The last 2 nights of the 6 day stretch were during the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. Restaurant owners and suppliers come from all around the country and indeed the world to this large convention, now in its 95th year.
At Xoco, we entertained a group of avocado farmers from California (Calavo they called it) as well as the owners of a Venezuelan burger chain called Juanchi’s, amongst many others. I left work after Saturday at 3AM: I rode my bike 7 miles to McCormick Place and attended the 11:30AM panel “Quick Service Restaurants: From Fine to Fast,” regarding the chefs approach to fast casual.
The NRA Show was a lot of Fear and Loathing: more than 20 football fields of people hawking and hopefully selling the stuff that goes into restaurants. I walked the show floor with Chef Rick: he was constantly stopped by folks saying hello and asking for pictures. I satisfied myself with so many hotdogs and ice cream that Chef felt the need to caution me not to get sick.
I was not going to miss Magic Johnson, who gave the keynote address. The story of Magic Johnson is THE story of the restaurant industry. It was not what he said, but how he said that impressed me. He ditched the podium and the stage, and walked through the aisles addressing all of us. Magic finished by saying, “I’m telling you, technology is so key to your success. Be quick, be nimble, make sure to invest in what you need.”
I worked dinner service Sunday night and closed the restaurants again. Rode my bike home at 2AM. The gas station next to the Mexican restaurant at Grand and Ashland still had a Sunday NYTimes, and I finally got a day off.