I’ve said it for several years now: The Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade Show, which starts today, is pretty much my favorite food event all year.
The big week features samples and resources for food professionals, professional development opportunities, housekeeping and bartending competitions, and two (count ’em, TWO) major cooking competitions: Iron Chef (on the trade show floor, later this week) and the Culinary Classic (a separately ticketed, pre-conference event).
The Culinary Classic offers guests a taste of every entrant’s competition dish, and these tastes are pretty generous. The chefs enter their wares in the categories of Soup/Salad, Dessert, Entree, or Appetizer. Meanwhile, attendees browse a silent auction of mostly hospitality items (meals, hotel stays and the like), the benefits of which help Arkansas culinary students with their education. You know I’m down with that.
The really fun thing about the event is that it’s not the standard cache of chefs you see at all the other food events in town. For example, one of the most medaled chefs in past years, Adam Hanry, works at the sleeper (ha) Camp Mitchell Retreat Center, although his food could pass for that at a trendy restaurant downtown. I’ve even heard him mention that he always looks for freezer trailers for hire when he goes from event to event. Apparently, it’s because he never knows when he might need certain ingredients that have been kept at a specific temperature. He likes to have them on hand at all times. It’s genius really. Another surprise last year was Bistro 1600, a private dining operation open exclusively to Dillard’s employees.
This year’s Culinary Classic offers a weird twist for me: I’m on the judging panel. I’ve had several event judging opportunities in recent years that I eschewed because of my gluten intolerance. Tonight, imma suck it up. I may be all bloated and sickly tomorrow, but by golly, this is an opportunity that I won’t pass up.
Want to join me? Here are the deets:
Arkansas Hospitality Association
Culinary Classic (Click to order tickets)
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Statehouse Convention Center
Tickets are $45 and include beer and wine tasting by Glazer’s