The 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference – Repurposing How We Connect Food & Technology

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Drinks, Events, Food
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) came to a close this past Sunday late morning. Located at its new home at the W Hotel in Downtown Seattle, this annual conference brings together food bloggers from around the world to gather for a weekend of information, education, networking, exploring, food, and drinks. The conference itself provided lots of informative sessions, so much so that some blocks in the weekend’s schedule consisted of three unique sessions that the attendees could freely choose to attend. Among all the food, writing, and technology sessions, any individual attendee did not have to stick to a particular session, and could switch at will, or not attend a session at all. Although the conference officially started on Friday, many of the out-of-town attendees had arrived days earlier, which allowed them the opportunity to explore the town, or attend the optional sessions that took place on Thursday: an excursion to Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, and a screening of the documentary GMO OMG, complete with a special guest appearance by Chef Tom Douglas. As my plane got delayed three hours, I arrived in Downtown in the early evening, so I could not attend either of these sessions; however, I still could meet Meagan Davenport and Gary House to share a drink locally before venturing off to explore the nightlife of Seattle.

For any of my adventures unrelated to the conference, I will cover that all in the near future.

The first official day of the 2013 IFBC started with a luncheon provided by Chipotlé. In addition, local specialty Cupcake Royale scooped up creamy delights for all of us.

I casually walked around attempting to meet people, but my shyness overtook my mind. Eventually, I see Jane Evans Bonacci and Dr. Jean M. Layton approach me to welcome me to the conference. Feeling much better, I enter the Great Room for the conference welcome, meeting Sam Henderson along the way. Inside the Great Room, I observed dual projector screens scrolling a live Twitter feed.

I propped myself on a table with a vantage point of the entire room, and met the others at the table, including Adriana Martin. Following an introduction, keynote speaker Dorie Greenspan took to the stage to speak to us all. Not pertaining to a particular subject, she spoke about various subjects, such as her background, the food & technology industry today, and what to expect in the future. During this time, I shared some amusing tweets with Veronica Grace.

Once Dorie concluded her session, the Live Blogging event took place. Click that link to read the details of that event. Next we broke out into our first set of sessions, where I attended the Elements in Building Traffic SEO/social media session, meeting Alice Mizer while waiting. I have yet to organize my notes from this session, so feel free to comb through my jumbled notes:

SEO Hygiene
URL structures
Page titles/meta tags
Site maps/Webmaster tools
Site performance
Quality Content
High quality: rich/dense, spelling/grammar, user engagement
Volume – less about more
External followed
Internal structure
Social media
Use Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn, YouTube
Follower count: Facebook, G+, Twitter, Pinterest
Distribute content/amplify message
Listen for trends/what’s hot
Experiment/test headlines
Engage in conversations
Build real relationships
Make your blog a hub to connect Twitter, G+, Pinterest, Facebook
Use the tools: ifttt,, TweetDeck, Hootsuite
If necessary, hire someone to blast your content, like from Odesk or Fiverr
Use tools to measure traffic: Google Analytics, Twitter Counter, Simply Measured
Content Strategy – Art vs Science
Editorial calendar – planning vs winging it
Frequent short posts
Repackage your own content (round-ups, like Top 5 of the season/year)
Round-ups of others’ content (link it)
Weekly newsletter
Create a Daily Habit
Meatless Monday, Chicken Tuesday, etc
Attach hashtags to those posts that are relevant and consistent
Pay attention to food quotes and food trends
Schedule “Did You Know” tweets
Share the love on Pinterest – your shares increase your traffic
Publish content you’re passionate about for people who share that passion.
Know the key words- beverages vs drinks
Keyword clusters: main dishes, desserts, baking, Thanksgiving
What keywords are more likely to rank on search engine results?
Google Ad Words: average monthly searches, variations on a tern or phrase
Google trends
Insight to the seasonality of a term
Compare the popularity of various terms
Isolate terms by region
Related terms or phrases
Be different, not better
Make your keywords less specific to drive traffic, or more specific to cater to a niche
Who are you writing for?
Know your audience
Is your blog a diary?
Are you sharing with your readers?
Does your blog fill a niche?
What’s useful to readers?
What can you add to the food story?
What specialty can you own?
How to become a good writer
Read articles everywhere
Write lots of drafts, and rewrite if time permits
Join a writers group
Take writing classes
Understand grammar and punctuation
Polish tweets
Volunteer to write for local publications
No negatives
Read liked blogs weekly

Following that session, all attendees had a break that lasted over an hour until the night’s last event. I met up with Meagan, met Jonathan Piercy, and traveled together to Elysian Brewing for a beer prior to our dinner event. Once back, we returned upstairs to the Taste of Seattle & Gourmet Fair, a two-part event consisting of a tasting event that allowed us to sample eats from local restaurants, bars, and caterers, and a food fair where everyone went “shopping” for various food products, many of which we sampled during the event. I walked away with two bags full of food & drinks, and returned those to my hotel room before heading into the Great Room for the tasting.

Like any “Taste of ____” event, attendees could browse all the tables in the area, where a local vendor would set up to serve their delicious eats or sips for all the attendees to consume. From restaurants to bars to wineries to caterers, a great variety of food & drinks awaited us all. During this time, I stumbled upon local Long Beach blogger Gerry Speirs. Having heard of him prior to this weekend, we chatted for some time about life in the LBC and shared some great tips, which I hope to share with you sometime soon. I also bumped into Beau Raines, an attendee who also listens to punk rock. This exciting night ended promptly at 9pm, leaving everyone to form their own plans for the night. A handful of attendees continued their night at Boka Restaurant, while some continued their wine & champagne sipping in a hotel room, as discovered by some pictures posted that night. Personally, I turned in early to prepare myself for a long Saturday.

Pastry Smart greeted us in the morning with this humane, organic and sustainable breakfast layout. They opened the day not only by feeding us, but with a seminar detailing the significance of leading a humane, organic, and sustainable diet. Much of the food most Americans eat daily poisons us because of the artificial ingredients involved with processing the food. Over 79 million people exist in Generation Y, and 50% of them call themselves “foodies,” a term that, just like the word “gourmet,” no longer holds special value due to its overuse in interpersonal communication. By learning about what humane, organic, and sustainable means for the future, the new generation can form a better understanding of the direction that food and agriculture will move in the near future.

Following breakfast, a group session involving cooking and photography initiated. First, Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes led an educational yet entertaining cooking demo utilizing salmon and the many ways to prep it. Sitting down at a table with Linda Eaves and Katharyn Shaw, everyone laughed and observed as the gentlemen on-stage prepared the salmon, yet tossed jokes out every minute or so. Many of us in attendance documented the lines on Twitter, and thanks to Nicole J, Zest Bakery, Jeska Dzwigalski, Colleen, and many more, we collectively managed to make #SexyBacon trend on Twitter.

Immediately transitioning after the cooking demo, The New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani delivered a lecture/session about food photography, and the tips & tricks to capturing the best photos. Reminiscent of photography classes in college, much of the information gained from this session mainly refreshed my photography knowledge. I took notes during this session via Twitter, and I retweeted notes that many others also tweeted out. I would like to thank Julie Angelini, Lori Rice, Erica Dermer, and Mark for a majority of these notes, plus some more notes I will post from later sessions. Some of the highlights from this session:

  • Turn the flash off on your camera, but bring a flashlight for consistent light, such as from a cell phone.
  • Food always looks better in daylight.
  • If you’re blogging food, you want to grab your audience at the top of the page before they even read a word.
  • What makes us respond to a food photo? “Combining sensory overload in the viewer when it comes to food.”
  • Taking barbecue pictures? Photograph non-food items like hot coals in grill or crazy flames. Evoke memories.
  • Steam shows up great when you have a dark background.
  • The drips and the pours = lusciousness is primary.
  • Hands are always nice to include in the pictures, it makes it seem real.
  • Southwestern light is “absolutely the best” light for food photography.
  • Most bloggers shot horizontal – but it’s good to be versatile. Book publishers like vertical.
  • Downsize your propping so you can fit more in your frame.
  • Use a macro lens for beautifully detailed photos.
  • When shooting glassware, ask yourself, what does the glassware see? See yourself? Move.
  • What you put in your photos is as important as the food. Get versatile props.
  • Salt glazed pottery does not have shine and doesn’t fight you.
  • Toothpaste on silverware makes it look older and tarnished and more photogenic.
  • Find someone using your pics? Insist on a photo credit or ask to take it down. There are plenty of ways to shame people on internet.
  • Sometimes the prop saves the food.
  • A utensil can make a huge difference in a photo.
  • Don’t photograph spinach.

For lunch, we all got treated to a Discovery Expo, a combination of the previous night’s event. At this expo, we got to sample eats from local establishments, as well as take some products to-go. I met up with Alice again, and got to meet Adriana as well. As I took my products back to my hotel room, I met Jacqueline Bruchez, a Californian baker from Solana Beach.

Following lunch, I attended the Food Photography Workflow session. At this session, I met Donna Turner Michaels, Cari Garcia, and Donna Dang, distinct bloggers with delicious posts on their sites. For this session, I actually did take notes, so you may observe them below:

Workflow – Professional Food Photography – The routine and ritual you follow each time you have a shoot
Have repeatable steps to achieve consistent results. Observe the following list:
1) Read recipes completely whether you are cooking the food. Picking up subtle hints as to styling or garnish or photographable cooking techniques are found here
2) Plan your gear/equipment. Each shoot may be different.
3) Pick out your propping possibilities ahead of time.
4) Plan a shooting order. Dishes come out of the kitchen at different paces, and you should make that call as the photographer when possible.
5) Explain your plan to everyone helping you on the shoot so everyone is on the same page.
6) Keep a steady pace. Allot a certain amount of time for each dish. Don’t get bogged down on one shot.
7) No matter how you shoot (SD cards or tethered), as soon as you finish shooting, back up your files and keep them in separate places.
8) Label your files and keep your computer organized. Modify the meta data in the image using Photoshop. Keep the images’ original numbered file name. Rename the folders they are stored in.
9) Create separate subfolders at each step of editing and post-production (CR2, DNG, JPG)
10) Back up your final edits and processed images three times.
11) Edit widely and discard outtakes.
12) Keep a folder of who you send files to and their preferred method of transmission.
Business of Food Photography
Starting price of selling a photo: $10,000 (if you took a photo of the Gerber baby, that’s chump change)
1) What is your budget? If too low, look elsewhere
2) How do you want to use my images? If for profit, charge higher
3) How many days & shots do you need with variations?
4) Where are you shooting? Space costs money. Is daylight available? Do I need liability waivers for customers present? Food costs?
5) Who is cooking? How much will the chef cost? How much will the ingredients cost?
6) Who is styling the food? How much does the stylist cost?
7) Who is propping? How much do the props cost?
8) When do you need the final images?
9) What file format do you prefer?
10) How would you like the files delivered?

Following that session, I chose to opt out of the last session of Saturday. Instead, I took a stroll down to Pike Place Market before returning to the conference for the Alaska Seafood reception. Everyone got to try seafood east like smoked salmon, buffalo cod quesadilla, halibut corn dogs, bacon-wrapped scallop sliders, and bacon-wrapped scallops.

The conference had officially ended its sessions for the day, leaving everyone to get ready for their individual Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner, a surprise dinner where each attendee goes with a pre-selected group to a mystery restaurant. Each group departed at different times, and mine would depart at 7:30, leaving me time to chat with other attendees. I got to explore a bit with Madeline Moy and Bee Tangsurat, but I will cover this and the dinner in the near future, where I met Jessica Tupper, Carrie Trax, Bordeaux Wines, and more.

Sunday morning kicked off with a self-guided tour of Pike Place Market. I arrived late, and could not find anyone until I ventured to Storyville Coffee and located Dr. Jean, Erica, Kate Neschke, Michael Wangbickler, and more. Upon returning to the conference, one last session awaited us. I decided to attend a Writer’s Block session, but in hindsight, I should have attended the Google+ session, which appeared to contain significantly more vital information to any blogger. Some of the highlights I spotted on Twitter, most of which came from Julie and Mike:

  • As a social media site, Google+ will fail. As a social media platform, Google+ will win.
  • Facebook is the AOL of social media. A walled garden.
  • Pages with more +1s tend to rank higher.
  • More people will click the google + button if it shows a number, even if it says 0.
  • If you can, make the Google+ button sticky on your website. Also, always list the count (even if it’s zero)
  • Set up REL=Publisher – a brand page, and link to your site. Add a link your site back to your brand page.
  • Your email address has to be on the same domain as your site for authorship. Or you can use linking.
  • In depth content – content that has accumulated credibility over time. 50/50 chance of hanging around.
  • Anything with 2000+ words has a greater chance of becoming in depth content.
  • Google has stopped providing key word information for your metrics. You will now see “not provided” in your metrics.
  • Post blog links to your Google+ personal profile page, share from your Google+ brand page.

With that, the 2013 International Food Blogger Conference came to a close. They announced the details for next year’s conference: September 19-21 at the Westin in Seattle, $95 for bloggers, and $395 for non-bloggers. Registration has already opened, and spots have filled up quick, so if you want to attend next year, register your spot today! If you ask yourself, “Should I go?” I cannot disclose a definite answer, as it depends on the individual and their knowledge & passion for food and technology.

In no particular order, I would like to thank Erin Penor, Kristin Price, Sara Lundberg, Stephanie Jensen, Timothy Gast, Annalise Thomas, and Annelies Zijderveld for their interactions with me this weekend, and for helping me feel welcome while overwhelmed in a new city. I would also like to thank Suki, Ryan Valentin, and Mary Cowx for allowing me to join them on a rainy adventure following the conference Sunday afternoon. I met so many wonderful people here, and I really want to return next year, so I will do my best to clear up my schedule around that weekend again!

  1. Great recap very detailed, shared on Twitter! Had fun meeting you at the amazon session. Saludos!

  2. Awesome write up! LOVE the pics and appreciate your notes! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the great recap and a shout-out, Johnny! It was nice meeting you. Thanks for sharing the session notes also. Hope to see you again soon!


  5. Reblogged this on Loud Mouth Marketing and commented:
    Great re-cap of IFBC!

  6. […] The 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference – Repurposing How We Connect Food &&n… […]

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