The Research Chef Association Conference is the one conference that I anticipate every year. This year’s event in Denver, CO, did not disappoint. Conveniently located downtown, the RCA’s major events were held at the Convention Center and the adjacent Hyatt hotel, and the other mixer events took place at restaurants close by. 

Distinguished by the focus on educational sessions and not a multi-day expo, the RCA conference is an opportunity to learn new culinary techniques, share insider tips about success in our respective restaurants and manufacturing companies, and meet chefs, product developers, suppliers, and co-packers who could help you with your projects.

 Lactalis hosted another cheese tasting, and I was really excited to attend again. Last year, they showed the effect on flavor profile of a potato croquette with different cheese types. This year, they compared the most popular flavors of cheese between the retail and restaurant outlets. Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Chevre were featured, and they pointed out that while those flavors are often the types that have the highest ACV in retail, they aren’t often offered in restaurants, or they’re limited. 
The best part about the Lactalis presentation is that they always provide cheese samples to enjoy. This year, we enjoyed a sharp cheddar, a mild cheddar, a goat cheese, buffalo mozzarella, and ricotta. 

In addition to Break-out Sessions, there are also General Sessions that everyone attends. This year’s sessions were taught by the R&D chef of PepsiCo Stephen Kalil, the R&D Chefs at Campbell’s including Chef Richard Calladonato, and a keynote presentation by Chef Bryan Voltaggio.

The chefs presented key trends in restaurant and packaged foods, market research versus consumer interest (and how to really see what the consumer thinks), and new techniques in the kitchen. It was insightful and encouraging to see that several of the projects I’m on at work are on point. 

During one of the General Sessions, Chef Mark Crowell from Culinex in Seattle, WA, was also recognized as the 2016 Pioneer in Culinology for his contributions to the industry.

Chef Jeff Cousminer from Stonewall Kitchen was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

A new friend and pastry chef Philip Saneski won a President’s Award, and my first PeasOnMoss fan Hannah Dressen won a 2016 Tyson scholarship for her next academic year at Southwest Minnesota State University.