2014 Food and Wine Conference Brilliance and Giving Back

July 29, 2014

Rosen College of Hospitality Entrance

Rosen College of Hospitality Entrance


I attended the fabulous Food and Wine Conference this past weekend at the gorgeous Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando Florida courtesy of  the Datz Restaurant Group  based in Tampa Florida and  Isabel Reis Laessig.   Isabel is the driving force and founder of the Sunday Supper Movement and The Food and Wine Conference.   She is an incredibly dynamic, warm, down-to-earth and altogether brilliant human being.   Isabel has organized this event for two years, doubling attendance and putting together an event that showcases classes, demonstrations, contests, sponsors, incredible food and wine and the perfect mix of leisure time for networking!   You can find Isabel right here at Family Foodie .

Before  the start of the conference (after my delicious  hug-fest in reception with Jamie Schler, Jackie Gordon, Jenni Field and Lora the famed Cake Duchess)   I was able to meet with both Deborah Silverman Bowen, the bright, sharp wit behind Datz, and the communications and voice behind their Facebook, Twitter, and all of their Restaurant Review Responses, along with the amazing Lorraine Ladish the founder of  VivaFifty, a bi-lingual lifestyle website devoted to celebrating life after 50.  Dr. Deb is both the Communications Manager and Digital Storyteller for Datz which is a Tampa Gastropub and Gourmet Market featuring “comfort food with a flair”.   Datz is owned by Suzanne and Roger Perry and a huge part of their business plan is transparency and giving back to the community which I truly admire.    My family is looking forwarding to traveling west to get a taste of their signature when pigs fly appetizer flight of bacon, and their datchos, a platter of  handcrafted potato chips,with chili, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, blue cheese drizzle and scallions. topped again  with either pulled pork, chicken or brisket.    For a sweet at their bakery, or  if you need to cater your next party, Datz  Dough and, Dazzle are at the ready!  And lastly, the newest restaurant under the Datz banner is called Roux ( New Orleans Inspired Menu) and is  scheduled to open any minute.   We are going to dine there with the generous gift cards that were planted in my swag bag.

Datz Swag Gift Cards

Datz Swag Gift Cards

As with most of us, my real work happens in the quietness of my private workspace and behind large jampots at the stove, and what a joy it is when I can connect with kindred spirits that know and understand this and are willing to share themselves with abandon. I am not sure if I have ever been at a conference with so many talented men and women (of all different ages) who shared their knowledge and expertise in a way that was so educational, inspirational and energizing.

I wanted to begin with one  simple but  huge takeaway quote  from  Monica Bhide’s  presentation, and that is:

“Tenacity trumps Talent”

So powerful these three words are and they hit me so hard at the conference, so very wise.  You can see Monica below on the left with her  Tiara, Jamie Schler in the center and Jenni Fields on the right.

Monica, Jamie and Jenni

Monica, Jamie and Jenni

In terms of the agenda, it was one module after the other both Saturday and Sunday each jam-packed with information, fabulous and knowledgeable speakers and lots of fun too.  I just wanted to touch upon some of my absolute favorites here.  The SEO recipe with Don Cristo ( the cofounder of Triberr) bowled me over, I would love to spend a few hours with him (really a few days).  He took a live blog from one of our attendees and went line by line to analyze and give suggestions for placement and SEO.

The out of the box ideas from Blog to Business, oh my goodness, such inspirational stories from Michelle Northrup of Intensity Academy Gourmet Hot Sauce and Erika Kerkes of  Not Ketchup.  So interesting for me to see the different business approaches and to take inspiration from these  two women that are so successful.  So much to learn about WordPress, learned about lots of different plug-ins, but never knew that I could find a local word camp meet up group!  Writing Wisdom along with Blogger to Professional Writer  with  Monica Bhide and  Jamie Schler and Janet Keeler  – both modules were just outstanding.

The Branding bytes session with  Jackie Gordon and Coryanne Etienne asked, what are your four words?  Describe you in just four words….what do you want, what is your passion, refine your elevator pitch, define your audience, make your brand reflect your passion, think about how you can develop more revenue streams.  Sponsorships, video, Ads, Public Speaking, Affiliate links/Sales, Amazon Links, Ebooks, Products, Classes, Working with the community.  So much to think about.

Media Kit – Such great information provided by both Monica Bhide and Wendy Wallford Garcia .  Great ideas, beautiful graphics, so excited to get started.  The Picture Perfect Story with Janet and Scott Keeler she is the food and travel editor and he is a photojournalist for the Tampa Bay Times  and it is a match made in heaven!  Amazing  photographs and behind the scenes stories, what a fabulous couple!  Would love to join their Cookclub.    I managed to take a snap of the working with brands panel which was another great one!   Dr. Deb from Datz is the second one in from the left.

Working with Brands

Working with Brands

Another highlight for me was getting to watch the Giuliano Hazan Cooking Demo.  I  loved watching him make his  Spaghetti Alla Carbonara while all along having the pleasure of sitting next to his wife Lael.


Giuliano Hazan preparing Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with Zucchini

Giuliano Hazan preparing Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with Zucchini

And I got to meet Maggie Battista and Marisa McClellan!   Marisa did a fabulous presentation on writing her cookbook and spoke about her book tours and time on the road, she is a delight in person.  Marisa is the author of the blog Food in Jars  and has written a book with the same title, Food in Jars and a second book called Preserving by the Pint and there are hints of a third!   Her tours and demos are wonderful, you can check her website for her schedule.

Maggie Battista & Marisa McClellan

Maggie Battista & Marisa McClellan

What made this conference different was the people, from the welcoming speech from Harris Rosen with his message that being successful affords you the opportunity to help others, to Isabel’s opening words, so heartfelt,  that for her the conference was a dream come true…it is this type of passion and generosity that made this conference so unique and wonderful.



Fabulous Taste of Disney…my day at Epcot for the Food Bloggers Forum

March 20, 2012

Odessy Venue for Food Bloggers Forum

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. That makes sense to me, I’ve often found myself seemingly sticking to a certain way of writing, with creative flairs here and there. With the use of the different writing apps I’ve been experimenting with recently, my suspicions were also confirmed once I was able to track what I had been writing but in a more concise manner. Also, 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