Along with Jason Horn, food writer and author of www.themessyepicure.com, Shaun has been working tirelessly to put together what promises to be a full day of conversation and discussion on all things related to food blogging. They have thoughtfully selected speakers to talk about everything from how to start writing a food blog to food styling and photography to getting published. And while the focus of this event is definitely the South, notable speakers are coming in from all over, including Kim Severson of the New York Times and famed cookbook literary agent, Lisa Ekus.
The Food Blog South project began as something else entirely. When the Desert Island Supply Company—or DISCO—(desertislandsupplyco.com) project began about a year ago, Shaun became an immediate supporter. Founded by Chip Brantley and run by a committed cadre of volunteers, this non-profit writing program is dedicated to empowering students to tell stories through effective writing. Shaun says, “I saw the value in DISCO and wanted to do a fundraiser to help support Chip’s work. My first thought was to do an adult writing workshop and that morphed into a discussion on food blogging.” Chip Brantley is a food writer himself, author of The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot and cofounder of CookThink.com, a website that lets you search for recipes based on your current cravings and feelings (genius alert!).
So, beginning at 8 a.m. this Saturday morning, foodies from all over the South will come together at Woodrow Hall in Woodlawn. This restored turn-of-the-century Masonic lodge is the perfect setting for an event like this: grand and historical yet cozy and intimate The first breakout sessions begin at 9 a.m. where participants must choose between attending Andre Natta’s “Blogging 101” (dresramblings.com) where you will learn how to get started in your food blog expedition or “Marketing Your Blog” with Christy Jordan. Both speakers are so well credentialed in their topics; it will be hard to choose which one to attend.
At 10 a.m., the next session starts. “Recipe Development” will be led by Bon Appetit Y’all cookbook author Virginia Willis (virginiawillis.com). Joining her will be Birmingham’s own Allison Lewis, whose Ingredients, Inc. blog (ingredientsinc.net) has a huge national following. The two will touch on “The Southern State of Mind” as it pertains to food blogging. If you’d rather learn how to make the most of social media, then tune into John-Bryan Hopkins, the Foodimentary Guy (foodimentary.com).
At 11:00 am, all event participants will regroup for a panel discussion, moderated by Erin Shaw Street (erinstreet.typepad.com), an associate editor at Southern Living. Shaun Chavis thinks the topic of “Southern Seafood After the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster” is meant to differentiate this conference from other food blogging events. Not only topical and thought-provoking, the Gulf Coast oil spill has had a domino-like effect on the region that has been documented by a myriad of people.
There are high expectations when it comes to providing lunch at an event like this. Sponsored by Whole Foods Market and created by Dyron’s Low-Country Restaurant (dyronslowcountry.com) in Crestline Village, a grits bar should fit the bill just fine. When asked what participating in this event meant to him, owner Dyron Powell said, “I am excited about influencing the palates of a whole new group of folks. I hope people taste how great low country food is and come see us at the restaurant.” Whole Foods Market Mountain Brook Marketing Team Leader Laura Brooks Bright adds, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this dialogue with some of the South’s best bloggers and writers. The Southern food movement sweeping its way through this country is a direct result of Southern chefs and writers who are out there telling the stories of Southern food.”
After lunch, the breakout sessions begin anew with Birmingham’s Wade Kwon (wadekwon.com) who will discuss “Blogging for Business.” As founder of the Birmingham Blogging Academy, Mr. Kwon knows how to help businesses maximize this medium. Opposite Wade will be Lisa Ekus (lisaekus.com) who will address the subject of taking your blog to the next level—into print—with “From Blog to Book.”
At 2 p.m., Southern Living’s own Jennifer Davick (jenniferdavick.com), senior food photographer, and Marian Cooper Cairns (mariancoopercairns.com), food stylist, lead a 90-minute session on food photography. Three 30-minute sessions run opposite the food photography tutorial: Amanda Storey discusses how to blog about an issue in “Write a Post, Start a Movement”—something she knows about firsthand (foodrevivial.com); Taste of the South editor, Brooke Bell will talk about turning your food blog into paid freelance work; and Brys Stephens of Charleston’s City Paper will address another hot button subject, restaurant reviews. He takes on the current controversy of those bloggers who may choose to disregard Craig Claiborne’s founding principles for restaurant critics.
The symposium ends with a very special appearance by New York Times columnist and keynote speaker Kim Severson (kimseverson.com). Author of last year’s best-selling memoir Spoon Fed, Ms. Severson will conduct writing exercises as she encourages participants to do more with their blogs.
Symposium tickets are still available at www.foodblogsouth.com. Use code FBSoriginals to secure a $20 discount on the $135 ticket price. But if the stars do not align for you to attend the entire Food Blog South event, you can still join everyone at the after-party, being held at Parkside Café at 4036 Fifth Avenue South. Stop by after 8 p.m. to catch up with others on sessions you might have missed. For her part, Shaun Chavis will need more than one day of rest, after pulling off an event like this. But after all is said and done, her fervent hope is that with this conversation, folks will realize “the power of bloggers to influence what and how we eat.” Well said. For an extended version of this article, with many more details and tidbits about the event, visit bhamweekly.com.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and is a lover of all things food-related. You can follow her culinary musings on-line at ChristianasKitchen.blogspot.com or on Facebook (ChristianasKitchen) or Twitter (Christiana40). Wild horses could not keep her away from Food Blog South.