photos by Robert Bostick
Yesterday the Crave Crew found its way into the Market Hall for the Ben E. Keith DFW Food & Equipment Expo, the extravaganza that offers the wholesale giant an opportunity to woo its clients — all restaurants, hotels and taverns, and give a one stop snap shot and taste of the products they offer. While their entire catalog was not present, this was one extremely large room filled with representatives offerings samples and taste suggestions of how to use products offered by the grocery giant.
While food products were not the only offerings of the day, we were not particularly interested in 18 burner stove tops, self-contained fryer units that are ideal for small bars without Vent-A-Hoods, or industrial cleaning devices. We were looking for the unusual new products that might slip their way into the food chain.
Whereas our intentions were to find something wacky like panko-coated whale tonsils, what we did find were thousands of panic stricken restaurateurs seeking out bargains and new menu suggestions.
We first met up with Charles Hodnett of Aphrodite Divine Confections whose plant is located in Garland, Texas. Charles is extremely gregarious and has the appearance of a svelte Harper’s Weekly Kris Kringle. The spokeperson was quick to approach, as he did with everyone that came into his pastry zone and offered up a smoldering batch of a large variety of confections that started with a pecan chocolate chip cookie.
“Our confections are all natural, and we use the absolute best ingredients that can be found to create what we have here. When people use our products they can actually say that it is home made because they actually bake them in their facility. We provide all the Jason Deli’s, we do Baker Brothers brownies. We also supply all the cookies for Ross Perot’s private jet, and we ship our products to his ranch in Napa Valley, California,” smiled Hodnett.
It was everything in my being not to tug at his curly beard.
We noshed our way through the many aisles, and saw a lot of processed foods that were close to the ready-to-eat stage, the frozen hamburger patties, the many varieties of frozen French fries (some actually incredible) and other prepared appetizers. There were also many providers of a variety of meats that were busily cooking away.
The most interesting feature at the Expo were the many cooking competitions that was open to restaurants and culinary students. The competition was open for the public to view and there were no less than a dozen cooking stations using a single burner, so the contestants were limited in what they might produce. So many seemed to run with paellas. We saw no less than five of the rise-based dish.
We were also astounded by the gaggle of ice carvers that were on hand merely to entertain the strolling crowds. Robert Desmond teaches ice carving to a variety of culinary schools and will even go to a hotel or restaurant to provide his services which can run upwards to $300 wholesale.
The display included its fair share of eagles and other birds, but the most intriguing was the Hippocamp, the half horse, half fish from Greek mythology.
These Expos are tremendous fun and a great way to find emerging food trends.