This is my second post on attending IFBC the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle last weekend. I’ve already introduced the event and why I traveled all the way to the West coast of America from London to attend a blogging conference! I hope that in this post, you’ll get to read a little bit more about my experience of attending a US conference and what I learnt.
The conference agenda was very tightly packed and since I was battling with an 8-hour time change I found it quite a challenge keeping up with it all. I didn’t make the Thursday evening excursion to Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville (I hadn’t booked onto it assuming I’d be too tired) or the exclusive documentary preview of GMO OMG! as my plane was delayed by over four hours, meaning that I arrived in Seattle very late on Thursday evening.
The folks at the W Hotel, Seattle – the official conference host hotel – were very accommodating and I found the staff to be welcoming and helpful (isn’t everybody in America?!) I was super-impressed with my conference rate room – a Spectacular room with a view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle in the distance. I ordered room service – a much-deserved vodka cocktail and slow-braised beef cheeks with mushrooms and saffron papardelle. Given that this was hotel room food (at 11pm) this meal is up there on the list as one of the best dishes I ate (and there were a lot!) I’ll definitely be keeping a look out for some beef cheeks to slow-cook during the winter months. I also enjoyed tuning into my favourite Seattle-based show, Frasier and was very tempted to order Sleepless in Seattle on pay-per-view…When you’re used to being a busy mother-of-two, a couple of hours to yourself is worth the trip alone!
On Friday morning, the conference officially opened with Gluten Free Carnitas and Tofu Sofrito Bowls provided by one of the conference sponsors Chipotle Mexican Grill. Mexican food is still really big in the US and the Chipotle Mexican Grill aim to serve ‘Food with Integrity’ – sustainably raised food, sourcing organic and local produce where possible – also a huge topic at the moment in America. Our lunch bowls were filled with cilantro-lime rice, pinto or beans, braised pork carnitas and tofu sofrito, along with guacamole, cheese and red-wine vinegar pickled onions. One of the things I noticed pre-conference was the fact that food allergies and intolerance are taken very seriously in America. We were even given the option of specifying ‘Paleo’ as a requirement – catch up, Europe!
Lunchtime was also my first opportunity to meet some bloggers and to try and put a few names to faces. With over 320 attendees, this was no easy task! The very first person I met was a very sweet lady named Meagan Davenport, a local writer and photographer. We also chatted to a cook and author named Roger Scouton, before heading into the Great Room for the Keynote.
Keynote – Dorie Greenspan
Excitement filled the conference room as we awaited Dorie Greenspan - our keynote speaker. Dorie has written ten cookery books, which have included authoring Baking with Julia (with Julia Child!) and Desserts by Pierre Hermé. She has won a whole host of awards during her career as a food writer, including awards by the James Beard Foundation and the IACP – the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She was also named in the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. If you are a blogger who has taken part in or read about Tuesdays with Dorie or French Fridays with Dorie, then you may also already be familiar with the work and recipes of this formidable woman. Pretty much every single person in the room, including the men, wanted to be Dorie! It was an incredible privilege to be able to hear her speak.
Dorie framed her keynote around blogging and building a community, speaking of her transition from traditional media (or ‘old media’ as she affectionately named it) to new media. Throughout her career, Dorie has worked in professional kitchens as well as a Television producer, authored ten cook books in print and has worked as a freelance writer. She currently lives between Paris, New York and Connecticut and recently launched a sophisticated cookie business with her son, whilst maintaining a strong presence across social media with a blog and an active Twitter following. She shared some of the following nuggets of advice:
I’m lucky because I work hard. I’m fortunate because I always say yes. I did things because I thought they would be interesting or I’d learn something. I’ve never done something specifically to make money. I didn’t look for money because I was doing things that were interesting to me….Concentrate on the work. It’s the only thing that’s important.
Dorie also spoke about the importance of building a community, believing that writers have never had as much power as they have now. She also spoke affectionately of Julia Child and shared anecdotes;
Working with Julia Child was the greatest experience of my life. She called writing cook books ‘cookbookery!’
Dorie also mentioned the movie Julie and Julia, pointing out that before Julia Powell and her blog, cooking through a book was an unknown phenomenon. Contextually, Dorie said that blogging “gave a new definition to instant gratification,” adding:
As bloggers, we have the chance to speak from our hearts. In the old days, everything was mediated. We used to have to send the Editor our clips, now we have our blogs. It’s the most exciting time that I can think of to be involved with food.
Dorie’s advice was to work as hard as we can to create a community, pointing to Tuesdays with Dorie and French Fridays with Dorie, as examples of how a simple blog-based idea generated a whole new community of people who were interested in cooking and baking. The idea for the two events was unplanned and happened organically, they are less about the author Dorie herself, and more about the community of people cooking from her books, in the process, fueling cook book sales and adding to Dorie’s profile. Dorie loves the fact that so many people cook from her books, sharing her recipes and interacting with one another, as well as with her.
As a keynote speaker, Dorie came across as being incredibly warm, funny, articulate and modest. She answered all our questions willingly and at ease, setting the tone of the whole conference as a friendly and supportive environment of like-minded food writers. Despite all of her accolades and successes, Dorie sees herself not as someone above learning, but as someone who is always open to acquiring information and knowledge and of taking on new challenges. Above all, Dorie’s best advice was to:
Do what you’re most proud of and always say yes!
There is so much more I want to write about, including more conference highlights and sessions as well as all the food I discovered in Seattle! Stay tuned for more.
With thanks to Foodista and Zephyr Adventures for organising the conference. This trip was self-funded and all posts are completely free of any payment, commercial sponsorship or existing brand relationships.
This is post #2 of 3 – attendees were asked to write 3 posts as part of the$95 ticket deal.
#IFBC Post 1 – Food Blogging Stateside
You can also view my Seattle Food Album on Facebook -