Thursday, October 25, 2012
Chef John Foster: Kentucky’s best share center stage at fourth Incredible Food Show
We are now in the official home stretch of a tiring but rewarding race. The Incredible Food show will make its fourth appearance at Heritage Hall and Rupp Arena this Saturday, Oct. 27, starting with a Kentucky Proud breakfast free to the first 300 people.
The show will run from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. with plenty of food, fun and incredible events, including two shows in Rupp Arena by Food Network superstar Tyler Florence. Sullivan University will be one of a small handful of sponsors directly involved with the show. We will have a main stage set up by Restaurant Row at one end of Heritage Hall, and plenty of white-coated Sullivan culinary students will be there to assist and compete throughout the day.
Now that I’ve gotten my P.S.A. out of the way, let me tell you how I really feel about the show: It’s brilliant … plain and simple, direct and to the point. It highlights what is best about my adopted state without overselling or pandering to really anyone. Yes, there are sponsors and very important people from all areas of commerce, but truly you wouldn’t know them unless they introduced themselves, and they won’t. Most are content to quietly enjoy the show, or in the case of the power behind the show, Theresa Lloyd, they are simply too busy to strut and boast. The show is Ms. Lloyd’s baby and baby constantly needs attention.
Sullivan’s role has always been support and logistics for our events and those of the guest chefs. Shopping, prepping and assisting onstage, the Sullivan students have been instrumental in making the guest chefs’ two shows run seamlessly, no small task when you are trying to coordinate everything over many miles and hundreds of emails. Their reward is a better understanding of how these stars carry themselves and the incredible potential of the student’s future careers.
Sullivan has also stepped up to fill the role of child care and entertainment. Our Early Childhood Education students have taken on the unenviable task of making the day happy for child and parent guests alike. Rounding out the Sullivan responsibilities are check-in for all events done by our Events Planning students, and the Sullivan booth staffed by our fearless admissions crew. I say all this only to give you a glimpse as to what goes on in a production of this magnitude. All these different entities, from sometimes very different disciplines, have to work effortlessly together so you don’t notice any cracks or holes. It is much the same way as restaurants have to work. They have a common goal and some highly uncommon people, a short amount of real time and the uncertainty of the crowds they have to please.
The Incredible Food Show is a laboratory for our students for several reasons: The sheer physical size of the building and our real estate means constant movement and on-your-feet attentiveness much like you’ll experience in a restaurant setting. The pressure of performance is front and center as well.
Besides the events that Sullivan sponsors, there is also the out in the crowd experience where a white coat is an invitation to talk, ask for advice or even complain. All of that needs to be handled with grace and patience.
Ultimately, the Incredible Food Show is about the food, and the people who make it. Vendors, chefs, growers and entrepreneurs provide Sullivan students with a glimpse of the potential futures that their degrees hold. It’s not just about kitchen cooking anymore, and there’s nothing like a food show to highlight that.
What’s more, this show pushes these people together in a way that’s natural and invites discussion, idea building and innovation. Literally, I have heard of products created out of a chance meeting at the first show and relationships that grew out of a chance conversation between grower, vendor and even student. When the ads say that the Incredible Food Show has something for everyone, don’t think that just means the guest. Sullivan University will continue to support the show because it highlights Kentucky, and by the way, it educates our students in a real way that can never be matched in the classroom.
John Foster is an executive chef who heads the culinary program at Sullivan University’s Lexington campus. A New York native, Chef Foster has been active in the Lexington culinary scene for more than 20 years. The French Culinary Institute-trained chef has been an executive chef, including at the popular Dudley’s Restaurant, and a restaurant owner.