I was fortunate to attend the Food Blog Forum last weekend, which came to Orlando through the diligence of Julie Deily (The Little Kitchen)and Dawn Viola (Dawn Viola), and the sponsorship of Walt Disney World, Kitchen Aid, La Creuset, OXO, Whole Foods and many more. It was my first food blogging conference and quite frankly, it left me with an overwhelming sense of encouragement, both personally and professionally. I was able to pick up great tips and soak in the group’s creative energy; I was a sponge.
The weekend was a unique one for me, as the event was held at Walt Disney World. I mentioned in my previous post that I had helped plan a few of the FBF events, writing menus, station design and layout, which led to my excitement. The entire Disney team rallied to make these events unforgettable – chefs from across Walt Disney World happily volunteered to participate. The Food Blog Forum Orlando was destined to be the tops.
We spent the weekend at the Poly –Cast Member lingo for the Walt Disney Polynesian Resort—keep reading you will be an insider soon. We were welcomed by the famous Little Lady Laura, who I spent a few days with when I started working in Park Events. She was fabulous at connecting with all of the guests and helping to create a seamless event (I did see her slip down the Poly poolside, so rest assured, she had a blast).
After a long week of “getting it done” at work, Sir Wes and I happily enjoyed the season’s first poolside sangria before I went to the reception at The Grand (AKA- Disney’s Grand Floridian). I knew the reception would be the perfect way to start the weekend- it was held outside at Summerhouse, overlooking the lake and the pool. Beautiful weather, fantastic service and food that would be talked about all weekend! I knew how great it would be, the dishes were flavorful and elegantly presented. I actually even tried the beef short ribs (for those who are not aware, I stay away from pork and beef). Just a bite, though – Sir Wes wanted to make sure the flavor he added came out right. Kudos to Chef Douglas, Chef Larry, Sir Wes and the talented Grand Culinary Team.
Before sunrise, the bloggers were on their way to Epcot for the day-long forum, but before the speakers started, we broke bread. And here is where I start to get proud- it was AWESOME. The Park Event Operation (PEO) team delivered a St. Patrick’s Day Eye Opener that continued the culinary train started the previous night at the Grand.
The morning was spent listening to inspirational talks by Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Dianne and Todd of White on Rice Couple, David Leite, who spoke about Bigger and Bad Ass Posts, and Dawn Viola, who rounded this talented group. They all offered so much great advice, inspiration, and constructive criticism that I’m sure you could not get out of a book. My scribble-scrabbled notes were miles long.
I snuck out a few minutes early so I could get a sneak peak, and I felt like a child waiting to give mom a present- I just couldn’t wait for everyone to see. The room set up was fantastic, full of bells and whistles.
The team did a wonderful job setting the stations and the tables- plenty of room to accommodate 100+ bloggers and their huge cameras. I told one of the chefs before the guests arrived- “wait until you see the mass of camera’s about to walk into the room”! The “Healthful Taste of Disney” lunch was recorded by many as the most creative and flavorful meal they had experienced. How could I not be grinning from ear to ear!?!?
The Chefs were creative and healthful, they also were able to accomodate so many different allegeries and dietary concerns, which, by itself, is magical for some guests!
After the lunch, we had roundtables of small groups which was great for getting a ton of my questions answered. I was also comforted to see the other Bloggers had similar questions and doubts. And then came my favorite part, a food styling and photographing demo from Aran of Cannelle et Vanille and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple. There are a few reasons I started blogging, but the biggest was my love of taking photographs and wanting to grow that hobby. Aran’s photographs are like Food Ballet – colors and textures just dance and they leave you feeling enriched. Just beautiful.
The forum broke and Bloggers spread thru Epcot to enjoy the remainder of the day before gathering back to a dessert party with a phenomenal viewing of the fireworks. The desserts were all amazing, but the talk of the event was the Guinness Ice Cream with Bacon Brittle- I’m thinking of getting the recipe for you soon! The following morning was a brunch hosted by Whole Foods Orlando, which I was unable to attend. You can, however, read about it by searching Twitter for #FBFORL and see for yourself how big of a hit it was.
It is difficult to sum up the feeling I had when I drove home. I took so much away from the weekend and I am certain that it will impact my blog, my work and my life. I shared with my leaders and peers at work just how much all the bloggers enjoyed everything. They felt Walt Disney World went over the top, and showed a tremendous amount of gratitude. The reactions of the guests at the Food Blog Forum is what we, as cast members, take away; to be able to take a part in creating this type of magic, is an honor. A lot of hours and hard work were put into this event and I was fortunate enough to see firsthand how magical it is for our WDW guests. I wish every Cast Member was able to experience how impactful their efforts are, it is a gift that will resonate with me every day.