Thank goodness for three-day weekends! I finally found a bit of time to go through all my photos from Food Blog Forum in Asheville last month. It was my first blog conference experience but I have to say it was awesome to make some new food blogging friends. Today I’m going to tell you about it (with photos, of course!) as well as a few of the things I learned in a quick Food Blog Forum recap.
There was one full day of thought-provoking seminars at the beautiful Biltmore Estate, and the rest of our time was spent exploring Asheville. And oh, and did we eat. And eat. And eat! Every time I turned around there was more food. I was full for days. (I guess that’s what I get for going to a food blogging conference.)
The first night we were treated to a party at DoubleTree Asheville. For whatever reason, I didn’t take any photos of this event, but we sipped cocktails made with Troy & Sons moonshine and enjoyed appetizers as we mingled.
The next day, we gathered at Lioncrest at Biltmore Estate for the first full day of conference activities. We heard about everything from food photography to working with publications to monetizing your blog from a set of storied speakers, including FBF’s organizers Jaden & Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Lindsay Landis of Love & Olive Oil, Julie Deily from The Little Kitchen and Todd Porter & Diane Cu from WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.
Lisa & Jason Leake of 100 Days of Real Food also chatted with us about forming your own team. I really enjoyed a session featuring Kathleen Purvis, the food editor at The Charlotte Observer. I did a program at the Observer back in high school and I’ve always looked up to Kathleen.
In the middle of the seminars, we ate a gorgeous luncheon on the Lioncrest grounds. One of my favorite parts of the conference was mingling with bloggers of all diets, specialties and experience levels. I met both seasoned bloggers and newbies. Some people weren’t even bloggers at all, but food writers or prop stylists. There were people with vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free diets.
After our seminars, we took a caravan down to the Bilmore Estate for a special culinary tour of the world’s biggest house. It had been a long time since I last visited Biltmore, but it is no less breathtaking the second time around. My favorite spot was this portico — wouldn’t you just love to drink your coffee from this spot every morning?
Click through to read the rest of the Food Blog Forum recap, plus what I learned!
(And that was the view from the kitchen sink. I don’t think I’d ever clean dishes properly again if I had a view like that out my kitchen window.)
After the tour, we ate yet another meal on a patio in sight of the estate. Chefs from the Biltmore’s restaurants cooked us their best dishes inspired by Biltmore’s production garden, free-range beef and lamb program, 94-acre vineyard and locally-sourced ingredients. The biscuit bar (above) was one of the highlights for me!
The third and final day started out with more food at a tasting event at Asheville’s legendary Highland Brewing Co. Established in 1994, Highland was the first brewery to open in Asheville since prohibition era. It is now one of 19 breweries in Asheville and its beers are on tap in bars throughout the Southeast.
Chefs from some of the biggest restaurants in Asheville prepared samples for us paired with some of Highland’s brews. Talking to the chefs about their food was such a treat, and I especially enjoyed meeting James Beard finalist Katie Button of Cúrate and The Nightbell. For dessert, I put one of French Broad Chocolates‘ amazing sea salt caramels with a scoop of coffee ice cream from Ultimate Ice Cream.
Next we took a bus to Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Looking Glass Creamery for demonstrations, tours and more tastings! As a native North Carolinian, I was glad that my new friends from out-of-state were able to see a bit of the countryside I love so much!
Lastly, in the evening, we went on a progressive dinner party-style tour of five restaurants in downtown Asheville. I’m saving this piece for another post — I’m working on an Asheville travel guide to share soon. As you can tell, the Food Blog Forum was a money-can’t-buy experience and I’m so glad I attended. It really made me appreciate North Carolina even more.
Though it would take me all day to write up everything I learned, here are a few of the key points I took in:
CREATE YOUR TRIBE
- Don’t do it alone. I think one of the best parts of this conference was meeting some new people. When you’re blogging solo from behind a laptop, it’s easy to feel lonely and unsure of what you’re doing. Form a tribe from your friends and family.
- Connect with others. Make blogger friends online. Seek guest posts from similar bloggers who have different strengths.
WORKING WITH PRINT PUBLICATIONS
- Print isn’t dead. Print publications can help you grow your blog and drive traffic to your site. Try reaching out to print publications for opportunities to write articles, guest columns or features. Keep the publication’s editorial calendar in mind when you make your pitch.
- Your blog is your portfolio. Keep it updated and free of errors for a better shot at sponsorships, guest posts and publication.
- Follow the light. Use available light in your home to take photographs. Pay attention to shadows. Invest in photography equipment as needed and sketch your shots ahead of time.
- Color, color, color. Watch out for blah-looking brown foods like meats and breads. Add in more colors with linens, dishes, garnishes and the dish’s raw ingredients to bring in the romance.
- Make it real. Your readers should feel hungry when they look at your photos. Tell them the story of the dish. What’s in it? What does it taste like? Smell like? Where and when do you eat it?
- Find your style. Is your it more modern or more vintage? Minimalist or edgy? Clean or rustic? Do you show in-process shots as well as the finished product?
Thanks for reading my Food Blog Forum recap! It really was a wonderful time and I hope I’ll be able to attend the next one in Orlando in February 2015. I’ll be sharing some more Asheville favorites on the blog soon, as well as a peek at my blog business cards. I also have some collaborations in the works with some of my new blog friends! Can’t wait. // susannah