2020 Spud Nation Throwdown ( Tom Karst )

LAS VEGAS — The 2020 Potato Expo was a record-setter.

The Jan. 14-15 event, at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, featured 189 exhibitors and more than 2,000 attendees, said Mark Szymanski, director of communications for the National Potato Council.

“Though it started as a relatively small gathering of folks 12 years ago, this year’s record-breaking event is evidence that Potato Expo has evolved to become the place for North American potato growers and value-chain members to come together, share ideas, and do business,” expo co-chairmen Cully Easterday and Dan Moss said in a news release. “However, the Potato Expo isn’t about numbers — it’s about experiences. And this year we were pleased to offer the industry some new, unique opportunities to learn and grow their businesses.” 

The expo provided space specifically dedicated to networking, with five “Meet-Up Lounges” for conversation and recharging, according to the release.

The Expo hall also featured a stage for “The Potato Talks,” featuring engaging discussions and entertainment centered around potatoes and potato production.

“So the big highlight for me is how well the expo came off; this is the largest expo in terms of attendance, exhibitors,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council.

Mike Wenkel, chief operations officer for the NPC, said the event was planned to bring the industry together to make it as strong as it can be.

Quarles said the announcement of the creation of the Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (LEAF) was a highlight of the show and represents the foundation for future leadership development for the NPC. 

“That will go on well into the future; we are pretty excited about the start of that,” Quarles said.

The fifth annual Spud Nation Throwdown chef cook-off was hosted by award-winning chef and best-selling author Jeff Henderson. The three-way competition included Daniel Stramm, chef at the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Las Vegas, chef Robert “Stew” Stewart from OWN Network’s “Raising Whitley,” and Rock Harper, from Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and winner of season 3 of “Hell’s Kitchen” on FOX, Chef Rock. Harper won the competition with his dish featuring Patatas Bravas, according to the release.

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