By Leah Jackson
NATCHITOCHES – Two students from Northwestern State University’s hospitality management and tourism (HMT) program participated in the National Restaurant Association’s NRA Show 2017, an international foodservice expo and marketplace held in Chicago every May that is the largest annual gathering of professionals and providers in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.
Terrian Marchand of Natchitoches and McKenna Opbroek of Keithville, were selected by HMT faculty to participate in the expo after a networking opportunity arose during NSU’s spring seafood fund raiser, Flavor of Louisiana, according to Culinary Arts Professor Valerie Salter. Flavor of Louisiana, organized with the support of the Louisiana Seafood Board, drew chefs from all over the state to prepare and serve Louisiana seafood dishes alongside NSU’s culinary arts students who prepared desserts for the event.
Marchand and Opbroek accompanied Louisiana’s Kings of Seafood Blake Phillips (2016) and Mike Brewer (2015), who set up a booth at the expo and prepared and served two dishes each day to showcase Louisiana seafood. Marchand is an HMT major with a concentration in culinary arts. Opbroek is an HMT major with a concentration in hospitality services and a minor in culinary arts.
The annual NRA expo showcases products such as bakery items, kitchen tools, table ware, flatware, crockery, food service technology, catering paraphernalia, sustainable products, snacks and other products. The event is open to professionals involved in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.
“Each day of the show we assisted the chefs in preparing different dishes that showcased the diversity of Louisiana seafood,” Marchand said. “Both Kings won the annual Louisiana Seafood cookoff sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Board. Along with cooking with the chefs, we got to explore the entire expo, attend culinary showcases featuring some of our favorite chefs, Duff Goldman and Stephanie Izard, the newest Iron Chef, and explore the city of Chicago.”
“The National Restaurant Association Expo was unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Opbroek said. “There were so many vendors ranging from kitchen equipment to food suppliers. It really opened my eyes to just how many details there are to creating a restaurant. Working alongside two of the Kings of Seafood for Louisiana was such a fun experience as well. Being able to cook for people and be there when they taste your food is such a rewarding experience that I can never get tired of. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so thankful to be chosen to experience it.”
Marchand and Opbroek share a passion for the food industry and culinary arts, frequently put in extra work in their classes at NSU and found invaluable experience cooking alongside Louisiana’s Kings of Seafood.
“The NRA show opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities in the food industry,” Marchand said. “Whether it’s choosing the right napkin dispenser, getting better flooring for your restaurant kitchen or buying a franchise, each vendor had something to offer for anyone in the food industry. I also got a chance to see how other people appreciated Louisiana food and culture. Working with chefs Mike Brewer and Blake Phillips was a very rewarding experience. They taught me how to be proud of my Louisiana roots and how to be more innovative when it comes to Cajun/Creole cuisine.”
For more information on NSU’s HMT program, visit hmt.nsula.edu.