Soleil Ho and Others Lead San Francisco Cooking School's Food Media Lab

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Front of kitchen at the San Francisco Cooking School (SFCS) (SFCS)

"I know from my own experience, being hungry to write about food but clueless on where to start, that you need mentors and coaches willing to share what they know. It's easier to tell original stories in food, in whatever medium, when you feel part of a creative community engaged in the same work," explains John Birdsall, one of the Food Media Lab event chairs.

To open up the conversation and educate both those already in the industry and those who aspire to join it, the San Francisco Cooking School (SFCS) is launching their first ever annual Food Media Lab from June 17th-19th. The goal of this three-day workshop will be to "educate, inspire, and grow the industry's next generation of food media professionals," and attendees will learn things like pitching a story, how to plan a podcast, navigating a contract and more.

SFCS founder and director Jodi Liano explains, "Food media has exploded nationally in recent years with a stronger emphasis on diversity, personal narratives, politics, and progressive social movements. We are excited to host this event and bring together both aspiring and seasoned media professionals to learn from one another, openly discuss the media landscape, and explore the art of storytelling."

That's why "The Stories You Tell" is the common theme for this community workshop, and attendees will hopefully leave feeling inspired and armed with the knowledge and tools needed to bring their stories to life. Along with opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the brightest minds in the food world today, attendees can expect plenty of content to take home and interactive sessions around different aspects of food media: writing about food (cookbooks, memoirs, personal essays, blogging, and exploration of food culture), visual/audio media (photography, videos, and podcasting) and building your audience via social media.

Andrea Nguyen, Jodi Liano, John Birdsall (left to right)
Andrea Nguyen, Jodi Liano, John Birdsall (left to right) (Aubrie Pick and SFCS)

And who will you meet and learn from at the Food Media Lab? Leading the charge with Liano are event chairs and award-winning authors, John Birdsall (Two-time James Beard Award-winning Writer) and Andrea Nguyen (James Beard Cookbook Award Winner). Some of the biggest names in the food industry will also be in attendance like Tejal Rao (California Restaurant Critic of The New York Times), Soleil Ho (San Francisco Chronicle Restaurant Critic; Host of podcast, The Racist Sandwich), Chris Ying (former Editor in Chief of Lucky Peach), Nik Sharma (San Francisco Chronicle "A Brown Kitchen" columnist and author of Season), Eric Wolfinger (food photographer and videographer), Andrew Friedman (Host of Andrew Talks to Chefs), and many more.


To make sure attendees will get the most out of the experience being held at SFCS, only 50 spots are available! Because it's such a small group, participants will be able to (and are encouraged to) ask questions at all the workshops and interactive sessions. There will also be a Happy Hour on the first day after all the workshops and a daily one-hour lunch break (food provided) where both speakers and participants can mix and mingle.

The Food Media Lab will take place at the San Francisco Cooking School.
The Food Media Lab will take place at the San Francisco Cooking School. (SFCS)

The opportunity for attendees to network with each other and with guest speakers is also one of the biggest benefits that the Food Media Lab provides. "Many people want to impact the food media landscape yet the paths to do so aren't evident. The Lab brings those people together with seasoned professionals whom we've identified as thoughtful leaders and generous teachers. The synergy will be amazing. There's nothing like this — yet," says Nguyen, one of the event chairs. And, hopefully, this workshop series will bring new blood into the food media industry to continue the trend we're seeing of more diverse voices, perspectives and stories around food.

Interested in attending? Tickets for the Food Media Lab are available on their website and are $995 each — there will not be tickets available for individual days.

Interested in attending but unable to afford the cost of the ticket? Thanks to donations from sponsors like Ernest Vineyards, Fort Point Beer Company, Hint Water, Jane the Bakery, Kasa Indian, Proposition Chicken, and Souvla, some scholarships will be available for attendees (find more information on the Food Media Lab site).

The full lineup for each day is listed below but could change as we get closer to the event date.

San Francisco Cooking School
690 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA

Food Media Lab

Buy tickets here

June 17: Books and Feature Writing - Confidence, Perseverance, and Your Point of View

  • Keynote - Chris Ying
  • Workshop: Why Owning Your POV Matters - John Birdsall
  • Workshop: Navigating the Proposal and Contract - Lorena Jones & Danielle Svetcov
  • Interactive Session: How to Craft a Feature Story Pitch + "Pitch It" Activity - Emma Christensen & Rachel Levin with John Birdsall & Andrea Nguyen

June 18: Photography and Podcasting - Bringing your stories to life through images and sounds

  • Keynote - Eric Wolfinger
  • Workshop: Photography with a Purpose - Nik Sharma
  • Workshop: Podcasting Workflow - Andrew Friedman
  • Interactive Session: How to Market and Promote Your Podcast - Soleil Ho & Brian Hogan Stewart
  • Interactive Session: "Let's Do a Podcast" Activity - Andrew Friedman, Soleil Ho, & Brian Hogan Stewart

June 19: Building Your Unique Tribe - Why a Platform Matters

  • Keynote - Tejal Rao
  • Workshop: Crafting a Public Voice - Amanda Haas
  • Workshop: Navigating Different Networks and Technologies - Bruce Cole
  • Interactive Session: Sponsored and Branded Content - Does it Help or Hurt + "Create a Branded Partnership Plan" Activity - Phyllis Grant, Amy Guittard, and Irvin Lin