Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day One Takeaways from IFBC: Pirate gold

I'm attending the International Food Bloggers Convention this weekend, and while the gift bag booty from day one was a pirate-worthy haul, my takeaways do not come in a package or treasure chest.

The first three nuggets come from the opening talk by Dorie Greenspan. Dorie is the author of, count them, ten cookbooks, including one with Julia Child (me: genuflecting), and two with Pierre Herme' (pastry god of Paris). She has her own cookie company, lives in Paris and New York...she's nothing short of a food goddess, and the nicest, down to earth cooking and baking elf you ever met. Really. I want to take her home with me. She could bake cookies for me and encourage me to write that next book inside me, I'd made us jasmine tea... sigh. Aside from that little fantasy, here are three quotes I loved from her talk.

1) "Concentrate on the work." It's deceptively simple, but I for one get so disgruntled about the foodie world of hype and social media, and the overall noise of the web, that it often stops me from writing. All I really want to do is write, but sometimes it feels like it comes with so much baggage. I post something and then I have to put it on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and oh I really should update the blog roll, and darn I really should comment more on other people's blogs, and, shit, this blogging is taking me away from working on my next book, that it weighs me down.

Dorie reminded us that all of that none of that really matters unless you are doing and loving the work. Right. Check.

2) "It's a great time to be a writer." Dorie talked about the power we have as writers today. We don't have to wait months or years for the validation of a small pool of publishers and editors, we can hit "publish" and immediately reach our readers (after spell check and lots of self editing). They in turn can respond right back. She talked about how there never used to be any money in food or writing and now both are sexy and can be a "real" job. With blogging we also have a way to reach and show traditional publishers our work in a way we never could before.

3) "Say Yes." One yes leads to another and when we are open to possibility, when we are in the realm of Yes, doors open. I know that is how I landed She-Smoke. I was in that sweet spot of Yes at the time, and a door presented itself. That door has led to so many others. I've been on NPR Seattle, I blog for Char-broil, and it's helped put Smokin' Pete's BBQ on a national map, or at least on a larger map than just Seattle. I could agree more. Of course you shouldn't undersell yourself, of course you shouldn't be a shill, but if it feels right, the details fall in line.
The next nuggets are more observations from the two sessions that followed, the live blogging event and the Taste of Seattle dinner reception.

4) Product sales start with story. Not exactly news, right? It's rule number one in marketing, but I got to experience the rule first hand in the Amazon live blogging event. We listened to 16 or so different vendors give a 2.5 minute presentation of their product. The idea was that we were supposed to taste, photograph and "live blog" about each product. You may read my tweets to see what I liked or wasn't overly wowed by, but no matter whether a product was my cup of tea, if I connected with their story, I went out of my way to want to like them. If they were just telling me why I should like them because of how great their product was, I lost my luster.

Take Sahale Snacks.

I've seen these many times in stores, and even tried and like them. Price and the fact that they are more of an adult rather than kid snack has been why I've passed on purchasing them since. But hearing about the hiking trip with nothing but freeze dried food and sawdust energy bars that started the idea of the company made me give these guys a second look. Knowing that they were local, hearing first hand from one of the founders instantly made me want to support them. I do happen to like sweet and salty nut snacks in general, so it's not a huge stretch for me, but learning that one of the founders also obsesses about cinnamon? I'm in.

Remind me to read #4 when I'm launching my future food product line, OK?

5) Lastly, I was blown away that the actual chefs came to Taste of Seattle Friday night reception. Well-known Seattle chefs and restaurant owners served us little plate after little plate of delicious dishes.

I own a restaurant and have a family, and I know how many of these events you can do in a year, and how much work they are. I know how you wish you were home instead, because you are always pulled in so many directions and never enough in the direction of home. Seeing Ethan Stowell, who is opening yet another restaurant in five days, Eric Bahn of Monsoon, and other restaurateurs and chefs dishing up these fabulous creations, and not just sending in the staff to plate up 300 sea scallops or spicy tuna rolls, amazed me.
Alder smoked scallops by Boka Restaurant

I have been on the other side, handing out the little plates and let me tell you, we don't really care. I mean of course we care, the people are our customers or potential customers without whom we wouldn't be in business, but the reality is that after awhile, the faces, the people eating, they all become the same group chomping, slurping, snorting and talking with mouths half full. I hope that other attendees appreciate how special it was to have the real owners and chefs come on a Friday night, while their restaurants went on without them, to give up their family time or TV time or payroll time or hang time at someone else's bar. It was a gift. Pure gold.

I for one felt a little guilty from the day one pirate-y haul. But mostly I felt happy and full.


  1. LOL I had the same reaction to the Live Blogging, but some of those treats has resonated with me long after the conference.... :) I didnt get a chance to talk to you much at dinner so I didnt know you worked in Seattle - I bet you were thrilled to see Seattle represented so well at the conference! Loved your "nuggets" btw!

    1. Thank you and it was great to be on hometown turf for the first one. Looks like we'll be here again next year (but darn, I was really hoping for a return to Nawlin's. This was my first IFBC, so I didn't go that year, but would love to head there next year!).