ChefConnect NYC 2017
When one hears the words “New York City”, so many things pop up in association with the name: Fashion, Art, Music, and of course, Food! So it was fitting that the ChefConnect: NYC conference for the Northeast and Southeast regions was held in the Big Apple.
The New York Hilton Midtown made an excellent home base for people visiting from out-of-town. The accommodations were excellent and the staff friendly and helpful. As the name implies the location was right in the middle of Manhattan which puts one right in the heart of all kinds of activities.
If you wanted to explore the area, a walk around the neighborhood was a good place to start. I took a quick loop around the hotel and walked by Radio City Music Hall, saw the iconic statue of Atlas in front of Rockefeller Center and got to peep inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street. I also watched the ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza. And for the shoppers, I passed by Saks Fifth Avenue, but time did not allow for going inside. But for those who do have the time, a quick cab or Über ride would bring one to any number of fascinating places to while away your time. NYC has everything!
And back in the Hilton, the ChefConnect: NYC conference did a wonderful job in showcasing this area of the country and all the different aspects of the food industry here. Starting with the welcome reception, there were foods representing many different cultures and areas of the city to enjoy and the people serving the food were knowledgeable and eager to talk about their product. Of course this was right after you entered the room and the first thing you encountered was the dessert display! It was beautiful and it stopped me right in my tracks as it did with most of the attendees. A lot of us were almost afraid to ruin the display by taking something. I said almost. Besides being beautiful, the desserts tasted delicious. And of course, I enjoyed it all.
There was such a variety of seminars, it was hard to choose which ones to attend. The topics covered everything from pork butchering, beekeeping, sharpening knife skills, and presenting plated desserts. The chefs presenting the seminars knew their stuff, were very approachable, and answered all questions. I picked up quite a few tips and really felt that I learned something.
The other attendees were also welcoming and easy to talk to. There were people from so many different areas of the food industry! I talked with a culinary instructor from North Carolina whose student team will be competing at the National Convention, and with an attendee from Charlotte, North Carolina, who is on the organizing committee for next year’s Northeast/Southeast conference in that city. And just to make things interesting, I also chatted with a gas company employee from Massachusetts who was accompanying his brother – a retired chef who is living in California!
These conferences give me a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I went to my first regional conference in Providence, Rhode Island several years ago and while I enjoy meeting new people, it is good to see the folks I met earlier and hear what is going on in their lives. I may not have gone to many of the conferences, but I have always felt welcomed and included at the ones I have attended. If one has the opportunity to go to a conference, the networking aspect alone would make it worthwhile.
One could see the thought and organization that went into making this conference entertaining, educational, and enjoyable for all of us who were there. Besides the seminars, there were other aspects of learning: the mini trade show and product demos kept us up-to-date on developments in equipment and food products. The Student Team Competition and the Knowledge Bowl Competition put the spotlight on the younger generation who showed us what they can do, and finally we saluted the semifinalists for the various awards who represent the very best of us. I wish them well at the National Convention in Orlando.