Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BlogHer Food '09: Part One

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!

24 comments:

Katherine Aucoin said...

I'm starding to reading a lot about this past weekend in SF. sounds like it was wonderful time.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Wow, this is so interesting. I am starting to think that i really want to go to the next one. SF is just soooooooo far away... but still, I guess i can do it if i really want to ;) (hubby dear...). How do u find out when/where the next one is going to be?
This is my first time really reading about it, and then i went to that link about the food... rediculous that they would do that (and yes, I'm there for the food, but also of course, its an amazing opportunity).
Hope you also got to enjoy SF! Must be an amazing place. Cant wait to hear more about all this!

The Duo Dishes said...

Always honest and frank, you summed it all up quite nicely. Too bad you won't be in SF again in Nov as it would be great to meet you! Hopefully our summary of those events will be as insightful as yours. Glad fun was had.

justquirky said...

I agree about the crowded rooms. I hope next year there is a little more room to...um...well, feel like you can enjoy a chocolate treat and still squeeze into the seat for the next session. :) I'm the same as you - I enjoy big rooms of strangers. I enjoyed briefly meeting you as well. I look forward to reading your blog.

Laura said...

LOVED meeting you! Seriously having diva withdrawal up here. Love your blog and now I am following you!

Missy said...

Sounds like a wonderful event! I would love to go next year! Thanks for the review!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Katherine - its been fun for me to read all the re-caps, too. It really was a great time.

HH - I know that it would be a *very* long trip for you ... but if you could turn it into a vacation as well, so worth it. Because of the distance, I'd suggest you hold out for BlogHer Food '10, rather than go to the general conference. I just think it would be more worthwhile. Keep your eye on the site blogher.com and they will post the info when its available. I will likely post the link for it here too, when its up.

Email me at divaonadiet@gmail.com if you'd like to chat about it further. :)

Duo - I'm kicking myself about November. Really, its killing me! But I'm traveling to Germany at the end of next week and I just can't swing another coast to coast deal. Grrr!

justquirky - So nice to have met you too! I've just taken a spin around your blog and I love it! Adding you to my reader immediately. And, here's hoping for a larger venue next year ...

Laura - funny you should say that, I'm having withdrawals too! I so wish I was joining you guys for the eat-a-thon in November. Waaah!
Thanks for the follow and ditto!!

Missy - you'd have a blast and I hope you do go next year. Would love to meet you too!

HeatherinSF said...

I love your recap, you hit the nail on the head! It was such a wonderful day and I really enjoyed hanging out with you. Come back soon!!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Heather - I *will* come back soon ... and insist you take me to Bi-Rite Creamery! LOL

words...words...words... said...

WHATEVER IS IN THAT CHOCOLATE BOX, I WANT IT.

NOW.

The Diva on a Diet said...

words words words - babe, you have no idea ... you DO want it now ... and forever! Just wait until I describe it tomorrow ... assuming I can. ;)

Miss Caught Up said...

Wow! What an exciting weekend! I've always wanted to try going to an event to eat and meet other bloggers...

Miss Caught Up said...

Oh, btw, NYC is on my list :) I'll blog about it next!

Daily Spud said...

I'm with you on the taking up invites when and where possible - BlogHerFood was a bit far for me to travel this time, but I'm trying to go to the events that I'm invited to locally and will see what happens...

Cheryl said...

Oh my god, DOAD, I cannot beLIEVE that you didn't get a seat in that third session. After sitting with you like pretzel , I truly feel your pain. You should have come up to the photo session... I would've scooted my ample butt aside and let you share my seat.

Because that's what new friends do!

Thank you for your kind words. Truly, I deserve far less.

The Mushroom Channel (Jessi) said...

I think you've echoed some really great points here. As nice as it was in theory to be the fresh ingredient for the conference, mushrooms are a social vegetable. Even as the star of a soup or sandwich, fresh ingredients are made to go together. Hopefully the bumps will be worked out next year and in the meantime, I was really glad to have met you!

Astra Libris said...

Thank you for the glorious recap of the experience! I eagerly await the second part, especiallyl the mysterious chocolate... :-)

I am SO impressed that you love walking into a room full of 300 new people! Truly, 'tis a talent... Diva, you are amazing! Thank you for always making me smile, and for always inspiring me!

pixelgal said...

Over the years I've had many fantasies about chocolate but I must admit that digging into a vat of the soft delicious-looking stuff with my hands wasn't one of them....until now. See what you've done? Still love you anyway and maybe we can find some decadent German chocolate to melt!

The Diva on a Diet said...

MCU - you should try a conference some time, such fun! Keep me posted on the NYC front. :)

Daily Spud - SF would be a long trip for you indeed. You have been going to some great local stuff though and I've enjoyed reading about it!

Cheryl - I did think about going up to the photog session when I bailed, but feared it would me more of the same. Next time I'm cloning myself! You're more than welcome, it was a pleasure to see you in person! ;)

Mushroom Channel - you're so right about mushrooms playing well with others ... hopefully you'll have a chance to play more at the next one! I'm still dreaming about that soup. :)

Astra - you always bring such a smile to my face. Thank you! :)

Pixelgal - its all Elizabeth Faulkner's fault! Truly, you would have loved this creation. I only wish I could replicate it! xoxoxoxo

gfe--gluten free easily said...

I'm impressed that you've written so much already! I know others have, but most were in the CA area and weren't traveling far. Thanks for the shout out, too. I'm so glad you included all these links because somehow I left without business cards from a few folks who I met, like Heather in SF. Now I have her info thanks to you. :-)

There were a couple of sessions I really wished I'd been able to attend, but I couldn't do them all. I was fortunate not to have to sit on the floor though. And, yes, that mushroom soup Saturday afternoon was incredible!

Thanks so much!
Shirley

Christie's Corner said...

Okay, let me get this straight. You sat beside Cheryl of 5 Second Rule AND then got up close with David Lebovitz?! I'd have melted into a puddle of gratitude.

Sounds like a blast. I wish I could have been there. I don't usually regret missing conferences, but this one sounds like the place to have been.

Dead jealous on so many levels...

The Diva on a Diet said...

Shirley - thanks and so glad to be of service with Heather's info. I'm terrified I'm missed someone in my posts because I don't think I got a card from everyone either. :( As for the session, I need to clone myself for next time. I'm sorry I missed the one on "Blogging Best Practices" ... I read the live-blog of it and it seems like it was fantastic.

Charmian - don't feel too badly, I didn't actually speak to David Lebovitz ... I was just mashed up against him. I did think of you though, because of all that yummy ice cream this summer. :) He seemed like a nice guy.

I have no doubt that you and Cheryl will meet up one of these days. Its bound to happen and you will love her. :)

Deb said...

I can't believe you met Jaden from Steamy Kitchen - she is a regualr columnist in the Tampa Trib and teaches classes at a cooking store in the area. I've always wanted to take one of her classes but the timing has never been right!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Deb - I'll bet any class offered by Jaden would be fantastic. She's so charming and funny, and full of great information. She was excellent in the panel discussion I attended.