Most Innovative Meetings 2014: #12 National Restaurant Association Show

Attendees got to sample a new “flavor” of educational experience when show organizers put the cooking demonstrations in participants’ hands.

By Martha C. White December 9, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

New this year were hands-on workshops as part of the “Foodamental Studio.”

Photo: Courtesy of National Restaurant Association Show

With the popularity of competitive-cooking reality TV booming, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show’s new program captured the interactive foodie zeitgeist. The show already had culinary demonstrations, but for the 2014 show in May, the group added what it dubbed the “Foodamental Studio”: a hands-on series of workshops where attendees could roll up their sleeves and try their hand at everything from crafting artisan sodas and making kimchi to practicing nose-to-tail butchery, guided by acclaimed chefs.

“We had been talking over here for a while about some different ways and new ways for people to be educated,” said Leana Salamah, senior director of convention marketing, communications, and programming for the National Restaurant Association, and those discussions prompted the idea of doing rather than just watching.

More than 20 studio sessions ran throughout the course of the four-day show in the North Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place. Salamah said nearly every 50-station class was filled to capacity—availability was first-come, first-serve—and had standing-room-only observers. Salamah estimated that around 1,100 attendees took part in the program. “We had a really great response,” she said. “The hands-on learning lab is something we’re all very much onboard with moving forward with for next year.”

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