Eating healthy at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago: Impossible

Eating healthy at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago: Impossible
Photo" Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Foodies, industry leaders from around the globe, top chefs and the Who’s Who of the food world are in Chicago to celebrate l00YearsOfWow–the hashtag for the 2019 show.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The century old convention brings together some 67,000+ foodservice professionals to observe the latest trends in the foodservice industry from ingredients, advancements in restaurant technology, kitchen gadgets and more.

Things have changed in the last century. We now have robots to serve us along with a variety of techie apps to help us through entire process. However, one thing remains the same–the longest lines at the show are for the food samples and bar pours.

Healthy is trending from the many meatless and vegan offerings to the awareness of the environment with nearly 35 different vendors offering alternatives to the blacklisted plastic straws.

It is probably easier than ever to eat healthy at the 2019 convention, although it was not my intention.NRACauliflowerRisotto

I found myself downing cauliflower risotto, greek yogurt and cherries, the plant based Impossible burger, infused waters with a hint of fruit or cucumber, Sabra’s Avacado toast, kimchi, chickpeas and zhoug but when I saw the Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese truck, I stopped in my tracks.

Stouffers White Mac and Cheese Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Stouffers White Mac and Cheese Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The warm creamy white Mac & Cheese is hard to beat–healthy or not. In addition, the vendor offered over a dozen toppings from chorizo and meatballs, to specialty cheeses and pesto.

From there, I headed to the Bellavita Italian Pavilion where I was able to score a “hot from the brick oven” Margarita pizza.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

That was just the beginning of my slide from healthy with beef burgers, cupcakes and ice cream all calling my name.

I topped off the day at the BAR Show where I was able to sample and watch the “Star of the Bar” finalists put together their amazing creations and preview the winning recipe, Chad Splanger’s (Service Bar, Washington D.C.) Margarita Al Pastor.

Chad Splanger. Photo' Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Chad Splanger. Photo’ Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

I also learned what’s trending in the spirits world from turmeric colored yellow and orange wines to C.B.D. and hemp laced drinks. It seems, the health trend is even infiltrating the mixology industry with new ingredients such as Aquafaba, the leftover water from canned chickpeas–replacing egg whites to add a creamy thickness to cocktails.

Some questions to take away from the show is “What is healthy?” and “Will kung pao, za’atar, zhoug and toum be as common place in the future as sriracha has become?”

And “Do we really need to give up Mac & Cheese if we want to pursue a healthy lifestyle?”

To that, I say “everything in moderation.”

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