From left, Michael Cruz of Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. stands with Ruiz Foods co-founder Fred Ruiz at the start of the Fresno Food Expo. Tioga-Sequoia brought home the New Product Award in the Buyer’s Choice category. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
The 7th annual Fresno Food Expo began on a high note Wednesday with a presentation to the winners of the annual People’s Choice and Buyer’s Choice awards.
The People’s Choice Award went to The Brioche Lady’s new purple yam brioche. The Brioche Lady is Nubchi Thao, a stay-at-home mom and first time exhibitor at the expo who has been operating her baking business from her home kitchen since 2015.
The product is based on a recipe from her sister, who lives in France. Thao tweaked it by adding fruit fillings and cream cheese, and has been selling it at swap meets.
Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. took home the Buyer’s Choice for its Half Dome California Wheat beer.
Another award — the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award — was presented to Vincent Ricchiuti of Enzo Olive Oil Co. in Madera.
Among those in attendance for Wednesday’s festivities were former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin and current Mayor Lee Brand, both of whom spoke glowingly of the event.
“It has really become a major point of pride,” Swearengin said, “not just for Fresno, but for all of the Central Valley.”
The Fresno Food Expo was started as an economic development initiative in 2011 with the intention of bringing the region’s growers and food producers into contact with new customers and buyers.
“It has done more than that — the Expo’s also brought together food vendors and partnerships,” Brand said. “And today, the Expo has become the nation’s only exclusively regional food show that has heightened their awareness of the food production industry in the Central Valley, and this is where we grow food… the Central Valley.”
Speakers for the opening also included NBC Food Trends Editor Phil Lempert, also known as the “Supermarket Guru,” along with Food Network star Simon Majumdar, who has been an outspoken advocate and fan of the Fresno Food Expo.
“I’m very fortunate—I get to travel all over the world,” Majumdar said. “I’ve been through every state in the United States. And we are, I believe, at the beginning of a golden age of food in the United States, and you know what? The Central Valley is right at the heart of what’s happening here and that’s why I come here so often.”