Innovation, rethinking, and customer service were all at the heart of this year’s
show. As I walked the aisles and chatted with NAFEM members, I felt we had turned a
corner from the somewhat-less-than-optimal past few years. Manufacturers were
focused on new ideas, customer-driven needs, and how to do better—all things they
have done well for so many years. The strength of innovation was evident in every
booth: after some 20 years of visiting shows all over the world, I can say for the
first time that almost every vendor had some new item to show and talk about. Even
if the changes were in appearance or design only, the equipment looked slicker,
better crafted, and a bit smaller in footprint. In short, smarter design was in
WHAT’S HOT!, WHAT’S COOL!®
was brimming with creative designs and
innovative thinking. From the ’57 Chevy pizza oven to the ice that sanitizes its own
bin, there were some really intelligent items to learn about. This area also brought
to light the focus on and need for portability—many of the pieces were meant to “go
with you” wherever they were needed. Aesthetics in design were also very evident.
So many smallwares manufacturers have redesigned buffet presentations with creative
and versatile display systems for those who do buffet work. As a chef, I enjoyed
seeing the detailed thinking and attention to hot and cold holding and service
quality. Insulated buffet containers and alternatives to chafing dishes were
plentiful, which helps chefs be more versatile.
There was also plenty of technology embedded into almost every aspect of preparation.
This approach assists the chef in practicing the art of documentation and ensuring
consistency in preparation methodology. If the oven remembers how you did it, you
don’t need to. Nor do you need to count on anyone else remembering. That being said,
there remains an opportunity to rethink how we deliver instructional information to
those who use the new equipment. Precision assistance was everywhere, from all-
digital controls to a thermometer that runs off an iPhone. If you need the
operational info, it can be on your desk when you sit down (with cloud-based
assistance, that is!).
In addition, sustainability and energy use was an overarching theme. Almost every
booth touted the use of natural resources, and utility cost burden was recognized as
truly important to all those who manufacture and design. To me, this is an incredibly
forthright and responsible initiative, particularly since there is not yet strong
customer demand for it.
Lastly, I got to mix and mingle with the group I have come to know over the past
three years, as well as meet some new colleagues. It is such a pleasure to get to
know you all and be the conduit from end users to you. I look forward to a productive
year with you as we all work to strengthen the connection between the culinary
community and those who design and build everything that makes our world tick.
To top it all off, we ended with a great concert and mermaids. Great show, NAFEM