This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2012 NRA Show. The show is held in Chicago, May 5-8. Follow all coverage on NRN’s ‘At the Show’ section, check out NRN blogs, Reporter’s Notebook, and Tweet with us using #NRNatNRA.
Stefano Cordova, executiveand senior vice president for food and beverage innovation at bakery café-chain Au Bon Pain spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News from the NRA Show floor in Chicago. He discussed the types of products he was seeking at the show and shared other observations from the event.
What have you seen at the show that has interested you?
There are a lot of innovations, particularly in equipment for displaying hot and cold food. Even the booths are better designed.
I’ve also seen a lot of Italian companies establishing themselves here and offering DOP [protected origin] products. There are also a lot of suppliers who have cleaned up their labels [by removing additives].
Are there particular items you’re looking to use at Au Bon Pain?
I’m looking for great products that we can finish in our store. We’re particularly looking for artisanal millers that can do great things with whole grain.
We’re also trying to find American-made cheeses that we can use in hot and cold sandwiches. And we’re looking for fresh-fruit suppliers from California and Arizona that can supply our restaurants in the Northeast during the winter, when we can’t get locally grown fruit.
Also, we’re trying to find good, eco-friendly containers for takeout and all-natural cold teas, because cold tea goes very well with our food.
Has anything surprised or impressed you at the show?
I saw some excellent baked goods from Italy and France, particularly cornetti [croissants] from Italy and macaroons from Paris.
The macaroons are all-natural, two-bite cookies with very good flavor.