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Chicago-based Idaho Culinary Celebration expands Gem State markets

Spotlighting all-Idaho food items, the recent two-day Idaho Culinary Celebration in Chicago brought expanded market focus to its primary sponsors, USA Onions/Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee and the Idaho Potato Commission, as well as the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and a large group of Gem State agricultural companies and commodity groups.

According to USA Onions Marketing Director Sherise Jones, four key events were hosted by Chicago-area culinary schools and establishments Feb. 20 and 21. Photo-3-chef9 Le Cordon Bleu Student Chefs in heated Chef Competition. (Photo courtesy of USA Onions)

She said the tour included meetings with restaurateurs, chefs, distributors, culinary educators and press as the Idaho contingent promoted its diverse base of products.

“USA Onions/Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee and the Idaho Potato Commission were primary sponsors of the Idaho Culinary Celebration,” Jones said. “Six additional Idaho companies rounded out the Idaho participants, and they were Clear Springs Foods, Agri Beef Co., 13 Foods, Fish Processors of Idaho, Southwind Farms, and Glanbia Foods. Onions from Idaho and Eastern Oregon, Idaho potatoes, beef, pork, trout, caviar, catfish, sturgeon and cheese were promoted at the events, and Idaho wines and vodka also were served at the receptions.”

Jones said Idaho representatives participated in an Idaho Customer Appreciation Reception and a Media and Foodservice Educators Reception at the prestigious Kendall College, and she said an Idaho grill-off using Idaho beef, onions, and potatoes was staged at the Weber Grill Academy.

“Additionally, students from area culinary colleges participated in a Young Chef Competition featuring Idaho products at a cook-off held at Le Cordon Bleu College,” Jones said.

She added, “The top three finalists won scholarship awards of $1,500 for first, $1,000 for second and $500 for third-place finishes. The winning recipe featured a potato and gouda-crusted trout, Idaho potato blini and a USA onion red chutney served with white sturgeon caviar.”

Jones credited the success of the event to the good working relationships among the state’s various commodity groups and food producers.

“USA Onions was proud to work with the Idaho Potato Commission and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to bring so many regionally produced products to the Chicago culinary scene,” she said.

Jones went on to say, “We brought our culinary celebration to Chicago because it is a big market for us, and it is a city full of top-notch culinary institutions, educational facilities, restaurants and chefs. The promotion provided opportunities for USA Onions, Idaho Potatoes and other Idaho food companies to build and expand their business in Chicago by showcasing the value and quality of our products.”

The delegation’s participants are seeking to expand sales, build distribution networks in Chicago and strengthen existing customer relationships, she said.

“USA Onions and Idaho Potatoes have been doing business in Chicago for years, while others explored the key foodservice market for the first time,” Jones noted.