Hosted by Shari Bayer of Bayer Public Relations, “All in the Industry” is a Heritage Radio Network show dedicated to behind-the-scenes talents in the hospitality industry. Each week, Shari invites experienced and dedicated restaurant and hospitality professionals to share their stories and expertise.
Shari recently visited Expo Milano 2015 and spent an episode of her show speaking to Elizabeth Thacker Jones, Social Media and Culinary Producer of the USA Pavilion at the Expo. They discussed the USA Pavilion, Food Truck Nation, James Beard Foundation’s American Restaurant, and more — here are a few highlights from the exhibition.
As soon as I heard about Expo Milano 2015 and the USA’s participation, I started to plan my trip. I was lucky to see a presentation about the USA Pavilion’s plans early on from Dorothy Cann Hamilton, who is founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center, fellow Heritage Radio Network host of “Chef’s Story,” and President of the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.
Dorothy explained the concept, which was organized along with the James Beard Foundation. The Expo, themed “Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life,” would take place over six months, from May to October 2015, expecting over 20 million visitors.
Expo 2015 is a platform for the exchange of ideas and shared solutions on the theme of food, stimulating each country’s creativity and promoting innovation for a sustainable future. The exhibition aims to showcase the world’s best dishes and the top agri-food and gastronomic traditions of each of the exhibiting countries. The USA Pavilion would showcase US leadership in the global food arena, highlighting the country’s role in advancing culinary sustainability.
I decided to visit in the end of May and spend one full day there, which was not really enough time to conquer the whole 3.6 million-square-foot sustainable “smart city,” but it did provide me with a taste of the Expo.
The Expo felt sort of like Epcot, with a world of flavors, exhibitions, and some long lines. With more than 140 participating countries showing the best of their technology and seeking a solution to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium, it was a true global exhibition. Each country involved in Expo designed its own pavilion as it wished. Every pavilion was unique, including that of the USA.
The USA Pavilion’s theme is “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet.” Using interactive exhibits and state-of-the-art digital media, it highlights American industry, products, and entrepreneurship within the contexts of sustainability, nutrition and health, technology and innovation. It positions the United States as a destination for business and travel and promotes collaboration to strengthen bilateral ties between the USA, Europe and the rest of the global community in order to tackle food-system challenges together.
According to my “All in the Industry” guest Elizabeth Thacker Jones, the reason for the USA’s participation in Expo was because of the overall mission and the mandate: “How do we feed 9 billion by 2050?” It is “something our Secretary of State John Kerry has said, as well as our President Obama,” she explained.
The USA Pavilion is a multi-level experience, an original 35,000-square-foot space designed by New York architect James Biber. Activity flows from top to bottom, side to side, including a massive vertical farm that is harvested daily.
The USA Pavilion’s boardwalk exhibitions have six content stations talking about various initiatives that are happening within the US through academia, native American cultures, farming, and policy; cooking, nutrition and the industry; as well as an American perspective wall with quotes and mentions about leadership and global food security. Downstairs, an original video series incorporates a variety of foods, cultures and traditions in our country, including BBQ, farm-to-table and Thanksgiving, plus a display of photo boards and quotes from the different US regions.
Food Truck Nation
Separate from the USA Pavilion is its own food truck park, called Food Truck Nation, which aims to incorporate US regional cuisines that are not as well known in Italy. Elizabeth explains that the trucks required a special area to prevent the exhaust from potentially hurting the vertical farm. One hamburger truck is making 2,000 high-quality burgers a day, which is not a number that typical food trucks on the streets could pull off, but since the trucks are parked they can easily replenish the burgers throughout the day. The priority is to make really high-quality food.
Food Truck Nation is structured similar to food truck rallies that you see in New York parks or food events, where 10 trucks will park for the day and visitors can try many different types of foods. According to Elizabeth, they try to represent all types of cuisines across the US, with the hamburger being an obvious choice. They change the flavor profiles of the burger with a “sauce of the day” to represent different parts of the US.
Food Truck Nation also comprises a seafood truck, featuring a lobster roll and lime-y shrimp roll representing Florida, as well as separate dessert, beverage and BBQ trucks. Notable guest chefs made appearances, include pitmaster Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas.
JBF’s American Restaurant
I also had the opportunity to dine at the James Beard Foundation’s American Restaurant as a part of the Expo, which is being held at the Seven Stars Galleria atop the landmark Galleria Vittorio Emanuele at Piazza Della Scala in Milan, Italy. This was the first time the Galleria space, which had been designed as a luxurious apartment, was being used. The concept is a unique showcase for American gastronomy with rotating all-star chefs, and when I was in town Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in NYC was the visiting chef.
As I mingled with the other guests — a mix of locals and tourists — passed appetizers, including scallop and pistachio, were served and Champagne was flowing. In the main dining room we enjoyed a beautiful, four-course tasting menu, which included lobster and tomato salad; turbot, favas and ramps; lamb, eggplant and yogurt; milk and honey; and for the finale, Mast Brothers chocolate bars with a guessing game to match the milk with the bars.
A notable guest at the dinner was Ambassador Philip Reeker, the US Consul General to Milan, and I learned that Martha Stewart would be dining there later in the week. Dubbed #JBAR on social media, this pop-up American Restaurant is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone who appreciates good quality food and wine.
It was wonderful to see Chef Humm, who not only greeted the dining room pre-meal, but also answered questions at the end and visited all of the tables. He was heading to London after our dinner for the World’s 50 Best Awards, where Eleven Madison Park placed #5 on the list and took the Chef’s Choice Award. Congratulations, Chef and the James Beard Foundation!