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Networking, brand exposure and yummy samples attract hundreds to the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo

The event held Wednesday and Thursday at the Cox Convention Center featured hundreds of vendors.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: August 31, 2012

Suan Grant has been busy traveling to national and international food shows, and at the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo this week she decided to try something new.

To showcase how her jellies could be used, she baked cheesecake — one spiked with Suan's Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly, the other with Lemon Mango Pepper Jelly. The delicious result had an unexpected consequence.

“Now restaurants want me to make cheesecake,” laughed Grant, one of about 300 vendors at the event.

The annual expo, held Wednesday and Thursday at the Cox Convention Center, is for people in the food industry and isn't open to the general public. Many attendees own or work for restaurants, but also present were employees of casinos, schools and universities, hospitals and other organizations.

“Anyone that provides food to the public can come,” said Linda Etherton, manager of meetings and events for the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. It's the largest trade show in the state with about 8,000 attendees and an important event for food service and hospitality industry professionals.

Bertha Miller, owner of Miller Gas & Grub in Thomas, said one reason she attended was for the “free grazing.” Roberta Worth, of Vance Air Force Base, came to get fresh ideas for the catering menu at the base's club. And Oklahoma City Zoo's Jessica Austin, operations and catering manager of concessions, and Kyndall Watson, catering manager, were hoping to build relationships with vendors and find new products.

Food and drink

The show is a smorgasbord of food and drink samples: wine and beer, milk and cookies, gelato and cannoli, fried pickles and calf fries, lamb steak and French fries, and just about everything in between. Booths showcasing restaurant equipment and other business necessities are often bypassed for their more delicious neighbors.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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