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Food Blog Forum Orlando: Food, Friends and Fun
Food Blog Forum came at the perfect time in my life. I had just gone through an amazing, yet exhausting cooking experience (sorry I can’t tell you guys more but you will learn all about it soon enough, I promise!) and I was ready for a clean slate experience. In fact, I was in a cooking/blogging rut so getting out of my own blogging/cooking comfort zone and spending it with other foodies in a “magical” setting was definitely what the doctor ordered.
While I most often only write about recipes and grilling adventures, I feel it is important to share this experience because many of you who read my blog are foodies, bloggers, or aspiring bloggers.
In fact, the best part of the whole experience was not just the food and learning about blogging practices, but most importantly, making new friends. I often stay so busy being consumed trying to balance work/blog/household that I often forget the importance of being surrounded by girlfriends. That’s right, girlfriends!
For those of you unfamiliar, Food blog Forum is the brainchild of Jaden Hair from Steamy Kitchen. Jaden is a very successful writer, blogger and foodie and she puts this conference on in conjunction with Todd Porter and Diane Cu of WhiteOnRiceCouple.com. Jaden started the actual Food Blog Forum that is a information portal for all things food blogging, and this conference is its namesake. It was very exciting to meet these blogging gurus in person for the first time as these two entities (Todd & Diane and Jaden Hair) were the first two blogs I looked to when I decided to start my own humble blog almost 3 years ago, and they are both the quintessential example of reaching self-sustained, full-time bloggerdom.
There are 4 aspects of this forum that made/make it special and I haven’t been to other Food Blog Forums in other locations so I will have to say that the one in Orlando is unique in that it is held at Disney, who is also a title sponsor.
I’ve never been to Disney so this was pretty exciting for me. Staying at the Polynesian Resort, gaining special access into Epcot Center before the crowds are allowed in and experiencing the “magical” nature of Disney gave the conference added excitement. Epcot had a flower festival going on during our conference so giant Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Peter Pan Topiaries made entirely of greenery graced our presence while walking to the conference.
The Food, quite simply, was spectacular. Disney and their Food Service Team offer anything but “Amusement Park” food. Our Friday night reception welcomed us with a truffled mac and cheese bar, grilled watermelon salad in a martini glass sculpture, savory waffle cones filled with cous cous, macaroons and chocolate crème brulee, and mickey inspired cake pops.
The mid-day luncheon on Saturday was truly a food safari, where conference attendees were given a full culinary tour of the best Disney has to offer from restaurants across the park. The park even specializes in organic, gluten free and specialty-diet foods for those at the park who have more discriminating tastes. Menu options included a grilled eggplant ratatouille, Indian and African inspired chutneys from the Magic Kingdom’s newest restaurant, Sanaa; Roasted Red Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans from Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons, and Black Heritage Pork Tenderloin Sliders with hydro greens and heirloom tomatoes served with quinoa fries. Dessert was truly naughty and my “just a bite” turned into finishing everything I tried, including the Peruvian Chocolate cylinder with Champagne Glaze, Chocolate Ravioli, and the Mascarpone Cheesecake with lavender infused strawberries.
I felt really guilty about how much dessert I ate but I had to reason with myself that I don’t get to try food or desserts of this caliber every day!
While I’m not fresh off the blogging truck, I’ve still got a lot to learn and I found the sessions valuable to give me perspective on how I can do things better – writing, photography, working with PR companies and even being true to my own voice and not just getting stuck in a purely “recipe writing rut”. David Leite, 2 time James Beard award winner with his site Leite’s Culinaria, taught us that food writing is a lot more than just recipes. It is about telling your story, from your voice, and showing a piece of yourself to your readers. This part really spoke to me because I’ve always been a writer well before I ever wrote about food, and I feel that sometimes I get stuck in the “must get content up” mind set while not really paying attn to really telling a story. So, hopefully you will find that my posts will be richer and more interesting after this realization!
Other Round Table Discussions Included:
- Food Photography and Styling
- File Management (photos)
- Recipe Development- as taught by the editor of Gourmet Live, Kelly Senyei, Seasoned Food blogger and author of Food Blogging for Dummies
- Cookbooks- how to Pitch and Write a Cookbook
- WordPress Design
- Copyright Issues
- Social Networking
The best part of the conference was meeting new foodie friends that I feel I will be stay in touch with for a long time. I made a close bond with 3 cool girls and we pal-ed around the park all weekend together, sharing recipes and stories and having a food blog adventure set in the heart of Disney. There’s Alessandra, The Brazilian Goddess who has mastered home-made ricotta and pasta for her Italian Boyfriend; Sarah from Minnesota who works in PR directly with food brands; and Shaina, my roomie and budding writer who is a Jersey Transplant finding her food passion with Take a Bite out of Boca.
I’m totally thankful for my new friendships and the experience to shake me out of my cooking rut. Diane Cu was especially inspirational when she impressed upon us that food photography and writing is not about the food, it is about how food makes people feel and the mood it conveys to people. Food writing and photography should come from the heart, like the meals you make for other people.
I look forward to my new, fresh take on writing, photography and the message I convey to you, my readers. I hope my posts always leave you with a feeling of inspiration and laughter. I’m going to stop comparing myself to other people and just be the best that I can be! Cheers to not taking myself too seriously and having fun with this blog!