All is ready for MenuDirections 2013

Three-day non-commercial foodservice conference to focus on healthy dining

This weekend, the FoodService Director crew heads to Tampa Fla., for the 11th annual MenuDirections conference. After months of preparation, we're ready to offer more than 130 operators a taste of Healthy Flavors, Healthy Profits.

This has been, without a doubt, one of the more stressful MenuDirections conferences I've been involved with. We have thrown a few new elements into the mix this year, and that always causes a few sleepless nights for the team as we think of ways to tweak the new features and try to keep the old elements fresh and sharp.

Perhaps the biggest new event at the conference will be our first Culinary Competition. Four two-chef teams, each representing a different market segment, will vie to come up with the most innovative and practical uses of a variety of sponsor products in a center-of-the-plate item. Chefs will compete mostly for bragging rights as they get a chance to show off their creativity and ingenuity as we ask them to come up with a menu item on the fly.

The competition will be more Iron Chef than ACF, more fun than fearsome, and yet we still have spent several weeks going back and forth over the set-up, the rules and guidelines, the products and even the judging criteria in an attempt to make the event memorable in a good way. I am nervous about the outcome, but as our publisher, Bill Anderson, is fond of saying, "You should do one thing every day that scares you." For me, I think this qualifies.

We'll be reporting on this event, along with the entire conference, through Twitter and our website, foodservicedirector.com. If you weren't able to free yourselves up for a trip to Tampa this year, we invite you to follow us throughout the weekend and in the days and weeks to come, online and in the magazine. As always, we're hoping MenuDirections 2013 will be our best ever.

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