MenuDirections 2011 wrap-up

Including record attendance in New Orleans.

Last weekend, FoodService Director and CSP Information Group gave New Orleans a small but, I’m sure, much-appreciated shot in the arm when the city hosted our ninth annual MenuDirections conference. We had record attendance, which meant more than 200 people contributing financially to the restaurant, bar and tchotchke businesses in town.

CSP staff, MenuDirections attendees and sponsors helped sustain such restaurants as Café Adelaide, Cochon, Brennan’s, Café du Monde, Mother’s and Emeril’s, and on Monday night dozens of attendees left the hotel to hit the Bourbon Street piano bar Howl at the Moon.

And the conference itself was an unqualified success. The more than 140 operators in attendance learned about everything from street foods of the world to how to brew the perfect pot of coffee—and how to prepare healthy baked goods to go with it. From our State of the Plate survey that kicked off the conference to the five award-winning videos that wrapped things up, we kept attendees informed, intrigued and in touch with the trends helping to drive this industry.

Our main keynote speaker, James Painter, Ph.D., who spoke on the topic of Mindless Eating, kept people entertained even as he proselytized about the value of keeping track of what you eat—even if New Orleans isn’t exactly the right setting for that kind of a message.

We left the Intercontinental Hotel Tuesday afternoon exhausted yet satisfied that we had met the expectations of our guests. We already have begun the difficult task of coming up with an even better experience for next year.

Our congratulations to Nona Golledge, director of KU Dining Services at the University of Kansas, who was named our FoodService Director of the Year, and to the five winners of our first Goldies Awards competition, sponsored by FSD and The Culinary Institute of America. They are the University of North Texas (Food Democracy and Financial Wizardry), the University of California at Santa Cruz (Going Green), Compass Group USA (Health & Wellness) and the University of Massachusetts (Focusing on the Guest).

As tough as it will be to top this year’s conference, it might be even harder to find a city to match the energy of New Orleans. To talk with the people in this town, you couldn’t tell that they have suffered through two major disasters in the past six years. The warmth and friendliness we experienced from most of the people we came into contact with belies the struggles they have had to rebuild the city and its economy.

It was, for us this year, the perfect city in which to hold a conference devoted to discovering your flavor formula. I hope we’re as lucky with our choice next year.


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