Skip to main content

Learning the Restaurant Business Chicago Style!

On May 20-23, eight lucky students – led by Barron’s Restaurant Lecturer Reba Haskell and Undergraduate Academic Advisor Jeremy Dafoe – traveled to the Windy City to attend the 98th Annual National Restaurant Association Show. The students were part of the Restaurant Marketing Chicago Style experience, a class that includes a field trip to the largest hospitality trade show in the world for a comprehensive look at the industry’s latest cutting-edge innovations.

With more than 2,200 exhibitors presenting 900-plus product categories, the students learn from celebrity chef demos, education sessions and panels, and by checking out new technologies and trends. Each year, the show brings more than 700,000 people from around the world to Chicago. This was Jeremy’s 12th time to coordinate the logistics of the trip and to chaperone students enrolled in the class. His favorite part of the trip remains the same.

“I love the sheer look of awe on the students’ faces when they step into the convention hall for the first time,” he said. “I always explain that this event is massive, but you have to be there in person to truly appreciate its magnitude. There are literally rows upon rows of booths and displays as far as the eye can see.”

As part of the class, students also took two guided culinary tours of downtown Chicago, where they met owners of landmark and concept restaurants to learn about how they put their establishments on the map. They visited the first sushi restaurant in the city, the namesake of Chicago-style pizza, learned the ingredients that make a true Chicago-style hotdog, and spent time with Chef Carrie Nahabedian of Michelin Star-rated NAHA.

Reba, who taught this class for the first time but is no stranger to the Chicago food scene, said the entire trip showed students the endless possibilities and unlimited options they have in the food and restaurant industry.

“In addition to the restaurant visits, the information sessions at the NRA Show allowed students to find the most current industry information available to use in their future careers,” said Reba.

Students also had the added benefit of attending the alumni mixer hosted by Hilton College and the University of Houston Alumni Association on May 21, which coincided with the NRA Show. For the first time ever, the mixer was held aboard the Wendella, which provides architectural cruise tours of the city’s famous skyline. Aside from fabulous views at sunset, students had the opportunity to network with Dean Dennis Reynolds, alumni from the area and friends of the College who were also in town for the trade show. 

“More than 40 alumni turned out for our inaugural architectural cruise mixer, and it was by far the best event we’ve ever hosted,” said Director of Development & Alumni Engagement Miguel Cabrera. “We plan to make this NRA Show alumni mixer along the Chicago River an annual event!”

We’re excited to see what’s on the menu for next year!

(Photo: Miguel Cabrera)