Monday, April 16, 2007

IACP Annual Conference First Timers Report

I'm not your typical culinary professional, if there is such a thing. I began writing on the web, specifically on my blog Cooking with Amy almost four years ago and that more than anything else launched my culinary career. So I was happy to discover the IACP blog and to take this opportunity to share my first impressions of the conference and some personal highlights.

The first night reception was full of surprises! I really was amazed at the artistic culinary displays and how well they integrated into the Merchandise Mart. I saw molecular gastronomy cocktails being made and vibrant flowers suspended in gelatin. I met wonderful people all evening and saw more folks from home than I could have imagined. Great food, great fun.

The speakers at the general session this morning represented a terrific range of perspectives on the topic of organics. We heard about the future of organics and the roots. I heard how organics is part of a bigger movement that includes ethical treatment of animals, ecological sustainability and safer employment conditions for workers. We've seen considerable focus on all of these issues recently.

The afternoon culinary showcase was like a mini version of the Fancy Food Show, with booths, vendors and new products. At the showcase I discovered some new products like an "antigriddle" which was used for making creamy frozen lollipops, collected samples and made some great new business contacts.

It was a treat to see authors, editors and chefs I respect being honored for their contributions at the awards ceremony. Rick Bayless and Judith Jones were both inspiring to hear. Their connection to the pleasure and conviviality of the table was something I think everyone could relate to. I was especially excited for Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg who won the Book of the Year because their book What to Drink with What you Eat (and my review of it) helped me to gain another recipe development client.

What an exciting experience! After having read about the conference in Seattle I was determined to come this year and I'm glad I did. The people I met were friendly and there were seemingly endless opportunities to learn and make great connections.

My tips for first-timers:

1. Come early so you can be well rested and ready to take advantage of more of the conference.

2. Wear comfortable but business casual clothes. You never know who you will meet or what great business contacts you will make. Wear layers as some conference rooms may feel warm while others are cool.

3. Bring your camera, there are lots of great photo opportunities.

4. Plan for at least one special meal in your host city and make reservations ahead of time! Popular places book up fast.

5. When there is an opportunity, ask a question of speakers but try to make it a question that others will want to hear the answer to, if not, contact them privately.

6. Bring plenty of business cards. I met three people who ran out.

7. Take notes at the tastings, sessions and lectures you attend. I know I will be referring to my notes for a long time to come.

8. Sit with strangers and introduce yourself. If you sit with your friends, you won't make as many new friends.

My last tip was going to be to have fun, but really that happens without trying. Thanks everyone, for a wonderful conference!

Amy Sherman
Cooking with Amy
San Francisco, CA

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