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Chicagoland - Champagne and Caviar Holiday Dinner

Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar is in an unassuming corner building in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.  In the bar, a group of RCA Chicagoland members gathered on December 3 with anticipation for the promise of caviar, champagne and fine cuisine.  After a round of cocktails, the group moved to a cozy lower level private dining room where they were greeted by Chef-Partner Guy Meikle and a buffet of three different varieties of caviar and an array of garnishes and accompaniment that included, egg, onion, capers, crème fraiche toast points as well as house made pickles, potato chips and chicharrones.

Chef Guy introduced Antonio Salto of Polanco Caviar who provided the group with an overview of modern global caviar production. He also explained the intricacies of Polonco Caviar’s sturgeon farm and caviar production in Uruguay.  The presenters collaborated with Guy focusing on the culinary and flavor aspects of the caviars and Antonio detailing the traceability and DNA authentication of his caviars.

The presentation extended into the first course of dinner.  The dinner started with a champagne toast and a rare cooked lamb loin seasoned with togarashi and served on a perilla leave with beet gelée.  The meal continued family style with platters of grilled sweet corn sprinkled with cotija cheese, lime and cilantro pesto.  Platters of crisp fried chicken were topped with generous dollops of caviar.  House-smoked whole duck was slathered with caviar and accompanied by scallion pancakes and radishes.  To finish, diners enjoyed hand-rolled chocolate truffles, pâte de fruit and caramels.

The dinner ended in a hearty ovation for Antonio, Chef Guy and Chef-Partner Shane Zimmerman. Guests left with a holiday-themed gift bag that included chocolates, snacks and merchandise provided by Chicagoland RCA supporters, Barry Callebaut, Bell Flavors, Olam and Edlong.

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Chicagoland - Foraging for Flavor

On pleasant, sunny October afternoon a group of RCA members took to the woods of Northern Illinois in search of tasty ingredients.  Led by professional forager Dave Odd, the group was shown the edible ingredients that literally grew under their feet.  Discoveries included greens like clover, chickweed and lady’s thumb. Root vegetables like Solomon’s seal and ramps were also found.  Foraged fruits and nuts included nightshade berries, wild grapes, black raspberries, wild pecans and black walnuts.  The group then ventured deeper int the woods in search of fungi.  Puffball mushrooms, turkey feather mushrooms and honey mushrooms were harvested, but the star was a 2 lb. cluster of maitake or “hen of the woods” mushrooms.

 The group left the woods and headed to the nearby Culinary Center of Bell Flavors and Fragrances. There they joined other RCA members to enjoy a buffet of dishes that included many of the same foraged ingredients.  The menu prepared by Corporate Executive Chef Chris Warsow and his culinary team was delicious and artfully presented.  Along with socializing and professional networking, attendees also enjoyed a lecture-demonstration by Dave Odd on foraged ingredients of the region.  In the end, RCA members were well rewarded for leaving their kitchens and labs and embracing wild flavors.

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Culinologists discovering foraged foods at a local nature preserve and in creatively curated dishes.

New England Region - Trillium Brewery Tour & Tasting 

On October 1, guests joined the RCA New England Region at Trillium Brewery in Canton, Mass for an evening of networking and exploration. The group was led on a private tour – highlighting the history of this iconic brewery and the innovation they bring to the industry.

Trillium’s Marketing Director, Matt Garstka, spoke to the sustainable mantra of how the company sources raw materials and collaborates with neighboring farms, brewers and vendors.  An offsite barrel aging facility houses proprietary blends for future distribution and a new Farmhouse location will further produce estate-grown beer and agricultural products.

Their robust product development cycle allows for a constant stream of exciting flavor profiles and styles – filling the pipeline for several locations and a restaurant within Boston and rural Mass. 

The group met with the Trillium R&D Team to learn about how pilot runs are translated into full-scale batches.  Discussions followed regarding how focus groups, internal cuttings, sensory sessions and success metrics sanction new products to move to consumers.  Advances in equipment technology also keep Trillium on the cutting edge of energy consumption, waste management, yeast propagation, consistency within batches.

The evening ended with an open networking session for all attendees with food provided by some of the sponsors – Kayem Foods, Signature Breads, and Reiser. Trillium opened their entire portfolio for tasting with explanations of all product via their comprehensive Team. Attendees ranged from various facets of the industry, as well as students from Johnson & Wales University. 

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Attendees explore Trillium Brewery in Canton, MA.

Chicagoland Region - Upcycled & Sustainable Ingredients Event

On September 17, members of the RCA Chicagoland region gathered to learn more about three new and unique ingredients.  The event was hosted by Griffith Foods at their Alsip, Illinois headquarters.  Organized by Griffith Technical Manager, Dennis Girik, the event highlighted three small companies making a difference in food waste and sustainable practices.

The event opened with a networking reception with small bites.  Chef Joe Kuechenmeister created a menu that incorporated the featured ingredients.  The Griffith culinary team’s creations were delicious and demonstrated applications for moringa, spent grains and green banana powder:

Kuli Kuli Moringa Powder

Moringa Hummus with Harissa Drizzle, Za’atar Pita Chips & Veggies
Moringa Mockamole with Corn Chips
Caprese salad with Moringa Pesto 

ReGrained Brewers Spent Grain

Assortment of Brewers Spent Grain Flat Breads:
Roast Beef Gardiniera – Pepperoni- Italian Sausage – Margherita

NuBana Green Banana Flour

Green Banana BBQ Chicken Sliders
Green Banana Blinis:
Smoked salmon – Ndjua – Boursin, Dill& Beets

Following the tasting, Manisha Chadhuri Director of Business Development for Terova, a company that cultivates start-ups with a sustainable purpose, moderated an educational seminar. Attendees heard Jackie Fera speak about the process of growing and processing green bananas.  Product characteristics, and detailed application information were presented for green banana flour as a native starch, pre-gelatinized starch and prebiotic.

Dan Kurzrock, founder of ReGrained, told the story of how he developed a byproduct of the brewing industry into a functional food ingredient.  He also shared the company’s success in developing and marketing a branded CPG product line.

Lynne Wilkie of Kuli Kuli presented the story of how American women in the Peace Corps working in Africa, were introduced to the indigenous moringa plant and then worked to develop a market for the superfood. She reviewed the nutritional benefits of moringa, outlined uses, and showed examples of retail products in which the product is an ingredient.

Attendees left the event with a bag of samples of products from the participating companies and swag provided by Griffith Foods.

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Attendees at Griffith Foods in Alsip, IL discuss applications of upcycled and sustainable ingredients. 

New York/Philadelphia Region - Lunch & Learn: Plant-based Protein Innovations for the Modern Culinologist

On September 4, 2019, roughly 40 members of the NY/Philadelphia Region of the RCA met at the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) location in Cranbury, New Jersey to discover the newest innovations in plant-based proteins. Upon arrival, guest took a seat and learned the menu they were about to enjoy. The ADM Culinary Team prepared an entirely plant-based feast for our guests, which included a cheese charcuterie board, taco/pita stations, summer salad, and a chicken-shawarma meatball kebab station. Once guests returned to their seats, ADM’s Senior Beverage Scientist, Taraja Amoako-Poku passed around some uniquely delicious beverages to compliment and displayed how plant-based protein beverages can offer different deliverables when used appropriately in application. The meal closed with a nut-based frozen Horchata. Following lunch, ADM’s Global Plant Protein Research & Development Manager, Dina Fernandez took us through an intimate look into the broad range of available proteins and how they can be used to enhance functionality over a vast array of product categories. Bob Baron of Sensory Spectrum then took our audience through an in-depth look into plant-based meat analogues and how the research they conduct supports the ever-evolving food world and why more individuals are choosing to become flexitarians. His presentation concluded with a tasting of some of the more popular plant-based burgers in comparison to beef for the audience to decide for themselves which they perceive is the best for their flavors preferences.

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Attendees at ADM in Cranbury, NJ learn about plant-based protein innovations and enjoy plant-based products. 

New England Region - NEIFT Suppliers Expo

The North East IFT (NEIFT) Section Suppliers Expo, on May 15th, included some New England Region of RCA interaction.  The NEIFT, which does a great job attracting over 100 suppliers to their expo graciously allowed the New England Region to have an information booth during the Expo, as they have for several years now.  We had over 40 people stop by our booth and we raffled off 3 donated student RCA membership to students from UMass Food Science, U Maine Food Science and Johnson & Wales University. 

The New England Region was also pleased to provide the Headline speaker for the technical sessions earlier in the day.  The topic was “Sustainable By Design: Create Value for your Business and Customers.” Sustainability is a buzzword that we hear quite often today, but what does it really mean in today’s food marketplace and for your business future? In this session, Bill Shea from Australis Aquaculture, a Massachusetts-based startup that became the world’s largest barramundi fish farm, spoke to the challenges, opportunities, and value of designing and operating a sustainable food business from the ground up. We learned about where sustainability credentials matter (and where they don’t), and key questions to ask your organization today to help them prepare for the future.

Chicagoland Region - Culinology Education in Action

In April, members of the Research Chefs Chicagoland region participated in Dominican University’s Industry Showcase.  Members were invited to review the final projects of Professor Yamuna Puraikalan’s Experimental Foods class.  Dominican University offers a culinology degree program and this event was focused on strengthening the relationship between RCA professionals and students.

The atrium of Dominican’s Parmer Hall was the site for teams of students to display their projects, which involved recreating an existing food or beverage product to meet a new series of dietary and labeling goals.  Students offered guests samples of their revised product as well as an explanation of the processes employed to meet the new standards.  Guests were able to ask questions and offer their assessment of the work. 

The showcase was followed by a networking reception with food and beverages provided by RCA members who are Dominican University alumni.

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Dominican University Students present their work to RCA members.  

Northwest Arkansas Region - Feed the Funnel Party at The Pack Shack

For our first volunteer event, we partnered with The Pack Shack for a Feed the Funnel Party in Cave Springs, Arkansas. Regional members were invited to bring friends and family along to pack meals that would be delivered to families in need through Hope Distributors in central Arkansas. Together, our volunteers back 3,024 meals for neighbors in need. 

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Chicagoland Region - Distillery Tour & Pairings

On a cold mid-February evening, the warmth and good cheer of Culinology glowed in the cozy confines of the North Shore Distillery’s tasting room.  Located North of Chicago, not far from the Wisconsin border, North Shore was the first distillery in Illinois to be licensed since the end of prohibition.   RCA members came to learn about the growing craft distilling industry and about pairing food and spirits.

Guests enjoyed the hospitality of owners Sonja and Derek Kassebaum.  Sonja, who oversees the distillery’s marketing, is also an authority on the history of mixology.  She uses that expertise to create signature cocktails with North Shore spirits.  A number of these creations were on the bar menu for the evening’s social hour.

Derek Kassebaum, who holds a degree in chemical engineering, is North Shore’s master distiller.  He gave the group a tour of the workings of the distillery and a presentation on the science and artisan craft of distilling.  The star of the presentation was “Ethel”, a gleaming 60-gallon pot still.  Ethel was custom built in Germany of hand hammered copper and stainless steel and she produces all North Shore’s spirits.

The tasting room was set up with three food tasting stations.  The culinary teams from Bell Flavors and Newly Weds Foods provided tasting portions of appetizers, main courses and desserts.   Each station was staffed with a mixologist serving a signature cocktail matched especially for the menu selections.

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Southern California Region - Factors that Influence Taste Perceptions

The Southern California region held "Factors that Influence Taste Perceptions" an event in conjunction with Southern California IFT.  It was a great presentation with well over 100 in attendance from both organizations. The presentation included audience participation tastings of fruit, citrus and vanilla flavored tasting solutions or products and was given by Dale Streit, Director of Flavor Development at California Custom Fruits and Flavors.

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New England Region - Second Annual Community Service Day

On Saturday, November 10, ten volunteers from the New England Region processed 19,682 lbs. of donated food products at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB). Their efforts yielded 16,729 lbs. of donated food, which will make 13,940 meals possible. Additionally, all registration proceeds were donated to the GBFB. The New England Region would like to thank Newly Weds Foods for their generous sponsorship of this event. Check out the photos of this event below.

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The GBFB's warehouse full of donations; volunteers happy at work; and a training session for volunteers.

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