Wisconsin Restaurant Expo 2012 kicks off in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- There was plenty of food and fun inside Milwaukee's Frontier Airlines Center Tuesday, during the Wisconsin Restaurant Expo. The Expo began Monday and runs through Wednesday, March 14th.

The event's exhibits and demonstrations bring Wisconsin's food service professionals together--to share new information, products and services. "We've done some other trade shows, but this is the first time at this Expo," Ira Koplowitz. Koplowitz and Nick Kosevich co-own Madison-based Bittercube Bitters distillery. "For us, it's also about education. The more that we raise the whole bar demographics, the better our products do," Kosevich said.

The educational theme was present throughout the Expo. Dozens of high school students are part of the ProStart Invitational--featuring both culinary and management competitions, judged by industry professionals. "It's so exciting, because you see these kids with so much passion already, and they're very excited about learning. They're excited about showing off the skills that they've learned," Susan Quam, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association's Education Foundation said.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College students shared baking strategies and offered inspiration for those who've been around the state's food industry for a while, including the CEO of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, Dave Schmidt. "Just seeing what's up and coming is just a thrill for me--knowing that we've got a good, solid, baking and pastry industry, and a good, solid food industry. I'm very proud to be a part of it," Schmidt said.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Expo is open to members of the state's food service industry. Attendees must own, manage or work at a food service or hospitality outlet or be students of the trade.