Last weekend, I attended Food Blog Forum in Orlando, hosted by Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Diane Cu and Todd Porter of White on Rice Couple. The venue was Epcot Center thanks to the generosity of Walt Disney World. Julie Deily from The Little Kitchen and Dawn Viola pulled off a top notch event with their herculean efforts, and the support of a generous group of sponsors. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, jam-packed with information sessions, round-table discussions, and fun food-filled events to meet food bloggers from all around the US and Canada.
I finally got to meet some of my friends that I’ve met through social media – David Leite from Leite’s Culinaria, Alison Lewis from Ingredients, Inc., Aggie Goodman from Aggie’s Kitchen, and Amanda Formaro from Amanda’s Cookin’ and founder of The Secret Recipe Club. It’s the strangest thing, but by interacting and engaging with people through social media, you immediately feel as if you’ve already met the person, so we all gave each other big hugs when we finally did meet in person.
I also met bloggers that I’ve admired from afar, including Elise Bauer from Simply Recipes, Jenny Perillo from In Jennie’s Kitchen, Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille, and Dawn Viola. And of course, I met lots of other incredibly talented food bloggers that I hope to get to know better before the the next Food Blog Forum.
I was thrilled to see my good friend Grace Langlois from Grace’s Sweet Life (can’t wait to see her new cookbook that’s coming out in a few months – go Grace!) and meet new friend Sally Pasley Vargas from Cooking Lessons.
I came out of the weekend with so many new, fresh ideas, that I know I can implement at least a dozen new items that will move me forward. Here are my key takeaways from the seminar:
- Photography & Styling presented by Todd Porter and Diane Cru: Don’t stray from what you believe in; don’t compare your photographs to others; your food story is unique.
- PRspectives (Jaden Hair, Thomas Smith, Rachel Barbarotta, and Arianna Bastanini): Authenticity is the most important thing; engage with brands you are passionate about
- How to Write Bigger, Better, More Badass Food Posts presented by David Leite: Don’t use “I” in all of your sentences. It’s not about you, it’s about love memories, forgiveness, something larger.
- Master of Ceremonies, Scott Hair, who had lots of inspiring tips: Be specific about what you want to achieve and where you want to go. Whatever it is, it needs to inspire you, and you must know why you want it. You’ll figure out how to do it if it’s compelling enough.
- Taking Your Blog to the Next Level presented by Dawn Viola: Become an expert in something, e.g., what’s your niche
- Pitch Therapy Round Table (Jaden Hair): The most successful blogs are narrowly focused. Know your culinary point of view.
One of the highlights of the event was the lunch we were treated to on Saturday by Disney. The theme was “A Healthful Taste of Disney.” Most people don’t think of food at Disney parks as being healthy, but behind the scenes, Disney’s chief chef, Gary Jones , has been adding healthy options to their menus at all of the theme parks. I have to say that when my family vacationed at Disney last summer, I did not notice many healthy options in the theme parks, so now that I am aware of Disney’s healthy offerings (although their hotel restaurants are incredibly gluten-free friendly and food allergy friendly), I will definitely keep an eye out next time we visit.
To give you an idea of the variety of healthier options that Disney Orlando is offering at some of their hotels and theme park restaurants, I’ve included a sampling of all the food we were treated to for lunch:
- Seared Tofu with Zucchini and Eggplant Ratatouille, Roasted Mushrooms, Lentils and Sun-dried Tomato Puree (vegan), Citricos, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Fresh tossed salad made with Epcot Land Pavillion Sweet Greens, Vero Beach Arugula and Red Watercress, topped with Myrtle-spiced Florida Rock Shrimp, served with Tangerine and White Balsamico Vinaigrette, Flying Fish Café, Disney’s BoardWalk
- Whole-Grain Penne Pasta with Florida White Shrimp, Cedar Key Clams and Calico Scallops, Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce, The Wave…of American Flavors, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Sanaa Vegetarian Sampler of Stewed Lentils, Spicy Cauliflower, Pappadam and Sanaa Signature Dips and Spreads (vegan) – Sanaa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Seared Salmon with Couscous, Broccoli and Hummus – Columbia Harbor House, Magic Kingdom Park
- Chicken Picatta served with Whole Wheat Pasta – Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Slow-roasted Bourbon-Induced Black Pig Heritage Pork Tenderloin Slider with Local Hydro Grown Greens and Heirloom Tomato on Golden Spelt Roll, Super Grain Fries, No Sugar Pomegranate Ice Vanilla Lemonade Soda Float – Epcot
As if the incredible lunch spread wasn’t enough, Disney outdid themselves and set us up with our own private viewing of the spectacular Light Show at Epcot on Saturday! A big thank you to Jaden and Scott, Diane and Todd, Julie, Dawn, Disney World, Kitchen Aid, Oxo and all the other sponsors, as well as the team of Disney hosts who helped make this event possible.