Okay, I have two words for you: mind blown. Get this. Aside from the copious amounts of wine and food samples that surrounded us all day, these people at the International Food Blogger Conference, held by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, laid out a kick ass day that any food-centric writer would not only expect to see at a food blogger conference but be pretty stoked to attend. So, I can’t go over every single moment because that would take forever, but here are a few highlights.
The morning kicked off with our keynote speaker, Kim Severson who is, among many other brilliantly fabulous things, a James Beard award-winning writer who just so happens to report and write for a little ol’ paper you may have heard of – The New York Times. She talked about the digital food revolution and how important authenticity is in our writing. While I completely wish we were best friends and could talk for hours about her day to day, plus chat about any interesting and slightly embarrassing stories she may know about Ruth Reichl, that wasn’t going to happen – at least here – so instead I took away some wonderful tasty nuggets she shared:
- We are purveyors of great information.
- Report with humility. Write with authority.
- If you’re not composing, you’re composting.
- I procrastinate just as much as you do (paraphrased, but this one hit close to home – oh, look! A squirrel!)
She also said a few things that made me say, “Crap! I knew I should have left that in there!” I oftentimes over-edit myself after writing something because I worry that I need to scrub for a general audience, and what I kept hearing over and over again at this conference was “BE YOU!” After hearing her speak, I rushed to add some things back into some of my work that I’d previously removed, feeling very Norma Rae, “Yeah! Stick it to the man! They DO want to hear about my difficulties describing umami and how my tongue gets ahead of my brain sometimes! I may even talk about my obsession with knives next week!”
After getting all goose-bumpy over my Kim Severson experience and rushing to change words, I panicked when I changed a URL (which Dr. Jean Layton said never to do in an earlier session); so I grabbed the nearest person, frantically asked her to check my site on her phone since I didn’t believe mine, and she assured me I had not blown up my website. Then, I realized it was just a slug I’d changed – technical jargon for “something that won’t blow up your site if you change it.” So, thank you to the wonderful person who helped me, and I am so sorry I didn’t catch your name. You are awesome.
Alright, back to the “BE YOU.” Next up was a pretty remarkable writer’s workshop with talented author, Jess Thomson who really emphasized knowing who you are and being that authentic self through a video of the “Freaky Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar” in Alice in Wonderland when he asks Alice, “Whoooo Aaaarrrre Youuuuu?” It was another lesson in “people want to hear what you say because YOU’RE saying it!” She had us go through two short writing exercises that honestly gave me a little boost of confidence. I completely embraced everything she was saying and even spoke with her afterwards about more writing workshops to further improve my writing style. Her workshop was like coming home and noticing the room had been rearranged, but it was still your home – finding new ways to highlight your talents that are ready to be moved around. Pretty cool.
Another session featured Irvin Lin and Sarah Flotard who spoke about holiday preparation and how to put your best dish forward to help the masses as they prepare for the holiday season. This session was somewhat controversial at our table because the last few hours were all about authenticity and being the honest “you,” and then here we were focused on how to paint a half-baked turkey so it looked finished for you to take pictures of it four days later. It was interesting and was definitely of value in many areas – I will say, aside from some of the “soapy bird” professional food styling bit, I totally dug all the ideas about lighting, props, background, seizing the unplanned moments, and having fun with it. Needless to say, you will not be seeing a painted turkey on my site during the holidays. If I bomb, you’ll know it.
We also were introduced to a superhero trio to be reckoned with: Andie Mitchell, food blogger and author, along with prop stylist Jenn Elliott-Blake and award-winning food blogger and photographer Aran Goyoaga. They create the “Justice League” team who collaborated to work on Andie’s cookbook which is being released next spring! They discussed the ins and outs of creating a blog style which can be aesthetically appealing to your audience while highlighting your own personality and vision. And, whatever you do, WASH YOUR LINENS before shooting!
Then, the American Lamb Board held a Curriculamb 101 class (parum-pum – I thought it was funny). We learned so much about the different cuts, how to best prepare the lamb, and we got to taste some stellar lamb pate, as well as some incredible smoked lamb… aaaaaaall right after we watched a video about the baby lambs and how cute they are and how the farmers “get attached” to them. Yeah.
BUT, I love meat, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. The point was to show us that these lambs are well-taken care of and do live a good, healthy life in a wonderful environment prior to their incorporation to the food chain. We, as consumers, need to know where are food is coming from so we can make better choices with where we purchase our food, and the smaller farms are where it’s at when it comes to sustainability and freshness. My opinion.
Did I mention the copious amounts of wine? Right after this last session, we engaged in a grand wine tasting with various wineries and regions, including wines from Trione Winery, Franciacorta, and Concannon, right before the pièce de résistance, the Culinary Expo and Fair.
Wow. There were nearly 30 different vendors and restaurants who filled the room with aromas of fried chicken and waffles from Skillet Street Food, smoked sobrasada chorizo with port soaked figs and Valencia almond from my new favorite Seattle restaurant Lark and everything in between. Just zoom in on the grid pics above to see every single vendor who showed their love to all the food bloggers in attendance. Bottom line: killer food, killer drinks, killer peeps, killer vibe.
One more day to report, and I cannot wait to book next year’s conference already! Sorry I was so late today – we can all thank Canlis for that one, but I’ll talk about that later.
Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.