I have to admit, I felt a little bit like an adulterer attending BlogHer Food '09. I mean, ya know, I'm a FoodBuzzer and BlogHer might well be seen as a competing entity. So, yes, I cheated last weekend ... big time ... and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
BlogHer Food '09 was such an overwhelmingly positive experience for me, that I've had trouble trying to synthesize it all these last two days. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about it. How often do you have the opportunity to meet hundreds of other people with whom you have so much in common? How often do you have the opportunity to set aside an entire day and devote it to your life's great passion ... while learning and making invaluable connections along the way?
The morning began with a networking breakfast in the ballroom at the St. Regis. Happily, this kind of event is right up my alley. I'm the kind of person who actually enjoys walking into a room of 300 people I don't know and introducing myself to them. And so I did. I happened upon a table of festive looking women and asked to join them for the meal. We quickly began the introductions and soon the fun began!
Last week, doggybloggy of Chez What?, left me a comment suggesting I should look out for Laura of Hey what's for dinner Mom? ... and wouldn't you just know I was at her table! Without even looking for her, I found her ... and I'm so glad I did. She introduced me to Janet of Pretty Green Girl, and Heather of Heather in SF. We became fast friends indeed! So much so that we spent the majority of the after-parties hanging out and having a blast. (I miss you guys already!) I also greatly enjoyed my morning conversations with Tiffany of The Cookie Blog and Kelsey of The Naptime Chef and my lunch-time laughs with Shirley of Gluten Free Easily and Diane of The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.
After breakfast, we headed to our first panel discussions of the day. I chose to attend the Visual Track: "Developing Your Visual Voice", presented by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks and Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites. Together, these two amazing photographers lead us through the "seven things to think about before even picking up a camera", while showing examples of some of the best food photography on the net - both their work and that of others. For me, this session was invaluable. I have no illusions about becoming the kind of photographers they are ... but heaven knows I can improve. The information I took away from this session will no doubt serve me well ... though it would help if I lived in something other than a bat cave. Le sigh.
For the second session, I chose the Vocation Track: "Your Blog is Great ... now what? Letting your blog lead the way to new opportunity", a panel discussion presented by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen and Helen Dujardin of Tartlette, moderated by Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy. Here again, I have nothing but praise. The discussion was lively and fun, due in no small part to the sparkling personalities of these three women, and the information offered was of tremendous use. My major take-away from this session was, as Jaden said, to "go to everything". In other words, miss no opportunity to connect and network, because you never know who you might meet. I don't know about you, but I have an email box full of invitations about which I was sitting on the fence ... well, no more. From now on this Diva *is* going to everything.
The other really nice part of session two was that I had a chance to sit next to ... on the floor! ... one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Cheryl Sternman Rule of 5 second rule. Meeting Cheryl, after following her blog for the better part of a year, was a real treat. She's someone I've long admired and finally putting a real-live face to the name was great fun, indeed. I can't say the same about having to sit on the floor. My one real criticism here is that the rooms were in no way large enough to handle the crowds. I realize the limitations of space, but sitting on the floor, or standing in the back, is decidedly less than optimal.
Which leads me to session three ... wherein I found myself crushed up against the uber blogger, David Lebovitz, at the back of the room ... with dozens of others who could not get in the door. By this point, the entire conference was running behind schedule, and though I'd left session two early, hoping to get a seat, I found session three already underway and overcrowded. I was not amused. For session three, I chose the Values Track: "The Meaning of Identity and the Value of Voice in a Crowded Foodblogging World"; a panel discussion presented by Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman, Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic, Dianne Jacob of Will Write for Food, and Susan Russo of Food Blogga. I'm sure it, too, was invaluable ... though I wouldn't know. I was already aching from my time on the floor, and exhausted from the day in general, suffice it to say I skipped out right behind David Lebovitz after about 10 minutes. Feh.
I figured I could put my time to better use in stopping by the hotel's business lounge to print out my boarding pass for the return home; and so I did. I also popped up to my room for a quick make-up check and brief lie down. A Diva's got to do what a Diva's got to do! Useful as that was, I'm sincerely sorry I missed the third panel. Though the room was huge, clearly it wasn't big enough ... and that's a shame. Perhaps a bigger facility is needed, should there be a BlogHer Food '10? One can hope.
Naturally, there were breaks, and demos, and food offered between the sessions ... though little of that inspired me enough to want to write about it. The one exception being the phenomenal chocolate demo offered by Chef Elizabeth Faulkner. I will write about that ... tomorrow. Here's a little clue: it has something to do with that mysterious photo above. Stay tuned!
Much has been said, and written, and tweeted about the epic lunch fail at the conference. On that front, I have nothing new to add. If you're interested, I'd suggest this article by Natanya Anderson. It offers, to my mind, the most balanced and useful critique of the experience. In truth, I didn't go to BlogHer Food to eat. I went there to listen, to learn, to network and to socialize; those were my goals. I achieved them in spades. In the last few days, many of you have asked me if the experience was worth it? My answer is a resounding: YES!