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Verses from my Kitchen: You Oughta be in Pictures: Images and Recap from Eat, Write, Retreat 2011

May 24, 2011

You Oughta be in Pictures: Images and Recap from Eat, Write, Retreat 2011

The girls that showed me around town and the beers we desperately needed.

The fish market down by the marina

The White House. "It's not that big."

Left to Right: Lara, Dan, Kimmy and Ethan
My early morning routine in Washington
In the kitchen watching the team prepare desserts

Saturday's lunch at McCormick & Schmick's

More behind the scenes shots on the line and in the kitchen

Our CulinAerie session.

Sunday early morning
Domenica, Shauna and Jael

Domenica, Jennifer, Shauna and Jael

The weekend that was. Intimate. Inspiring. Gluttonous. And one of the best weekends I can remember. From the moment I stepped off the plane at Washington National Airport to the time my plane touched down in Toronto, it was a celebration of people and learning and community.

Very few events bring people together unselfishly and in the spirit of learning, but that's exactly what happened this weekend. Robyn and Casey created an event for food bloggers that did more than teach us how to improve and take our blogs to another level, it taught us about the goodness deep inside of people and the connections we can all make if we just let down the barriers inside. And it taught us a bit about ourselves and our weaknesses and how to be better in both regards.

Sure, we did learn about photography and styling and writing, and I'm not going to dismiss the impact those classes had, but it was as much about the people and speakers as the classes itself. Community was strengthened, networking was replaced by old school friendships and it was nothing short of a love fest. And I loved that.

We ate so much food that I felt like I was preparing to hibernate. But it wasn't just food, it was great food: American to Indian to El Salvadorian and Soul Food. Everything was incredible and the cocktails flowed as we shared conversations with our new found friends. Some meals were spent with people I didn't know when I arrived but left feeling like I knew some of them for a very long time.
When I walked into the meet and greet on Friday night I did so with jitters and nerves and eager anticipation. But I quickly discovered that they were all in the same boat as myself. We all just wanted to say hi and fit in. And those barriers came crashing down as soon as the food was served and the cocktails came one by one to our tables.

I could go on and on but I'll take this approach instead. The top 10 things to do when you're at a food blog conference.

  1. Be approachable. Extend a hand or smile and say hi to as many people as you can. Not everybody has the same social comfort levels and sometimes a quick hello and handshake can set the table for some great dialogue.
  2. Eat and drink. No brainer, right? Let down your guard and preconceived notions about different groups and experiment. We were blessed to try foods from different parts of the U.S. and world and I, for one, was not going to miss out on this unique opportunity.
  3. Put your camera down. I love taking pictures of food and people. But sometimes that camera can hold you back from truly learning in the classes you attend. Instead, take notes and be a great listener. Most of the people teaching the classes have a lot of valuable information that they're passing on.
  4. Attend the assigned workshops. While it may be fun to set off and explore the city you're in, missing out on a workshop or event could be the one thing holding you back from achieving your blogging goals. The organizers go to great depths to put together the best of the best to help you that weekend. Listen and learn.
  5. Be kind to the volunteers: No event can be successful without the help of volunteers. These people put aside their own plans and weekend off to help make your experience memorable and substantial. Thank them. Be nice to them. And show them the respect they deserve.
  6. Become part of the community. It's easy to stay inside your comfortable box. Explore and be friendly. Food bloggers are a wonderful group of people with obvious similar interests. Share ideas, tips and stories. Help each other out when someone asks questions. Share any knowledge you have with aspiring bloggers and be gracious when they ask.
  7. Come for the event, leave with the swag: One of the perks with conferences like these are the gifts and giveaways. Nothing feels better than being handed a bag filled with gifts that are suited to your needs and loves. For a brief moment it makes you feel like a celebrity.
  8. Thank the sponsors. Events need sponsors to run. They contribute time, energy and funds. Spend time getting to know the people behind the brand and thank them for taking part. They too have products that you might love, and if not, be open minded about trying it.
  9. Improve your blog. The obvious reason you're attending a conference is to make your blogging experience better. This will surely help. You can network and learn from the pros. You main gain some valuable insight from the least expected sources. But either way, you will go home with a better understanding of blogging success than before you arrived.
  10. Thank the organizers. In this case it was Robyn and Casey. The conference may only occur for three days but the planning and organizing takes months and months. It is with their hard work and dedication that we can experience such a memorable weekend. Without them there would be no conference. Thank you girls!

* I would like to personally thank the fine people at Canadian Beef for sponsoring my entry to Eat, Write, Retreat. Thank you so much! Because of your generosity I was able to attend a valuable conference and take away memories to last a lifetime.

**On a side note, for the first time in the company's history, Calphalon is offering the readers of this blog an exclusive 10% off deal between now and June 6, 2011. The promotional code is C95926 and can be used at this Calphalon link. If you're ever wanted something from this fantastic kitchen company, now is the time to do so.


At May 24, 2011 at 11:17 AM , Anonymous Beth said...

Gorgeous photos and perfect descriptions! So glad that we got to meet and hope our paths cross again one day! :-)

At May 24, 2011 at 1:07 PM , Anonymous domenicacooks said...

Mike, I am beyond impressed that you managed to make a cup of hotel coffee look so incredibly enticing and drinkable. Gorgeous photos. It was a genuine pleasure to meet you.

p.s. We may have to revise our French Open predictions. Did you see Rafa was taken to 5 sets by Isner?!?

At May 24, 2011 at 1:08 PM , Anonymous Jael said...

Excellent recap! (And so fitting that I was caught on film gulping coffee from my new OXO travel mug.) It was a wonderful conference and you managed to capture so much of it in your pictures and words. A great read.

At May 24, 2011 at 4:24 PM , Blogger Maria said...

Sounds like a fantastic event and your ten tips are bang on!

At May 24, 2011 at 4:45 PM , Blogger Kimmy Bingham said...

You know I have nothing but love for you. It was a pleasure getting to know you this weekend and share such an amazing experience. These photos are beautiful (and a heck of a group shot there if I must say so myself!)Thank you for being a great, new friend!

At May 24, 2011 at 4:57 PM , Blogger Brian Samuels Photography said...

I'm so jealous of your trip. Hope I get to meet all of these fine folks one day!

At May 24, 2011 at 5:07 PM , Blogger RJ Flamingo said...

You summed it up beautifully, Mike. I'm so glad I got to meet you, finally - just wish we could have spent more time together. Canadian Beef couldn't have had a better ambassador. :-) Now on to Nudie Foodies! xox

At May 24, 2011 at 6:28 PM , Anonymous Ethan said...

great meeting this weekend Mike. I think we three represented the male minority well (I hope). I have to agree with Kimmy, that's quite the group pic ;)

At May 24, 2011 at 8:25 PM , Blogger Sippity Sup said...

I wish the dern thing weren't so far away! GREG

At May 24, 2011 at 10:29 PM , Anonymous Maggie @ Loaded Kitchen said...

Great advice! I really wanted to make it to E.W.R--it looks like the classiest food blog conference out there! I think I'm going to try to make it to IFBC this year and you've definitely given me food for thought...

Great photos too--it's almost as good as being there. Almost. :)

At May 25, 2011 at 7:38 AM , Anonymous Susan said...

Thanks for the armchair blogging event visit! You have such good advice in your 'Top Ten' ... and thanks for the Calphalon deal!

At May 25, 2011 at 9:25 AM , Blogger Diane-The WHOLE Gang said...

Mike this was a great recap. I wish I would have gotten to spend time talking with you. Even though there were not a lot of people there I still managed to miss out. I love your photos too. Off to add a link to your recap to my recap post. See you next time.

At May 25, 2011 at 9:38 AM , Anonymous Tiffany said...

This looks like it was a great conference!

At May 25, 2011 at 10:03 AM , Blogger The Experimental Gourmand said...

These photos look great! I'm so glad that you got down to the fish market in DC. I've been going down there since I was little, and I think it is often overlooked as part of the city's culture when visitors come to town.

At May 25, 2011 at 10:04 AM , Anonymous Meghan@travelwinedine said...

Great recap, beautiful photos, and lovely to meet you!

At May 25, 2011 at 10:12 AM , Anonymous Alicia Sokol said...

Mike, so nicely wrapped up with a bow! I enjoyed the weekend tremendously as well. Great people, wonderful energy, all in all very informative. Thanks for sharing! Your pictures are stunning. Clearly, you didn't put the camera down for the whole time. :-) Loved meeting you and so many other terrific people. Alicia

At May 25, 2011 at 10:59 AM , Blogger Tricia said...

Wonderful recap, I loved reading/seeing from your view the incredible weekend we all had. It was fantastic, albeit brief, meeting you! Best,

At May 25, 2011 at 11:42 AM , Anonymous Valerie said...

Hi Mike. It was great meeting you at Eat Write Retreat this weekend! Thanks for the recap and lovely photos. I hope we'll keep in touch and meet up again next year!

At May 25, 2011 at 11:47 AM , Anonymous Dan (Dan's Good Side) said...

Nice photos Mike! I'm biased, but I especially like the one with me in it. :) Jokes aside, it was such an awesome weekend, nice to finally meet you, and hopefully we'll meet up again in the future.

I fully agree with your blog conference top 10, especially the 'put your camera down' one! I'll take conversation over pictures any day!

At May 25, 2011 at 10:18 PM , Anonymous Kristen said...

What a great recap - sounds like it was truly an incredible experience!!

At May 26, 2011 at 12:32 AM , Blogger Lemons and Lavender said...

This past weekend was a busy one for conferences and I'm glad EWR was fulfilling experience for you. I attended BlogHer Food and walked away from it with knowledge, inspiration and some budding friendships (and a brand new candy apple red Kitchen Aid mixer, compliments of Tasty Kitchen - woo hoo!). Personally, I had a great time, and love that nearly 500 bloggers converged in ATL in the name of food. How cool is that?

At May 26, 2011 at 5:18 PM , Anonymous Annalise said...

Wow, if only BlogHer Food and EWR weren't on the same weekend! It looks like it was more than a worthwhile experience. I loved your recap and photos. Perhaps our paths will cross at a conference in the future!

At May 27, 2011 at 12:09 PM , Blogger Mardi Michels said...

Looks like a lot of fun :)

At June 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM , Blogger La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I wish we had events like this one in Canada. This is missing in our country. I was reading about it on Val's blog also. You guys sound like it was such a great week-end.


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