DURING THE past week, virtually everyone who manufactures, distributes, sells or advertises cooking equipment showed up at Chicago's McCormick Place exhibition center for the semi-annual houseware show.

No revolutionary products, like a food processor, turbo oven or microwave oven, were introduced. But it was the nicest exhibition of cooking equipment in 10 years. The overall trend was toward the improvement of quality and function and a general absence of gimmickry.Thre were more and better lines of professional pots and pans, an extension in design and sizes of clay cookers and a continued proliferation of small ovens. Most manufacturers seem to be saying, "We've got the basic products, now let's make them even better."

Here are a few examples of this welcomed trend.

In order to conform to various safety standards, food processors have been designed with long, narrow feed tubes. The idea is to have a tube that will prevent fingertips from encountering the blade while feeding in the food. This elongated form, though safe, was not always functional. Many ingredients had to be halved or quartered before they could be fed in for slicing.

Cuisinart has invented a new expanded feed tube that is large enough to accommodate whole tomatoes, onions and potatoes. The attachment has been built so that the blade will not operate until the protective pusher is in the tube betweeen your fingers and the food. The center of the device has a small feed tube and pusher designed to hold a single carrot or celery stalk.

Cuisinart also introduced two new lines of cookware. One is copper with a thin inner lining of stainless steel. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat, but prolonged contact between foods and copper can produce a toxic substance. Therefore, almost all copper cookware is lined. The new Cuisinart copper cookware, unlike some of the copper and stainless steel pots now available, consists of a thick copper pot with a very thin stainless steel lining. The pots are produced for Cuisinart by a French mill. These are, in my opinion, far superior in both form and function to all the presently available copper and stainless steel pots and pans.

Cuisinart's second new cookware line is made of stainless steel with an aluminum disc sandwiched at the base to improve heat conductivity. The handles are also made of stainless steel and are heat resistant.

W. R. Case & Sons showed a new line of American-made kitchen knives, their "Classics," with well designed blades, dishwasher safe handles and reasonable prices.

Reco International showed a porous, unglazed terra cotta disc to be used as a "brick oven" baker's sheet for free form breads. It is soaked in water for about 10 minutes, then placed with the unbaked bread into an oven which has not been pre-heated. The steam formed from the moisture within the disc goes a long way toward reproducing the environment of many professional baking ovens.

AMCO Corporation of Chicago displayed a Teflon coated roasting rack that is big, sturdy and easy to clean. The well thought-out design has two large handles at either end for lifting the rack with its contents. I have always disliked the flimsy roasting racks which are generally available, impossible to grip and constantly bending or swaying under the weight of a 20-pound turkey.

Two of these racks, one above the other below your roast or poultry, will allow you toflip the entire utensil over in one easy motion. It's a simple tool that brings a small touch of security to the kitchen.

The KitchenAid division of the Hobart Company has made some engineering changes in their wonderful K5A and K45 food preparers. They've installed a set of solid state controls and a new fan design. The motor is cooled more efficiently and operates at lower temperatures, which means the already highly reliable product will be even more dependable. In addition, the newly designed models have a lower "stir" speed which will result in a superior initial mixing period for ingredients.

The Magnalite Professional line showed the first prototype of a dark gray anodized aluminum wok with a long metal handle on one side and an oval grip on the other. The piece was light in weight, highly heat conductive and beautifully balanced.