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 June 2013

National Restaurant Association Restaurant Show Sees Increase in Attendance in 2013
Recap courtesy of NRA

The 94th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA) and 6th annual International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB), held at Chicago’s McCormick Place last month, attracted more than 62,500 registrants from all 50 states and over 100 countries, representing a second consecutive year of growth.

With the opening of a third hall this year, exhibit space totaled more than 579,000 square feet, a 6.8 percent increase over 2012, with more than 2,100 exhibiting companies, nearly 40 percent of which were new.

The largest single gathering of restaurant, foodservice, and lodging professionals, NRA Show 2013 addressed current industry issues including sustainability, health care, kids’ nutrition, technology, and more. Other new highlights this year included the Alternative BiteStyle specialty pavilion for individuals with special dietary needs; free health care consultations at the Health Care Knowledge Center; an iSculpture competition; a fully-functioning Hydroponic Garden; a prestigious line-up of World Culinary Showcase chefs; an exclusive tour of Rick Bayless’s home garden; a keynote presentation by Starbucks’ Howard Schultz; an uproarious talk with the never-censored chef and culinary personality, Anthony Bourdain; and more.

The International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB), held in conjunction with the NRA Show, also saw a rise in distributors and dealers by nearly 7 percent, while the retail category saw a substantial 40 percent increase. Featuring two days of pours, shakes and stirs of hundreds of world-class beverage alcohol brands and, the IWSB offered insight into the latest beverage alcohol trends and techniques with interactive demonstrations in the Demo Lounges, stations to marry food and drink at the Restaurant Menu Pairing Program, and more.

The tradeshow also recognized the industry’s brightest thinkers, innovative developments, and most-promising talent, with the following award programs and competitions:

  • Operator Innovations Awards: Kennesaw State University took home the prestigious Innovator of the Year award. Read about all the winners here.
  • Star of the Bar Mixology Competition: Steve Schneider, principle bartender at New York’s Employees Only, earned the title of the 2013 Star of the Bar and the $5,000 prize. Read more about his big win here.
  • iSculpture Challenge: Mark Johnson, a USPS letter carrier from Wonder Lake, IL and six-time NRA Show ice carving competitor won his first title and $2,500 prize this year with his final creation of “Jaguar and Dove in Flight”.
  • Food & Beverage Product Innovations Awards (FABI) and Kitchen Innovations™ (KI) Awards: The most progressive, cutting-edge advancements in food and beverage and kitchen equipment were recognized with the FABI and KI award recipients. Read more about the FABI award recipients here.

The IRA was proud to work with the NRA on the NRA & IRA PAC event. The event raised over $40,000 to support the hospitality industry in the State of Illinois and across the country. A special thank you goes to Former IRA Chairman and current NRA Board Member Jay Stieber for hosting us at Studio Paris. This annual fundraiser, now in its 4th year, brings together Illinois hospitality leaders with their national counterparts to make an important investment in future of the industry.

For more information on the NRA Show and IWSB f2013, including downloadable photos, videos and the NRA Show blog, visit


Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Awards $144,500 in Scholarships to Students

The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) awarded $144,500 in scholarships – more than $15,000 more than in 2012 – to students in pursuit of post-secondary education in the Culinary and Hospitality Management fields in a ceremony at the IRAEF’s Annual Scholarship Luncheon held on Saturday, June 1, 2013.

Scholarships were awarded to 61 high school and undergraduate students who will attend 20 colleges and universities throughout the country. 34 students have participated in the national two-year ProStart® program that combines curriculum with work-based learning experiences. 17 Chicago Public Schools students received scholarships totaling $34,750. All of these students represent the future of the foodservice industry. Recognized for their commitment to Culinary or Hospitality Management through their coursework, work experience and other credentials, scholars were selected by a Blue Ribbon Panel of industry experts.

“ProStart® fuses the industry with the classroom to create a unique and unparalleled experience for high school students studying hospitality management and culinary arts. The program ensures that students are work ready and college ready. We’re excited that so many current and former ProStart students are being honored here today as they pursue a post-secondary education,” said Kathy Summers, Executive Director, Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

“We are thrilled with this year’s scholarship award which is the largest distribution to date,” added Sam Toia, President of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “We are committed to support the next generation of industry leaders and place a significant emphasis in continuing to develop and improve this great program with each coming year.”


Q & A with Heaven on Seven Chef/Owner Jimmy Bannos

Photo credit: Lisa Predko

The IRA recently had the opportunity to speak with third generation restaurateur Jimmy Bannos (Chef/Owner of Heaven on Seven and Chef/Partner of The Purple Pig), about father and son collaborations, family favorites and what he wants for Father’s Day.

What was the most important thing you learned from your father?
The most important thing I learned from my dad was having a good work ethic and always treating people with respect. Giving someone respect will come back to you tenfold. We were also big fans of the saying, “the early bird catches the worm.”

Did he play a role in your culinary inspiration?
He played a bigger role in my drive to pursue my own culinary passion. When I started creating New Orleans/Cajun food at the diner we had, he just let me run with it. He was a first-generation Greek-American. There were a lot of kids I knew whose parents were not as supportive when it came to the kids following their dreams. He was great in that way. Especially once he started tasting the results, he loved them. It’s the same with me and Jimmy Jr. Jimmy Jr. had this vision and the end results have been fantastic.

What my father did with me and what I’ve done with my kids is offer guidance while letting them make their own path.

Is there a dish you associate with your father? If so, why?
Once I opened up Heaven on Seven, it was my gumbo – he ate it every day. But, I remember grilling steaks with him frequently. That was the big thing in our family. When I started working with my Dad, on Fridays after work, he’d buy these beautiful 25 oz. NY strip steaks and grill them on the plancha with oregano and lemon. It was fantastic. The whole family would eat together.

What is it like collaborating with your son, Jimmy Jr., regularly at The Purple Pig?
It’s one the best things I’ve done. I can relive the experience I had with my father in the process of running a restaurant but also learning and teaching life lessons. Jimmy comes up with these great ideas and I get to be his sounding board and sometime it’s the opposite too, such as when I’m traveling and taste something I know Jimmy could do for The Pig. His wheels turn, my wheels turn and it’s a great collaboration.

What is the best gift to give a chef dad?
From the employer: time off for the chef to spend with his family. From my family: I’m pretty simple. Starbucks or Barnes & Noble gift card, any kitchen gadget, a new paella pan, clothes…

Describe your ideal Father's Day.
I always cook – that is what I like to do and enjoy it. I usually make paella or a 26 oz. prime ribeye. I’ll cook it and slice and everyone gets the piece they want. Some even just eat the bones.

What is your favorite thing about being a dad?
To see what my kids have accomplished. It’s pretty awesome.

Heaven on Seven
111 N. Wabash - 7th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 263-6443
More locations at:

The Purple Pig
500 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 464-1744


News & Notes

Corporate Sponsor Heil Insurance Agency Offers IRA Members Special Discount
Heil Insurance Agency is one of the new corporate sponsors of the IRA.  Heil Insurance is a full service agency providing a consultative approach to business insurance, provides property casualty and workers compensation insurance, employee health, group term life, and personal insurance programs. The agency has developed an exclusive discount program for Illinois Restaurant Association members-only, ranging from 5-17% on workers compensation, property casualty and liability insurance. IRA members also have access to a customized workers compensation program through Utica Insurance, which rewards qualifying participants with a return premium compensation plan.

In conjunction with the IRA, Heil will also be hosting a series of informative seminars to help educate and support members on their insurance programs. Heil Insurance Agency’s mission is to prepare a comprehensive insurance program tailored to our client’s needs while lowering their overall insurance cost. For more information about Heil Insurance Agency, visit

Pre-Sale Tickets for Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet 2013 Sell Out in Record Time

Pre-sale tickets for the sixth annual Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet 2013, achieved a new record on May 30 when inventory sold out within the first hour and half of the sale. To purchase regularly priced tickets and for more details, visit  Produced by the Illinois Restaurant Association, title sponsor Bon Appétit magazine and presenting sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, Chicago Gourmet 2013 - a celebration of food and wine - continues to be one of the nation's most anticipated culinary events. 


Don't Miss It

IRA Annual Golf Classic
The 2013 Golf Classic will be held Wednesday, August 7, at St. Andrews Golf and Country Club. Join us for a great day of golfing, networking and an array of fantastic food and beverages. Donations for the silent auction are also needed.

Please visit our Golf Classic page for more information. If you have questions regarding Sponsorship Packages or donations, please contact Kevin Brophy at or (312) 380-4122.

Behind the Scenes at Nick's Pizza and Pub: McHenry County Chapter
The McHenry County Chapter of the Illinois Restaurant Association invites the restaurateurs of McHenry County and surrounding areas to take a break, enjoy a delicious meal and connect with friends, both old and new, at Nick's Pizza and Pub. The dinner is Monday, June 24, 6:30 - 8:30 at Nick's Pizza and Pub, 856 Pyott Road, Crystal Lake, IL 60014. Click here to reserve your spot.

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Gala
Executive Board Member Billy Lawless and Chairman John Colletti ask that their fellow restaurateurs donate some time and samples for the annual ICIRR Gala on June 20th. The event features some of the city's best restaurants and the money goes to the great cause of supporting the immigrant community.

Please contact Andy Peters at (312) 380-4134 or Click here for the registration form.

Chicago Gourmet Summer 2013 Wine & Spirits Dinner Series
In anticipation of Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet 2013, the Illinois Restaurant Association is pleased to reintroduce the Chicago Gourmet Wine & Spirits Dinner Series. These special, intimate events showcase premium wine and spirit selections from presenting sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, and are accompanied by world-class cuisine from participating Chicago Gourmet restaurants.

Guests attending each themed dinner will enjoy a personal, sneak preview of the sixth annual Chicago Gourmet from participating chefs, mixologists and master sommeliers. Space is limited at each event, and reservations are required. Click here for more information.

The list includes the following dates and locations:
June 18, 2013: Green Zebra
June 25, 2013: Prasino
July 17, 2013: South Water Kitchen
July 25, 2013: Quay Restaurant & Bar
August 8, 2013: Lockwood Bar & Restaurant
August 14, 2013: Deca Restaurant & Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago
August 28, 2013: Hearty


New Members

The Association is pleased to welcome:


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