On World Food Day, bloggers, dietitians and food writers gathered at the River Market Event Place for Chopped Con — the first food blogger conference to be held in Kansas City. Participants learned about social media, advertising strategies and best practices for food writing, all while networking and chatting with the women (and a few men) around them.
The conference’s organizer, Marly McMillen Beelman, said this before introducing the first speaker: “I want my blog to turn into my small business. If you feel this way, this conference is for you.”
Here are a few snapshots from the day.
Carolyn O’Neil, a registered dietitian who has been featured on Food Network’s “Good Eats” and who wrote the first healthy southern food cookbook for “Southern Living,” gave a talk titled “The more you know, the more you CAN eat.” She spoke about everything from nutrient-rich foods to mapping food trends. A recurring theme in her hour-long talk was this idea: “Nothing is nutritious unless it’s actually eaten.”
Christina Lane, the blogger behind Dessert for Two, assumed a very popular position during the conference. Like many of the bloggers in attendance, she seemed to bounce back and forth between social media and note-taking on her phone.
Lane also did some baby-holding at Chopped Con. She’s pictured above holding Bev Weidner’s son while Weidner (of the Kansas City–based blog Bev Cooks) snaps some photos. Weidner’s Instagram profile is well-known for photos of her twin babies accompanied by zany captions — so well-known, in fact, that she spoke about Instagram at the conference.
Dana Schultz, right, moderated a panel about the intersection of Instagram and food blogging.
For the food portion of the food blogger conference: Chipotle donated lunch, which featured their newest offering. Sofritas, which is currently only available at select locations, is crumbled tofu. It has a taste and texture very similar to ground beef. There were also snacks, pastries and plenty of coffee sprinkled throughout the day.
Jill Silva, an award-winning food writer from the Kansas City Star, spoke about finding a unique writing voice. She encouraged bloggers to put down the thesaurus and write like they talk. She also stressed the use of descriptive and interesting adjectives.
“Food writers have a sense sports writers don’t use,” she said. “I’ve never seen a sports writer lick a baseball. Use all five senses. A lemon is yellow, yes. But what kind of yellow? A lemon is sour, yes. But what kind of sour?”
Lindsay Ostrom, who runs the blog Pinch of Yum with her husband Bijork, spoke with Bijork about ways to monetize a food blog. She focused on the idea of being “expert enough” when it comes to product development: “I felt like I couldn’t write a book about food photography because I don’t know enough … I’m not at the top of my field; I’m not the ultra-expert,” she said. “In food photography, I’m expert enough.” She said this realization was very empowering and lead her to writing her first e-book “Tasty Food Photography.”
The Ostroms closed their session by giving this pieces of advice: No matter what you’re striving to accomplish, follow the rule of 1 percent infinity. Bijork explained the concept: “What’s the one thing I can do today to get one percent better? And do that forever.”