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The Show is Over, but the City of Light Burns Bright

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The international food show is over. Five days of long hours, dicey transportation scenarios, and sleepless nights are behind me. So I want to look back and reflect on what I learned, what I experienced, and what I will take from the show.

First, I feel a proper introduction is in order. I want to tell you how this all began.

I was asked to go to this show by Barbara Charlet, who works for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, in International Developement. She is also involved with the organization called the Southern United States Trade Association. SUSTA is a nonprofit export Developement association that represents the 15 southern US states and Puerto Rico on behalf of the federal Department of Agriculture. Their purpose is to help promote southern U.S. companies and products in international markets and to help those companies find buyers in international markets.

SUSTA buys large booth spaces at major international food shows and allows it’s company members to share a section of that booth at these shows. With a larger booth footprint, you have the potential to draw a larger crowd, thus reaching more buyers. Once there, SUSTA representatives help these companies and buyers connect, Viola.

To even further be able to draw attention, SUSTA contracts with chefs, such as myself, to come along and demonstrate recipes using company members’ products for these potential international buyers. So that’s where i come in.

This week, at the show, it was my job to come up with recipes or prepare existing recipes, for all of the SUSTA companies that were exhibiting at this year’s show. As it turns out, I was the only American chef working for any U.S. company this year

So who were these companies?

Andalucia Nuts:-dried nuts, seeds, and fruit; Global Agro: exporter of peas and lentils; Crown Products: popcorn, sunflower seeds, condensed milk, millet; Fischer & Wieser: pasta sauces, salsas, condiments; Ford’s Gourmet Foods: flavored nuts, sauces, mustard; Giroski Agro Group: rice, oils, beans; Head Country Food Products:- barbecue sauce, salsa, seasonings; Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic:- blends of herbs and seasonings; Marky’s: American caviar; Rico’s: concession snack foods, you know them for nachos; Tasti D-Lite: low fat frozen ice creams.

What did I make? Some examples are: Vegetarian Lentil and Rice Soup, BBQ chicken pasta salad, great northern bean salad, garlic pork tenderloin, grilled chicken bruschettas with pomegranate molasses, barbecue brisket sliders.

We had a good turnout, considering the issues with local transportation unions going on strike, it was a great show. It was fun for me to meet so many people from all over the world, those who came by my cooking booth to try the dishes I made.

My favorite part about the show, though, were the breaks in between cooking segments where I got to walk around and check out all the other products that were there. It seemed to me, that beverages were a popular theme. There were hundreds of booths from every country showcasing some new tea, juice or wine. One in particulate caught my eye, it was a canned vodka-energy drink. That one is sure to be a hit.

Another favorite of mine was the meat hall. Iberico ham, potted foie gras, a giant wheel of mortadella, were some of my favorites. I also found it interesting to see the meat vendors selling horse meat. Obviously there’s a market for that somewhere, but I’m glad it’s not in Oklahoma.

It’s probably no surprise that another common theme was the all-natural and organic products. Everything from chocolate, tea, condiments, sausages, sauces, pastas, and meats were part of this group. In fact, there was an entire hall dedicated to it.

Well now that the work is over, it is time to have some fun. I have moved closer to downtown Paris, I am staying right by Notre Dame. For the next few days I will have the pleasure of really exploring the local culture and dining scene.

Tomorrow I plan to go visit Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower. Stay tuned for my next post as I talk about those and whatever great culinary delights come my way.

P.s. Last night, I had pate de foie gras, scallops with goat cheese ravioli, and venison ragout for dinner. It didn’t suck.

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