National Restaurant Association Show Fires Back Up to Spark Deals and Serve American Cuisine

Written by Zane Evans, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. 

Sizzling meats, scooped yogurt, and Sci-Fi-like customer service were some of the many sights of the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, May 21-24. Also seen at the show was Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley.

“If you don’t eat good food when you’re in Chicago, it’s your own fault,” Whitley said. And good food is what he ate. In fact, Whitley sampled cuisine from at least seven U.S. states, including Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York.  

“Bang Bang” bacon-wrapped sausage and grilled pork loins from Minnesota’s Compart Family Farms were among the tastiest foods Whitley sampled. Compart Family Farms began four generations ago as a 4-H project and is now is one of the largest family-owned swine genetics businesses in the Midwest. Compart’s Duroc hogs are bred, born, and raised on small farms where family members are involved in the daily management of their stock. The breeding program is the result of more than 55 years of combining purebred lines of the Duroc breed.

To quench his thirst, Whitley visited Morning Light Kombucha’s booth and sipped Melinda Williamson’s locally brewed and sustainably produced kombucha. Williamson owns the Native American business, which is part of the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s American Indian Foods Program. She partners with northeast Kansas farmers as a part of her commitment to sustainable agricultural practices and supporting local food systems and economies.

To top it all off, Whitley spotted Walter Brooks showcasing condiments and barbecue sauces — signature items of Georgia-based Brooksmade Gourmet Foods. The two met at Gulfood in February during the USDA Agribusiness Trade Mission to Dubai. Gulfood was a successful event for Brooksmade, as the Georgia-based company secured a new sales contract. It was a pleasant and joyful reunion.

Approximately 51,000 registrants attended the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show  in a global city that Whitley believes is “the best food city in America.” In addition, 500 exhibitors participated in the international showcase for the first time this year.

The American Food Fair Pavilion, where Whitley met with exhibitors and sampled products, is organized by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). In collaboration with FAS, the American Food Fair Pavilion gives small and medium-sized U.S. food and beverage companies the global exposure that is integral to their development and advancement in a highly competitive and growing international market. The USDA-supported event hosted more than 300 overseas buyers from 15 countries, thanks to recruitment from FAS posts across the world.

Also helping dish out the diverse American cuisines were 20 state departments of agriculture and several FAS cooperator groups, as well as Food Export Midwest, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, and the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association.

 American Food Fair exhibitors projected approximately $8.9 million in U.S. export sales, according to NASDA. Of those, 57 exhibitors reported they expected new sales to foreign buyers interested supplying their hotels, restaurants, resorts, retailers, and food supplier services with U.S. food and beverage products.

Mark your 2023 calendar for May 20-23 for next year’s show. For more information, visit: