As I sat amongst 300 fellow food writers/bloggers, rapt with attention as our blog crushes talked about the trials and tribulations, joys and inspirations of food blogging, I felt a wonderful sense of community. Regardless of where we were from, what we liked to write about, how long we've been at it, we had at least one thing in common...food. And the inexplicable need to talk about it.
And talk we did.
The day was divided into three tracks: Visual, Vocation, and Values, with speakers represented from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
"Developing Your Visual Voice" -- Matt Armendariz and Heidi Swanson
The Visual Track focused on food photography -- developing your visual voice, basic principles and techniques, and how to take your photography to a new level.
"Your blog is great...now what?" -- Jaden Hair, Helen Dujardin and Amy Sherman
The Vocation Track delved into best practices on building a better blog, blogging as a profession, developing business relationships online and offline, and protecting yourself and your work. Bay Area Bites' very own, Amy Sherman from Cooking with Amy moderated a panel in this track all about letting your blog lead the way to new opportunities.
BAB also represented on the Values Track, with Jen Maiser, the woman behind the Eat Local Challenge, leading a discussion on "The Politics of Food...and Food Blogs" -- the very deliberate movement to change minds within and about the food industry. This track also explored "How Food Blogs Can Save the World," with discussions on how bloggers can support issues they care about, and how to take that action offline as a volunteer or activist.
And, of course, there was food.
Rocco and the lunching ladies
While overcooked pasta for lunch left much to be desired for, it appeared that Rocco DiSpirito did some damage control with his amped up charm, flying from table to table (dizzying as it may have been).
TuttiFoodie and Scharffen Berger hit the sweet spot with its Chocolate Adventure Contest demo with Elizabeth Falkner, Executive Chef of Citizen Cake and Orson.
The concept of the Chocolate Adventure Contest is to create an inventive recipe using Scharffen Berger chocolate and least one of their 17 listed "adventure ingredients." Chef Faulkner demonstrated her confectionary prowess by using 11 of them in her Chocolate Adventure Box, layering all sorts of goodies like homemade pandan-flavored marshmallow, peanut butter, cumin, and corn nuts, among other things.
Chef Elizabeth Falkner gets sticky
Chocolate Adventure Box
Now for the fun part…
Dive in! (Gudrun from Kitchen Gadget Girl goes fishing)
Yeaup, really get in there (Photo credit: Amy Wilson, Streaming Gourmet)
After we were sufficiently sugar-high, the Closing Keynote treated us to an open discussion with Elise Bauer, Ree Drummond and David Lebovitz -- three accomplished bloggers who have been at this a while. With very different styles and approaches to blogging, it was interesting to hear how they responded to similar challenges of sustaining momentum and avoiding burnout. It was also reassuring to hear that 1 post typically takes them anywhere from 4-6 hours to complete...and that it doesn't always come easy to them.
Party time: Todd Porter, Diane Cu and David Lebovitz
BlogHer Food '09 was very much about community, support, and growth. More coverage on the conference can be found in the live-blogging forums, but for a quick recap, here are my 5 take-aways from the sessions:
• Create opportunities -- Put yourself out there. Talk to people. Network. Step away from the computer.
• Come from a place of authenticity -- Sincerity goes a long way.
• If a business is what you want, treat it like a business -- Have a plan, make goals, create a vision that will keep you inspired.
• Share more than just the sugar and the flour -- People want a person and a life behind the blog. Don’t be afraid to share your story.
• Writer's block and burn out -- Happens to the best. Remind yourself of what you want. Do what makes you happy.
At the end of the day though, the highlight was getting to meet so many kindred souls. The weird and beautiful thing about blogging is how well you get to know someone from a distance. It was a real pleasure meeting many bloggers I've been following for months, and in the end, I guess that's what it's really about. Human connection (over something good to eat).