As a food science and nutrition communicator, I was thrilled to be at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Food Expo (IFT) in Chicago in July. It was IFT’s 75th annual event with more than 23,000 of food scientists, marketers, product developers, chefs and other foodies from around the world getting a first-hand look at the latest trends, the newest products, and the most recent innovations driving the science of food. In this blog I’m sharing my top three highlights of the show.
Cooking Up Science
First up, I had a fantastic experience to be on stage with Chef Marc Forgione at the Cooking Up Science demonstration. Chef Forgione demonstrated the versatility of whole grain sorghum in a recipe for popcorn shrimp that he created for his New York City–based steakhouse, American Cut. The special feature of the recipe was the inclusion of popped sorghum. I moderated the event and updated the audience on the many attributes of sorghum including it being a non-GMO, gluten-free, sustainable whole grain with excellent health benefits. A lucky few audience members got to taste Chef Forgione’s creation and the response was overwhelmingly delicious. This event was sponsored by the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and was a complete success with the most attendees of any of the Cooking Up Science demos.
Next on my highlight list is plant proteins. They continue to be a popular topic with a range of new ingredients including nuts, seeds and pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils and peas). Keeping on trend, I feature the benefit of seeds in my upcoming book The Need for Seeds. I found it interesting that food scientists are experimenting with these plants (whole, flours, concentrates) to create higher protein baked goods and smoothies, along with vegetarian products. On the cutting edge of plant proteins at IFT was the introduction of an aquatic plant concentrate – the water lentil. It reportedly has higher amino acid levels than soy. The water lentil is the world’s smallest flowering plant, which reproduces itself in 24 hours so it can be harvested every day. The concentrate can be used in formulations for a variety of products. Keep a look out for this very interesting ingredient.
NASA Food Science
Covering IFT in Chicago is always a challenge as it’s the largest food science show in the world. I often find myself double booked with appointments to speak with the experts and attend the interesting sessions. There are numerous highlights from the show but last on my list for this post is NASA food science. If you think of Tang when I mention NASA, now think 3D printing! There is a ton of planning when crews are in space for long missions including how to promote health and combat immune health changes for the astronauts. It’s necessary to consider the stability of the food going into space including the unique processing steps and packaging techniques to provide a sufficient shelf-life for the entire length of the mission. All these considerations help maintain the nutrition and fight food fatigue for the crew to help them maintain optimal health and muscle mass.
For this traveling foodie, I’m always happy to return to Chicago for IFT so I can try a few new restaurants. This time I stopped into Eleven City Diner in the South Loop not just for a Rueben sandwich but the experience of a Chicago diner. It did not disappoint with its fun atmosphere and good food. Chicago would not be complete without a visit to a blues bar. Close by the diner was Buddy Guy’s Legends, a blues bar which is still owned today by Buddy Guy. We had a great time being entertained by Chicago blues triple threat Nigel Mack (originally from Canada) and enjoyed traditional blues bar food.
I hope you enjoyed my top IFT takeaways for this post.
Stay tuned for more IFT highlights in my upcoming MOST and Bakers Journal columns!