Big Ideas

Bringing Hands-On Cooking Classes to the Trade-Show Floor

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) held hands-on cooking classes on the exhibition floor at McCormick Place in Chicago this past May.

Along with sessions for chocolate, pickling, and craft soda, there was a class on butchering meat. Looking back at that session, “there were more knives on the table than I had anticipated,” said Mary Pat Heftman, NRA’s executive vice president for convention and strategic alliances.

The chef-taught lessons were a huge hit, Heftman said, with 800 attendees taking part in 22 first-come, first-served cooking lessons offered over the course of four days, with hundreds more looking on. The sessions, which the NRA conducted in partnership with the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, were a way of kicking the show’s always-popular culinary demonstrations up a notch by allowing attendees to participate rather than just watch.

In addition to engaging attendees on the floor, the Foodamental Studio was a social-media boon. Heftman said: “There were lots of ‘food selfies.’”

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor of Convene.