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What You Missed During NRA: MenuMasters

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) show was held in Chicago May 20-23, and Catersource is giving you the inside scoop on what you missed.

Last week we looked at the tradeshow, and today we're looking at the annual MenuMasters awards ceremony, hosted by Nation's Restaurant News.

Every year Nation's Restaurant News honors chefs during the annual MenuMasters celebration. In a first this year, prior to the awards ceremony chefs were paired up for a cooking competition at Johnson & Wales University where they were challenged to create bites for this year's awards ceremony based on a pre-designated theme, as opposed to previous years where they simply prepared the dish that they were being honored for.  The evening culminated with an after party featuring desserts and bites. 

Here's a look: 

Arby's and Friendly's teamed up on the Global Vegetarian theme resulting in the Jacked Up Dumpling: jackfruit tikka masala stuffed dumpling with curry broth.

Friendly's and the Habit Burger Grill were tasked with Traditional Reimagined Protein: Seafood resulting in their Cajun Crawfish and Crab Cake Slider, served on a brioche bun with a smoky remoulade sauce. 

This year's Hall of Fame honoree Lidia Bastianich served up a coffee martini accompanied by tiramisu.

For the category of Street Food: Pork, Arby's and Twin Peaks presented a Charred Drago Taco (duck carnitas taco, dragon fruit, sumac, charred carrot slaw, herby pesto, and micro greens) 

For their challenge of Sweet Heat Protein: Poultry, Arby's, Hopdaddy, and Virtual Dining Concepts created a Tataki duck al pastor on a crispy rice cake and served with charred pineapple gastrique, tequila avocado mousse, and crispy duck skin gremolata.

MenuMasters honoree Chef Erick Williams served a spring salad of shaved asparagus, pickled beets, spiced sunflower seeds, and crispy ham.

The MenuMasters after party featured a Boozy S'Mores Station with homemade marshmallows that included such combinations as Smoked Bourbon Maple Bacon, Cognac & Orange, and Tequila, Lime & Tajin. 

One of the dessert displays during the MenuMasters after party featured hanging dessert offerings including Banana and Passionfruit Cocoa Pods and the Wild Strawberry Patch. 

The charcuterie table was a showstopper thanks to a carved watermelon that served as the serving vessel for the charcuterie skewers. 

For the "cookie tree" decorated cookies depicting flowers, leaves, and insects hung from a greenery covered display wall. 

Check back next week when we take a look at several events with the International Foodservice Editorial Council.

All photos courtesy Amber Kispert

Amber Kispert

Senior Content Producer

Amber is the Senior Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.