The 2nd Annual IFBC starts today in Seattle!  I’ll be tweeting like a maniac (follow me at http://twitter.com/seattlefoodgeek), but also highlighting some of the more important moments here. 

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If you want to keep up with the conference, just keep hitting refresh.

 


Thursday

The conference unofficially began on Thursday evening.  A small group of bloggers and real journalists were invited to the Intellectual Ventures lab – the one responsible for producing the Modernist Cuisine cookbook that will change the world upon its release in December. 

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I’ll be dedicating upcoming posts to the tour of the lab and the details we know about the book, but in short, this was the most exciting night of my life, short of certain sexual milestones. 

Friday

Friday evening, IFBC threw a great kickoff reception at Hotel Monaco.  The highlight of the evening was a keynote discussion with Morgan Spurlock.  Here’s a little clip:

 

Morgan Spurlock talking about… something… at the IFBC kickoff party

 

Saturday – Day 1

The first session of the morning is The Art of Recipe Writing, paneled by these lovely and accomplished people:

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Audience – when choosing a recipe to blog, consider your audience.  Is this the type of dish that your readers want to make?  Is the recipe presented with enough description?  Is it too challenging?

Voice – Develop your personal style of writing, and be consistent.  When someone has been reading your blog for a while, they should be able to identify you from someone else. 

Measurements – Include more than one measurement in your recipes.  For example, say “1 large onion diced, about 1 cup.”

Salt – There’s a debate on the panel about how to specify salt.  To taste? Specific quantity?  Personally, I prefer salting to taste.  But, some people under salt their food and, as a result, don’t like the dish. 

Ingredients – List your damned ingredients in their order of use!  Also, recognize that your readers treat an ingredient list as a shopping list.  They don’t buy 2 cups of onion.

Punctuation – There is a violent disagreement about the use of semicolons, commas and paragraph breaks.  Diane Jacob believes that semicolons are pretentious.

Time – Think about including the working time along with the total time.  You may turn your readers off from a recipe if the time reads “3 Hours”, though the actual working time might only be 15 minutes.

Links – Use links to explain concepts that may need description for your readers.  Links to articles on Foodista.com and rouxbe.com are great resources, for example.

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Going pro – What happens if you’re contacted by corporate or editorial clients?  Well, this can be a big pleasure from blogging.  And, this can lead to moving beyond blogging and into a professional realm.  So, how do you do it?

  • Maintain an online portfolio of recipes
  • Join a professional organization, like IACP
  • Give yourself the title of “Recipe Developer”
  • Network!

There aren’t any credentials for being a recipe developer, so it’s OK to present yourself that way.  If you’re trying to go pro, it’s great to hang out with bloggers, but start networking with the pros too (ex. IACP). 

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Don’t give recipes away for free!  Although it may be very flattering to be asked to contribute your recipe to some site or book with a ton of exposure, if you’re giving your recipe away for free you’re undercutting everyone out there who makes their living by developing and selling recipes.

Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate.  At Bon Appétit, for example, they will pay you higher rates if you’ve contributed many recipes over time.

Testing recipes  – How many people have your recipes tested [by someone else] before putting them on the blog (show of hands reveals exactly none).  However, when you’re writing for a magazine, the recipes have to work.  Even on your blog, it is essential that your recipes work. 

Advantages of blogs over printed media:

  • Include as many photos as you like
  • Blog seasonally – magazines have a 6-month delay to print
  • Link to details.  Making something complicated?  Someone else has probably already broken down the sub-steps.

How to avoid embarrassing yourself:

  • Don’t include ingredients that you forget to use
  • Don’t write recipes that don’t work
  • Print out your recipes, test them, and check off ingredients and steps
  • If you call for prep’d ingredients (1 cup potatoes diced), you don’t need to reiterate the prep in your steps
  • Don’t assume that people have all the equipment or knowledge that you do

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About copyright and attribution: Be honest and accurate.  If your recipe was inspired by someone else’s, just give attribution.  If you change some part of the recipe, yes, legally, it is your recipe.  But basically, don’t be a dick.

The ingredients list on its own, is not copyrightable.  However, if the recipe is wrapped by a heading or a story, or if your recipe is in a collection (like a cookbook) it may have some copyright protection.

Common sense in recipes – There was a time when cookbooks assumed you knew how to cook.  They didn’t have to explain what poach, fold, julienne, etc. was.  Then, at some point, recipes became more standardized, and more explained.  Now, there is some backlash.  Some writers are saying “we have dumbed down recipes and turned people into technicians to the point that they don’t have confidence or intuition.”  Has the pendulum swung to far?

“Recipe called for ‘toss the salad in a bowl’ and a student asked "’how far away from the bowl do I need to stand’?””  Oy.

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Question – How do you gauge yields, since everyone has a different appetite? 
Choose a personal style.  The current guidelines at Bon Apetit suggest a protein portion of 4-6 oz.  But, you can also offer a starter/entrée size (ex. serves 4 as a starter or two as an entrée.)  Or, state “makes 2 servings plus leftovers”.

First session is over.  10 minute break!

Session 2:

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Next up, we’ll learn about this “social media” thing I’ve been hearing so much about.

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Important terms.  And no, “hits” isn’t an important metric.

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To track your blog on sites like Alexa.com, and compare it to other sites.

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How Google determines your relevance – over 200 factors, including a match between your page title and the search term, how frequently you update, etc.

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It’s hard to make money on your blog.

Joy Victory from WordPress.com just announced a new feature coming on wordpress.com…

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Foodpress!  Coming in October.  I can’t wait to hear more!

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Really great session on how to use keywords. If you’re writing about (or thinking of writing about) corn, go check out Google Insights.  Look for the keywords related to corn, and look for other trending topics.  Then, make sure to use those words in:

  • The first sentence of your post
  • Subtitles
  • photo captions
  • links
  • and the URL to the blog post

Next up, Urbanspoon!

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The keys to Urbanspoon’s success:

  • Leveraging SEO
  • Keeping a very clean site design
  • Focusing on restaurants by neighborhood, not by city.

Other than that, it’s pretty much a rundown of what Urbanspoon is and does.

Amazing graph – this is how fast the term “food blog” is growing relative to everything else!
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Interesting comment from Joy Victory, WordPress.com Editorial Czar: People like to comment on posts on Twitter far more than on the built-in comments system.

From WordPress – The first three things you should do for a successful blog:

  1. Have a niche, and be specific.  Don’t try to be all things to all people. 
  2. Keep perspective.  It takes a long time to build a big group of followers.
  3. Update often.  That helps both search engines and your readers.

From Urbanspoon

  1. Be specific
  2. Link a lot

From Foodista – know what you want to get out of it?  Do you want 1M page vews per month and make a living on advertizing?  To you want to become a professional food writer?  Do you want to support a particular restaurant?  Or, do you want it just to be an expression of your passion.

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Comment from a representative of Saveur: put your contact info on your blog!  They’d love to get in touch with you!

Next Up: Kathleen Flinn – Writing with all five senses
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She passed lemons around the room.  Here comes something philosophical.  She’s asking us to describe a lemon, without using the word “lemon”.  Here’s my attempt, which would have passed in 10th grade English.

Imagine the smell of a freshly cleaned summer house, with a gentle breeze blowing through the open north windows.  Imagine the weight of a fish – heavy for its size, but delightful to balance in your hand. Imagine the taste of surprise, the recoil of your tongue and a tingling of your lips against an acid splash. Imagine the dull thud of of a steak against the butcher’s block.

From the audience “a nipple at one end and a dimple at the other.”  “Nature’s definition of yellow.”  “It has an outie for a belly button.”

Then, we all closed our eyes and listened to Kat chop a lemon.  The experience was actually pretty interesting!

You can hear the chimes of the blade as the lime gives way, followed by a visceral, satisfying thud.  You know you’ve made it through.  The sound is accomplished and complete, like connecting a swinging bat to a ball. Work has been done.

And after listening to the excerpts from the room, everyone is now horny.  People wrote about college roommates humping, and juicy sacs, and all kinds of thinly-veiled innuendo. 

Next up… the smell. 

It smells like sour honey, and the waxy leaves of a garden tree.  It smells like hot tea and a headache.

Other attendees’ descriptions were much better.

Kat now challenges us to pause and listen.  What do we hear?  How are we really connecting with our senses?  It’s pretty remarkable, actually.

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Kat tells us to pay attention to every moment of our lives.  Most of us aren’t getting paid for it, so we must love it.  She challenges us to love more.

Lunchtime!!!
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They had to turn off the Twitter feed on the projector due to inappropriate tweets!  Here’s Spinasse’s Jason Stratton telling us what he’s prepared.  I didn’t catch it all, but it sounds fantastic.

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Restaurateur powerhouse John Howie will be serving a Salmon Carpaccio

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Campagne (and Café Campagne) chef Daisley Gordon will be serving beef tartare!  I can’t tell you how excited I am for this!

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Chef Shanon from Bastille will be serving grilled octopus and arugula from their rooftop garden.

Sunday – Day 2

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First session of the morning – Writing: Food Blogging For Specialized Diets

Did you know that 1 out of 7 people in America has a problem digesting gluten?  Shauna had us stand up if we (or someone we love) has foods they can’t eat.  Nearly everyone was on their feet!

Great discussion on eating with restrictions!

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Guess what’s next…. Nathan Myhrvold and Modernist Cuisine!!! I can’t wait.

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