Nearly 12,000 restaurant and foodservice industry professionals from California attended the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, which took place Aug. 14 to 16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The event, sponsored by the California Restaurant Association (CRA), was co-located with Expo Comida Latina, showcasing the latest products for the Hispanic restaurant and retail market.

Among the event hightlights were:

The Innovative New Product Gallery. Here, the newest and most innovative products were introduced into the marketplace. The first place People's Choice winner selected by attendees was EarthKare Packaging Innovations for its portable cup with integrated lid that locks into place. The second-place winner was Winco for its professional induction cooker. Third place went to Frextr for its mobile texting service.

Raising funds for ProStart. U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina met with ProStart students from Santee Education Complex in Los Angeles during her visit to the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo. Fiorina also made a donation to the CRA Education Foundation. During the Expo, CRAEF raised more than $10,000.

Feeding the hungry. At the close of the show, the exhibitors of the Western Foodservice Expo and Expo Comida Latina donated 10,000 pounds of food to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. The Food Bank provides food for nearly 900 member agency sites.

New Solutions Center. A highlighted feature on the show floor, the New Solutions Center offered educational content focused on food, marketing, operations, beverages, management and strategy. Attendees crowded in to learn about such topics as the 10 most common hiring mistakes, advice from Yelp, how to recruit and hire and online marketing strategies.

Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum. Attendees received free education at the Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum with sessions such as "Hottest Trends in Restaurant Nutrition," which offered educational and networking sessions with experts that shared innovative practices and how to capitalize on offering healthy options (presented by; and the "Women in Foodservice Education" session, moderated by Kathleen Wood, of Kathleen Wood Partners, who discussed the key secrets to professional growth for women in foodservice.

Top names in L.A. dining weigh in. Top professionals in Los Angeles participated in a panel on what's next in fine-dining. Among the names were Brendan Collins, chef/proprietor of Waterloo & City; 2 star Michelin chef Josiah Citrin of Melisse; Sherry Yard, two-time James Beard winner and executive pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining; and Warren Schwartz, chef of Westside Tavern.

Next year's Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo will take place Aug. 28 to 30 at the San Diego Convention Center.