This past Saturday I was invited by Pam Brandon of both Disney and Edible Orlando to attend the Food Blog Forum on March 17. The Saturday event was held at the Odessey Venue at the Epcot Theme Park. I drove out to the property and treated myself to valet parking at the Polynesian Resort, then I hopped on the monorail to Epcot. Disney had graciously provided deluxe accommodations at the Polynesian for all of the registered Food Blogger attendees! I had attended two other Blogger’s events last year which were put on by the International Food Blogger Forum – Foodista, both of these conferences were excellent in terms of the organization, content of the seminars, the food, the venues and, of course, meeting the speakers and being exposed to folks that are really standouts in the field. I have also made some lovely friends, and to me, this is always the cream of the experience. This conference was on my home turf, so I was really excited to be completely at ease physcially and socially and to meet Aran of CannelleVanille fame (who was just nominated for a James Beard Award!), David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria fame, and Todd and Diane, food photographers and stylists of White on Rice fame along with several local folks in my community whom I have never met due to being stuck behind my jam pot! I was able to meet Heather McPherson, Dawn Viola and John Rife, all local foodies and community contributors here in Orlando.
Aran using a reflector to get that perfect shot
David speaking passionately about food writing
The truth is that I love being around brilliance. I get recharged and refreshed and inspired and taken out of my daily routines each time I go to a conference. Seeing success is energizing and I always take knowledge away whether I realize it in the moment or not…an impression has been made.
David’s presentation was fabulous. He spoke about how to be a better writer, how to write better posts…he said you have to be interesting, you have to find what you are “enough” of..whether that is funny, witty, sad, etc., you must be consistent and you must decide how much of your life you will reveal and create your persona from there. To quote, “think fiction, write non-fiction”. Always include the plot, setting, characters, conflict, symbol, point of view and a theme. Tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end and be sure to make your verbs active. He gave an example of using the word “plonk”, when throwing your potatoes in the pot–that they plonk into the water. He told us the more specific and granular you are in your writing, the more powerful your writing will become. David recommends purchasing Grammar for Dummies and getting yourself a copy editor (yes…whenever I can afford that!), but the book is within my reach
Diane and Todd brought the room to tears with their fabulous video along with their incredible warmth of spirit. They gave photo examples of the different light directions and exposures to give unique moods to your photographs. For me, it was also an inspiration for me to see their success without the usual formal photography education. This allows Diane to not live within the usual rules of “professional” photographers. She rarely uses a tripod and trys to shoot all of her photos without using any type of software editing/cropping–I love this approach. Aran did a food stying segment with Diane, and I appreciated seeing both their expertise and simplicity in the design. It was intimate and perfect.
Edible Orlando did an excellent roundtable with Kendra Lott (publisher) , Katie Farmand (editor–and Pam Brandon’s daughter!) and Heather McPherson (food editor Orlando Sentinel) on working with local publications. Lots of great advice there on suggestions including becoming an expert in something, writing for someone else, writing at least once a week, joining local organizations and pitching what you love were my main takeaways. They stressed going in with a specific story, go in seasonal if you can, and pick an idea, story or local food scene . Finding local food events and meeting local chefs will help to make your stories interesting and relevant. Also..picking up a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style is on of my action items.
There were many other roundtables that I would have loved to have sat in on, but time only allotted for these this time around. At each and every break there was a frenzy of announcements and giveaways from the generous sponsors, Kitchenaid, Oxo, Bob’s Red Mill, Goo Goo Clusters, Whole Foods, the list goes on! Gorgeous mixers, hand tools, Le Creuset Dutch Ovens..full size appliances were all won during the breaks….I have never seen anything like it! There certainly were alot of happy food bloggers dragging their winnings through the park back to the hotel
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the amazing lunch that Disney put on for the event. It was INCREDIBLE. I can never get over the impeccable service, attention to detail and professionalism that Disney displays on a daily basis, let alone what they did for this event. Pam arranged a package for me at Guest Relations, I was then escorted through the park in the morning, the venue at the Odessy was perfection, we were then escorted to a fabulous luncheon and then escorted back to the venue for the afternoon events. The theme of the luncheon was A Taste of Disney and was held at the East Hall in the World Showplace.
They had vegan selections, seafood, chicken, meats….desserts…Chef Gary Jones introduced the luncheon. The Grand Floridian Hotel’s restaurant Citricos was represented with Chef Phillip Ponticelli, they served seared Tofu with Zucchini and Eggplan Ratatouille, Roasted Mushrooms, Lentils, and Sun-dried tomato Puree. That dish was bursting with flavor. The Columbia Harbor House and Chef Al Hopkins served a Seared Salmon with Couscous, Broccoli and Hummus. Epcot The Land with Chef Tim Keating served a fresh salad of sweet greens with Vero Beach Arugula and Red Watercress. The Sunshine Seasons at Epcot with Chef James Kleinschmidt served a roasted red and yellow beet with Goat Cheese (I could have eaten ten of these).
I wish I could have taken a much nicer photo of the Beets and Goat Cheese, but there you have it! The lighting was very dramatic at the tables The Sanaa at Animal Kingdom with Chef Robert Getchell served a Vegetable Sampler with an assortment of chutneys and dips that were out of this world and quite spicy too! Their menu was Stewed Lentils with Spicy Cauliflower, onions, tomatoes and mint served over Basmati Rice and Pappadam. The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort with Chef Frank Brough served a Whole Grain Penne Pasta with Florida White Shrimp, Cedar Key Clams and Calico Scallops with a Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce (I could have also eaten this one twice!). The desserts were over the top crazy good, served up by the Grand Floridian and Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschekm. My favorite was the Peruvian Chocolate Cylinder with the St. Germain Glaze along with the Berry Gateau with Port Wine Foam (OMG). Disney’s Comtemporary Resort Bakery and Pastry Chef Jeff Barnes bowled me over with their Olive-oil infused Chocolate Truffle Mousse, Marscapone Cheesecake with Lavender-infused Florida Strawberries and Green Tea Rice Pudding with Uzu-splashed Goji Berry Computer. (Yes I ate of three of those desserts too…)
Pam Brandon was acknowledged at the end of the conference for her support and the sponsorship of Disney. Here is a photo of Pam receiving her flowers.
Pam receiving her flowers wih Tood and Diane on stage to the right
I am so grateful to Pam for inviting me as her guest! I really enjoyed the day. The Flower and Garden show was in full bloom. Here are some parting shots at the park.
Orchids among the trees