their business model is built on relationships, which events such as Oregon in Chicago help them continue to build.

“We will find restaurateurs or retailers that will help us make the connection and tell the story,” Stacy said.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Food & Beverage, Sustainability

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