You really do have to get out of your back yard to see what’s out there, and I`ve wanted to see the Vegas bakery exhibition for some time now so, this year was the year.

There were already two trips organised from England, one being with the Craft Bakers Association, and the other with the British Confectioners Association, organised by my colleague David Powell. Both of these well organised study visits lasted for more than a week, however I didn`t want to stay out of the business for that long. So I decided to travel under my own steam, and I had also wanted to treat our Retail Operations Manager, Sandra to something a little special and as a thank you. We both took our respected partners as well, so that made up the group.

We took the Vegas Flyer direct from Manchester, and after ten and a half hours we landed in Las Vegas McCarran Airport, a great flight but a tad on the long side.

As soon as I set foot on American soil, my “heckles” started to rise, I hate their tipping system, and you feel as though you have to tip everybody, for anything, for practically doing nothing. I put all our suit cases into the taxi, and took them out at the hotel, $18.50 for a five minute taxi ride, giving him a $20 Dollar note expecting him to keep the change, he then said to me, “No sir, you keep it, you obviously need it more than I do,” the taxi driver said, wanting more. I said: “When you`ve earned it, I`ll give it!”

The Hotel – The LVH, was literally next to the conference centre, and was also a part of the Monorail system there, which was so convenient.  However the hotel was a little way out of the town centre, yet handy for the exhibition.

Monday Morning we hit the exhibition halls, with the generosity of Dee Cassey from “Californian Raisins” who sponsored the entry tickets for all three days. The exhibition was huge, just like the old days when we had exhibitions in England.

But it wasn`t just the size, it was the variety of exhibitors, both ingredient and machinery which was impressive.

Many of course were from Europe, the usual big companies or their representatives within the U.S of A. – however there were still an impressive number of American companies, and also companies from Asia were also represented. The exhibition is certainly one to visit next time round.

While walking round I stumbled onto the, “Retail Bakers of America” stand, and had a chat with Dennis Stanton from Chicago, Illinois. He and his family own a great business there, “The Swedish Bakery” which specialises in very high end breads and confectionery. I visited his business while I was on walkabout a couple of years ago in Chicago. That was a great trip, one I would like to repeat one day. I have invited him to our business next year, during Europain  in Paris, which he and his colleagues will be attending. The Retail Bakers of America is one association I would like to foster links to during my Presidency of the Craft Bakers Association from next May onwards.

Las Vegas as a city is very hard to comprehend “It’s like Blackpool on steroids” someone said to me, not strictly true of course, although I can see their point.

The Monday of our visit, we were very kindly invited to be guests of Rich Products to their cocktails and light snacks evening in the Palazzo Hotel, a very grand and impressive hotel indeed. The food presented where flavours from all over the world. A truly magnificent feast, thank you Rich for your generosity.

The Palazzo was situated next to the Venetian Hotel, which actually had Gondolas being punted around the pseudo canals of Venice by Gondoliers serenading their paying guests. Initially I was impressed by all this magnificence, but then I thought – Blackpool on steroids! I appreciate that the comment is somewhat crass, however by the time you see Hotel Paris – with the obligatory Eiffel Tower outside, The hotel Luxor in the shape of the must have Pyramid – Hotel New York, New York literally emulating the New York skyline of all the famous towered buildings with a scaled version of the Statue of Liberty at its front, you begin to think, What else is there? As all this isn`t real! It’s all for show, a façade of glamour and glitz.

On Tuesday evening we were again very kindly entertained by Dee at the Californian Raisins gala dinner evening held in the Ball Room of our hotel. The food, like the company, was excellent.

By the time Wednesday came along we were very sore of foot indeed, but like troopers trying to find that last nugget we hit the exhibition for the third time, however we soon found the Californian Raisin stand – for a sit down and a cool drink, and by this time we had had enough.

It was soon Thursday and we were heading back home with all our thoughts, trying to sleep on the overnight plane home, (I don`t think so) was it worth going? The exhibition was excellent with plenty of new ideas, and that alone was good to see. Would I go back to Vegas?

No, I have Been there, done that, worn the tea shirt!