This year, I had the opportunity to attend Europain 2010 - an internationally renowned exhibition encompassing the sweet food industries (bakery, pastry, ice-cream, chocolate and confectionary).
Held in a large exhibition centre just one stop from the airport on the RER B, this expo is the place for experiencing the sweet industry in France. Anybody who's anybody in the industry attends, and you have the opportunity to mix and mingle with suppliers and professionals alike.
I have to admit that I did giggle a few times at all the cool equipment. My favourite was the chocolate tempering equipment - the idea of having a constant stream of perfectly tempered melted chocolate on tap makes me giggle like a little girl. You could watch the experts using the equipment and turning out perfect candies in no time at all. Anything you need to operate a bakery/chocolaterie/gelateria/etc is all here under one (very large) roof. Very cool stuff.
Held every two years, Europain is a food-geek's dream. Rows and rows of professional equipment and supplies for everything from packaging to baking ovens and shopfitting. Industry prodigies complete for the crown during the 4 days of the exhibition and you can see them in action while you're there.
The majority of products and suppliers were geared towards the baking industries (which makes sense considering there is a boulangerie/patisserie practically on every street corner here). The air was hot from all the demonstration ovens around the halls. The smell of freshly baked bread was wafting through the air and luckily enough, there were baskets of samples to satisfy grumbling stomachs.
There are plenty of eatable masterpieces on display, as well as being constructed before your eyes. You can talk to the chefs as they demonstrate their skills if you have any questions. They seem pretty eager to talk to you about their craft.
When it comes to the exhibitors, be prepared to answer 20 questions and to lay down your business card if you want something as simple as a brochure - they take the business of food VERY seriously here and any vague interest is met with an interrogation.
On a bitter note: unless you come from a well-known company - forget about being taken seriously - to the exhibitors, this is serious business and they don't have time for people from the minor leagues. The high note is that if you're from a large recognised company in the industry, you'll be showered with champagne and samples - but you can forget about that if you're not.
Unfortunately women are also given second-class status here, which is quite discouraging - men are still considered as kings in the industry here. I observed this all first hand (happened not only to me but others around) and it's not a practice I agree with, however it seems to be the way things are done in this part of the world and seems unlikely to change anytime soon.
Your ID badge is of major interest to the everyone here - you'll be checked out and have it scanned when you enter restricted areas or from particularly organised exhibitors who like to keep track of who they talk to.
Unless you're on a diet (and extremely disciplined) you'll find that you might not be able to resist the tempting treats on offer. The Metro booths in particular offered plates of pizza, pasta, and other gourmet delights to show off the variety of food products they supply. Instead of paying €5 for a hot dog at the food vendors, just go here and you'll have a pretty good lunch for free.
Europain & Intresuc 2010 - International Bakery, Pastry, Ice-cream, Chocolate & Confectionary Exhibition
Paris-Nord Villepinte Exposition Centre
6-10 March 2010