This past weekend, Tom, the little man and I packed up our bags and headed to Orlando, Florida. Mickey’s town (known to the masses as Walt Disney World) hosted over 100 food bloggers, who gathered this past weekend for the 5th Food Blog Forum Conference.
Now, as they would say, “this was not my first rodeo.” I have been lucky enough to attend two other FBF conferences, and have been “wowed” by both, so riding into Orlando on Friday, I knew that no matter what, we were going to have fun, learn a whole bunch of information and eat luscious food.
But, you guys, those high expectations were nothing compared to what we encountered. This conference was out of this world. I guess what they say is true: practice makes perfect. The team that put together this year’s conference must have decided they were going to put on an event full of non-stop magic, so we could spend most of the weekend with our mouths hanging open!
A huge round of applause to the coordinators: Julie and Dawn. The founders: Jaden, Todd and Diane. And the numerous sponsors: Kitchen Aid, OXO, Whole Foods, Land O Lakes, Le Creuset, Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour, Spice Islands, Scharffen Berger and many more, who so generously provided the most amazing give-away prizes, along with filling up our swag bags with tons of goodies. But, most of all to Disney - you guys honestly made me believe in a magical place filled with magical people.
On Friday we were treated to a welcome reception outside the Grand Floridian Hotel. I could sit here and describe the food, but why? When I can let pictures do my writing…
The creativity used to display the food was a stylist dream!
No, Woody and Buzz were not at the reception, but we did find them in Lego form at Downtown Disney earlier that day.
The food frenzy did not stop here. The next day, they put out a breakfast spread that had us at “hello”!
The conference was jam packed full of information. Todd and Diane (of whiteonrice) started us off with a very emotional talk about being true to ourselves and tapping into our nurturing nature and using it to tell our stories, because at the root of everything we do, our emotions are what translate to others and connect us to our food narratives. We should never compare our photographs to others; that is your voice; it’s ok to show imperfections, because our authenticity is beautiful. They closed by showing us this video, which had everyone in the room bawling their eyes out by the end of their presentation. This team is truly unique and it’s an honor to know them.
Next up we had a PR panel discussion with Rachel (of KitchenAid), Jaden (of Steamy Kitchen), Arianna (of Oxo) and Thomas (for Disney). The discussion centered on how social media is affecting more and more how we communicate and reach out to brands. Plenty of great information - we mainly learned that in most cases, having impressive stats is not necessarily a big deal to companies. Brands want to work with bloggers and all we need to do is reach out.
Next up was one of my favorite speakers of the day. David Leite (of Leita Culinary) - if you don’t read this site, you have no idea what you are missing. The thing about David is, that he is just as funny, knowledgeable and awesome in person (if not more) than his Internet persona. We unfortunately, did not have much of a chance to interact, because well, he draws people to him like moths to a flame, he has a magnetic personality, and was always surrounded by my peers. His talked centered around writing Bigger, Better, More Badass Food Posts. It actually surprised me how very little all of us as a group thought of ourselves as good writers. Most hands went up when he asked “how many of us thought we were not good writers”. I was a bit taken back when I was one of those hands. So, when he went over his 12-step list, it really hit all the right notes for me. Things like being consistent - if you are going to share, share fully – not half ass. Think fiction - write non-fiction. Write about your life, be a storyteller, be true, without filters and drop “delicious” from my blogging vocabulary stat! (how am I doing David?)
Last but not least Dawn Viola spoke about taking our blog to the next level; to find our voice and make that leap to being a professional food writer. This lady is funny, engaging and one of the most driven people I know. I follow her on twitter and she is a force to be reckoned with. She is a treat.
Disney treated us to a red-carpet lunch, ten different chefs from various Disney’s resorts and parks put their culinary powers front and center and we were the recipients of dishes like Chocolate Ravioli with Cognac, Mascarpone Cheesecake with Lavender-infused Florida Strawberries, Peruvian Chocolate Cylinder with St. Germain Glaze, or a Soda Float with infused Vanilla Lemonade. Savory dishes including Seared Salmon with Couscous, Sanaa Vegetarian Sampler and one of my favorites, the Penne Pasta with Florida White Shrimp, Clams and Calico Scallops. Their creativity with ingredients and flair for showmanship left all of us in wonderment.
Following lunch we had 12 round table discussions with numerous speakers, who were willing and able to share their expertise in their field. I was honored to meet and get so much valuable feedback from Jennifer Perillo and Kelly Senyei who talked about recipe development and writing. Allison Lewis paired off with the ever popular Bakerella to gives us different views in writing a cookbook. Elise Bauer, founder of SimplyRecipe touched upon Copyright Issues and Diane and Aran Goyoaga teamed up to give a Photography and Styling Live demonstration. There was plenty of education to go around and we all were little sponges sucking it right up.
We ended the day with another treat – VIP seats to Epcot IllumiNations show while tasting plenty of “green” desserts inspired by the celebration of Saint Patrick’s day. To say that we ended with a bang is an understatement especially with views like this.
Sunday, Whole Foods hosted a brunch, which we decided to skip. Tom and the little man had enough and wanted me to spend time with them before we headed home, so instead, we visited Animal Kingdom where I let off some steam by taking a wild ride on this:
Yes, I screamed like a little girl all the way down. Tom laughed his head off, which made it all the sweeter (for him).
I cannot wait to see what this bunch comes up with for the next one!
In the meantime I’m getting ready for the up and coming TECHmunch which will be taking place in Tampa in April. Hope to see some of you there.