The American Culinary Federation (ACF) held its annual convention in Orlando, Florida, from July 11 to 14, hosting seminars, speeches, competitions and—most importantly—plenty of food, using the event to share food trends, teach new food ideas, and brainstorm cost-effective manners in which chefs can run their food enterprises. The convention is also used for chefs to earn credits towards their certification.
Bringing together chefs and food professionals from the ACF’s four national regions—Central, Northeast, Southeast, and Western—the annual convention presents a marketplace of ideas for the food industry, says Steve Jilleba, corporate executive chef for Unilever Foodsolutions and presenter at the convention.
“There’s a whole bunch of networking, and really a lot of educational pieces,” Jilleba says. “[The convention is] for chefs to learn points for certification, but also to better themselves, and it’s definitely a networking event—you get other chef’s ideas.”
Seminars conducted throughout the four days found food professionals teaching lessons that ranged from efficiency in the use of avocado to creating more sustainable restaurants.
The economy, of course, played a role in the convention, as Jilleba says many of the seminars focused on getting more bang for your buck. “It’s … how to gain more customers or stretch your dollars,” he says. “There are certain foods that you can do that very easy with.”
“With quick-serve, many of the ideas … fall into that category,” Jilleba continues. “It’s taking and simplifying.”
Seminars that discussed economical issues included lessons on using premium ingredients such as lamb in a cheaper way, turning towards “comfort foods” that are tasteful and pad the restaurants’ bottom line, and managing a restaurant’s finances and planning for the economic year ahead.
One group of foods that was especially popular throughout the convention, and which Jilleba taught a seminar on, was foods from Latin America. Jilleba says Latin food is a significant emerging cuisine, and his seminar on Peruvian and Brazilian foods discussed the ways in which those foods can be used to restaurants’ advantage.
“People don’t know these foods that much yet, but [they’re] very simplistic and very cost-affective,” Jilleba says. “Peru, [with] a lot of potatoes, a lot of starches, very little proteins—there are some exciting flavors there. The same with finger foods from Brazil.”
By Sam Oches