I’m now quite sure that karaoke is the in thing. I know because the Javits Center has more karaoke machines in it than there are bars in Hell’s Kitchen. I’m at the 77th Annual International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show (November 7th-10th) to find out what’s new, what’s old, what’s in, what’s out, what’s hot and what’s not. Fifteen hundred exhibits, educational seminars, a Discovery Room, Demonstration Kitchen, and the Salon of Culinary Art. And everywhere, I hear music playing and atonal singing.
The IH/M&RS is, as far as I know, the largest gathering of people who want to do business with those of us in the hospitality industry. Exhibitors and visitors come from all over the world. Chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers and students from down-under mingle with those from down the block. I spot some name tags from a cafe in the Guatemalan hills, from a trendy bistro in Tokyo (where, no doubt, karaoke machines are installed), and from a renowned school in snow-covered Lausanne, Switzerland. New Jersey seems heavily represented.
Like most conventions, the vast majority of attendees mix and mingle, looking for familiar faces or a product that catches their eye. Unlike most, the IH/M&RS has samples of free food and drink as far as the eye can see. Tidbits available for snacking range from fast food pizza and fried chicken from numerous purveyors to grilled wood grouse from D’Artagnan Wild Game and Food Specialists, and seafood gumbo from Chef Paul Prudhomme of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. Gourmet cheesecakes are definitely in this year, as are sourdough breads. Espresso and cappucino brew merrily, but “just coffee” is in scarce supply. Everyone wants to sell me an air filtration machine, and at least three people try to get me to try on a pair of clogs. Eight try to get yours truly to sing into a microphone while words and video flash by on a screen.
I check out the latest in gleaming kitchenware, point-of-sale computers, linens, uniforms and insecticides. The seminar rooms are filled with eager students of the trade, looking for ideas on global marketing, resume writing, energy management, franchising, menu design, new opportunities in the Eastern European market, and African design. Julia Child speaks out on modern food myths. Robin Leach delivers a nasal presentation on, surprise, the rich and famous. Phil McConkey rouses the group with a speech on winning attitudes. Panel discussions on bar sales and profits, foreign markets, “imaging”, and sexual harassment are the focus in another room.
The Salon of Culinary Arts features “food as art” creations. Some of the nation’s most famous chefs built stunning creations that range from ice sculpture to towering cakes, to gorgeous plates of food. Showcased in the Discovery Room this year are new products, technologies and services that were designed in response to the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. I see nothing to assist the singing-on-key challenged.
The Demonstration Kitchen is a hotbed of activity. Paul Prudhomme drops in to demonstrate his unique Louisiana cooking. Nick Maglieri, one of New York’s top pastry instructors shows off a little magic with Italian desserts. The list goes on with chefs from Cite, Tatou, the “21” Club, Peacock Alley, Vince and Eddie’s, Tropica, Windows on the World, Silver Fox Studios and The Water Club; and instructors from Hudson Community College, Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, and the Culinary Institute of America.
While most visitors are members of the hospitality industry, it’s not unusual to have folks who are just plain interested in food, restaurants and hotels mucking about. Watch for the 78th Annual International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show next November! And let’s hope karaoke is a thing of the past.
CaB magazine was one of the first publications I ever wrote for. Published by my dear friend Andrew Martin, it covered the Cabaret, Theater, Music and Dining scene in New York City, long before slick publications like Time Out NY and Where NY became popular. We had great fun writing it, and some wonderful writers contributed to its pages. When the magazine folded in the mid-90s, Andrew disappeared from the scene, and rumors had it that he departed from this existence not long after. I was thrilled to find out in mid-October 2005, a decade later, that the rumors were just that. Andrew contacted me after finding my site via that omnipresent force, Google. He’s alive and well and a member of a comedy troupe called Meet the Mistake. Somehow quite fitting!