Here we go again! It’s March and you know what that means? The International Home + Housewares show! Something I look forward to every year and since this is my third time attending, I feel like I’ve gotten a lay of the land here, but this year I felt a bit “distracted”. What do I mean by that? Well, in years past, I was focusing so much on taking as many pictures (for this blog of course) but this year, I was more focused on networking and making new connections, especially trying to get as much swag as possible (not as much this year, boo) but also trying to get merchandise to review on this blog and my other blog, riskyveggie! But overall, here are my thoughts…
It seemed to me that there weren’t as many of the “smaller” guys – ya know, the booths of the new companies, it just felt like a smaller section of the back of one room (room = MASSIVE hall at McCormick place), and the larger conglomerates just outweighed everything else. So, needless to say, I didn’t strike up as many connections since I just wasn’t feeling it – and much harder to do so from the bigger companies (oh hi Vitamix! Want to give me a free product that I can review? Yea…in my dreams). 🙂 So sadly, not as much swag, BUT I did end up getting TWO free desk air purifiers! Not the prettiest thing around, but hey, maybe I’ll offer one as a giveaway?
But luckily for me, the celeb chef sightings were in full swing this year. And note to self – next year I probably won’t do a full Instagram live from Chef Cat Cora because it took longer than I expected, plus it totally drained my battery. But, was great to meet her anyway (for those of you wondering, she is so petite in person but absolutely stunning).
Chef Fabio Viviani (yes, you know him from Top Chef) was back at at this year and its become a tradition to have him throw raw pasta dough at us (Ellie and me) and get my annual photo with him. Just the nicest guy and so patient as literally every woman in the audience waited to take a selfie with him (I mean, he is easy on the eyes).
This year, some new additions to the live cooking demos! Christopher Kimball (you know him from Cooks Illustrated), Chef David Burke (culinary pioneer), Geoffrey Zakarian and French chef Ludo Lefebvre (from Top Chef Masters as well) – I didn’t catch Ludo or Geoffrey but caught a quick glimpse of David Burke. If I spend two whole days at the event, then sure, but it’s just impossible to see every booth, every product in just 8 hours! EEK! Of course the next day featured Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, so bummed I missed her!
One of my favorite booths that caught my eye was a French cutlery company called Sabre. It wasn’t even the most fancy display – it was just simple cutlery but with funky colored handles – hot pink, yellow, turquoise blue and tortoiseshell. Just so simple, unexpected and elegant. You can shop their store here!
So while I didn’t necessarily think it was the BEST show I’ve been to, it was pretty beneficial to talk to some partners about our upcoming Chicago Kosher BBQ competition as well as networking with new companies to review their products – I love supporting small businesses so stay tuned for some product review and giveaways!
And, big shoutout to Gavriel Prero for sharing his photos with meatyourvegetables!
Can’t wait for next year (oh and yes, we’re already registered)! 🙂
Last Sunday Rachel, Elliott (Rachel’s husband), and I went to the International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place on Chicago’s Museum Campus. For those of you not from around these parts, McCormick Place is the nation’s largest convention center with 2,600,000 square feet of prime exhibit space. Needless to say there was an insane amount of walking involved. We walked about 10 miles in 9 hours. Once we got there, we met up with Gabriel Prero and his wife Lena. Gabriel is very long time friend of mine (since preschool) and a very talented industrial designer. If you ever have the chance to walk a trade show with an industrial designer, I highly recommend it. While I tend to concentrate on either form or function, Gabriel is able to look at a product and truly appreciate the marriage of the two.
To be honest, we did rush through the show due to its size. One could easily spend two full days at this show, as it fills all three major halls at McCormick Place. Here are some of the highlights:
Anova is coming out with some cool new items including a $99 immersion circulator. Anova was one of the first companies to bring the immersion circulator/sous vide cooking to the home kitchen, and at that price, this new product really makes sous vide cooking accessible to the home cook.
Aervoe was showing a temperature-controlled induction cooktop for $124. While it is not as accurate as PolyScience’s THE CONTROL °FREAK™ ,at a fraction of the cost, it is be a good option for the home cook.
The Loki Smart WIFI Thermometer, a magnetic ball that can read up to four (internal or ambient) temperature probes and transmit to your mobile device, was something I found interesting. It also has a social media component for finding and sharing recipes. They are currently in pre-orders with prices starting at $99.
PicoBrew was there showing off their Pico Personal Craft Beer Brewery. These things are super slick. It is a totally hands off system from start to finish with cartridges that can be purchased to produce your favorite style of beer. The cartridges can also be customized for your own secret recipe. Unfortunately, at $800 it is out of my price range. Of course, if they wanted to send me one to review I’d be happy to oblige.
Mason jars and fermentation were a running theme throughout the show. Some standouts in that space were mason jar top companies Masontops, Kraut Source, and reCap. Kraut Source takes the win in the fermentation department with their lid that includes a spring loaded disk that holds your vegetables below the waterline to prevent any nasty bugs from getting to them. From an aesthetic standpoint, Masontops comes out ahead with some great colors, a wooden cap with a plastic liner, and a chalkboard top. Finally, from a range of functionality standpoint reCap was impressive, with a wide variety of lids including a sprayer and a pump.
Igloo is celebrating their 70th anniversary and showing off the Trailmate, which is best described as the SUV of coolers, and the PartyBar, the ultimate cooler for entertaining.
Like in past years, SodaStream was there giving out their sample bottles and showing off the new MyWater Flavor Essence. I really love these, as they are unsweetened, making them, a great way to add flavor without added sugar or nasty tasting artificial sweeteners.
We had some time to hang out with Chef Randall Smith at Ergo Chef, and play with their innovative knives. They make a line of RaBBi-Q knives developed in conjunction with my buddy, the winningest man in kosher BBQ, Mendel Segal. Chef Randall also competes in the kosher BBQ circuit on Team Shiva Que. I look forward to sharing a few drinks with him in the future as we cook brisket late into the night.
Finally we ran in to a few food celebrities including Fabio Viviani from Top Chef,who is absolutely hilarious, Jeff Mauro AKA the Sandwich King, a Chicago native from the Food Network, famous Emeril Lagasse, as well as BBQ legend Steven Raichlen.
Well, it’s Monday and my feet, legs, shoulders, back (ok, basically all of me) is sore, my Fitbit tracked over 24,000 steps, almost 10 miles and on my feet for 9+ hours all yesterday. That must mean one thing – the International Home and Housewares show was yesterday! And no, I did not exaggerate those numbers. As their website claims: “Where art intersects with engineering. Where technology informs style. Where exhibitors display innovation, buyers discover trends & the industry connects to do business. It’s just plain smart. In addition to more than 2,100 exhibitors showcasing thousands of new products, the International Home + Housewares Show offers visitors education and insight into business practices and trends that are shaping the industry. Experience the Show’s strong educational sessions and special displays to help grow your business!”
Smart, yes. Exhausting, absolutely.
Here’s the scoop. Daniel and I registered a few months ago (well, I also registered under my other blog Risky Veggie). The 3 of us (my husband included), left at 8 a.m. on Sunday, arrived just before 9, after winding our way through some random outdoor parking lot that seemed miles away from McCormick place. We started on one side, walking up and down each aisle, checking out products and booths – everything from Black + Decker to SodaStream, Vitamix, Nest, Cuisinart, and Keurig and checking out every type of pressure cooker from every company you can think of. 🙂 Luckily there were many raffles to win a pressure cooker, so of course I entered every single one (this is next on my list of kitchen appliances).
First on this side of the exhibit, was walking over to the cooking demo featuring Food Network chef Jeff Mauro (a.k.a. “The Sandwich King) – a local Chicago boy, he won “Food Network Star” a few seasons back. He was demoing Chicago-style Philly cheesesteak and sweet potato hash, using the new George Foreman grill, with removable plates for waffle-making, braising, broiling, searing and of course grilling. So, naturally, he heckled Daniel and me in the front row, while we took action shots and heckled him back. He was super friendly and so silly (case in point, my “silly pictures” I took with him). I gave him both of my business cards and off we went. Meanwhile, my husband Elliott was off at the Wahl exhibit getting a free haircut and beard trim (this barber, Ben is THE BEST. If only he had a barber shop near us). Yay for free haircuts!
Continuing on, chatting with some vendors, ooing and ahing over the fancy displays, getting free bottles of personalized SodaStream drinks (and may I say, their new all-natural and totally sugar-free flavors are pretty good) and… how could I forget? Daniel and I purchased our own portable commercial induction cook top with temperature control, at a CRAZY low price (um, think under $150). Yup, exactly.
Next, I stumbled upon the Aroma booth and low and behold, Chef Ming Tsai was there doing a cooking demo with their new fancy schmancy pressure cookers (see, I told you). He made 3 dishes – seared beef with rice and watercress, Chinese duck (I left during this demo and came back) and…Dunkin Hines cake. Yes, it’s true. He was demonstrating how easy it is too make cake in this pressure cooker. Since I was standing in the front row (why was everyone shying away in the back?), he asked me to be his volunteer, to show everyone how easy it is to use. The only hiccup was that he forgot to plug it in (cue my deer in headlights face). Okay, all is good. Photo taken with him, and mentioned that I met him at a book signing years ago downtown, gave him my cards (of course) and again, away we went.
More walking. Feet getting a little tired by now. Lunch (I brought my own Rachel-friendly food).
Time for the South side hall. I saw that Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian was going to be there doing a demo, but I waited around and didn’t see him around, so instead, we all head to the Cooking Theater to see the one and only Fabio Viviani for his cooking demos (you may remember him from Top Chef, where he made “It’s Top Chef, not Top Scallops” a famous line and me, being the weirdo I am, quoted it to him last year. He laughed). He got a volunteer from the crowd to help him make fresh pasta – orecchiette, to be exact, and Chicken and Cauliflower steak puttanesca, all while chucking balls of pasta dough into the crowd, because, he’s Fabio. 🙂
Wasting no time, I rushed up to the front, asked for a quick photo and (since I came prepared and printed out the photos of the celeb chefs and me from last year), I had him sign my photo of us. Yea, I’m weird like that (but in my defense, Daniel did that too and gave me the idea of printing out those photos).
More walking, more free swag, more business cards exchanged, more contacts being made. “I’d love to write a review on my blog about your product”, and “where do you sell these in retail” where the common lines that I felt myself repeating all day.
Caught a quick glimpse of Chef Emeril Lagasse at his booth but he was talking with his PR people and heading back to the other wing for an autograph signing.
North side was next. This is the cleaning, organizing, start-up companies, or some you’ve seen on Shark Tank stuff (i.e. Squatty Potty, Scrub Daddy, DBest), among other big companies like Ziploc, Kate Spade, Clorox and Igloo. I chatted with a few companies who were so excited to give me extra products to try out and review (hair clips, mason jar lids, cookie cutters, and cleaning cloths, just to name a few). A few more cards given out and carrying 3 heavy bags of stuff, it was 5:15 and time to head out.
All in all, a great show. Last year when I went for the first time, I was just getting up and running as a blogger, and now I have not one, but TWO blogs!
I’m always on the lookout for interesting designs, new products – everything from kitchen appliances, home decor, storage, food prep, cleaning products and everything in between. I feel much more prepared now for these types of shows, more business cards to hand out and the best questions to ask “show me about your product” and “what new products are you showcasing?”
The trade show is well organized and some company booths are displayed so impressively, so chic, I wish my living room could look that put together (ok maybe it is), but mostly, I coveted those fancy tablescapes. 🙂 And maybe the baby blue vintage-style toasters. Or the giant copper pots.