food blogger

IFBC New Orleans is coming!

There once was a woman with a food blog. She blogged and blogged and blogged, and then a week went by when she didn’t blog. And then a month. And then she started to wonder, “Am I still a blogger?”

I think I am. If you’ve been exclusively waiting for me to post here, I’m going to gently guide you by the hand over to my Instagram, so you can get caught up. Someone called it “micro-blogging,” and for some reason that has sounded a lot more manageable than blogging here. There’s a lot going on in my world these days. Three jobs, volunteer committments, all that jazz. Long-form blogging has sort of floated to the bottom of the pile for now. I’m also trying to figure out exactly what I want this blog to be. I think I’m close to figuring it out, but one step at a time.

The International Food Blogger Conference starts in just a few days, and I’ll be headed off to New Orleans for a little learning, a little eating, and hopefully, a chance to just walk around and see the city. I’ll circle back here to do a wrap-up post when I get home, but again, I’ll tenderly push you from behind to go follow me on Instagram to see the food and fun as it happens.  Of course, I’m 100% on board to learn, and this year’s conference is jam packed with expert speakers and fun activities, but as with past years, there are definitely things that have really peaked my anticipation.

This year, IFBC is celebrating its 10th birthday, and to be doing it in such an iconic food city like New Orleans means the traditional “Taste of…” event on Friday night will boast some tasty bites from some of the Crescent City’s hundreds of restaurants and food producers, including Arnaud’s, Emeril’s, and Salt & Light Pastry Co. I’m SO ready to get my grub on, and maybe snag a few recipes from the local chefs.

On Saturday night, we’ll get to have some fun in what IFBC is calling a “Live Food & Drink Social.” Over 20 local food producers will each have five minutes to “pitch” their product while we, the intrepid food bloggers, try to share as much as we can in real time on our chosen blog/social media platforms. We did this last year and it was super hectic, but we all had a blast. It’s also a great exercise in how to prioritize. Do I spend my five minutes trying to get a great picture and letting my fellow bloggers ask all the questions, or do I put the presenter through their paces and just pray I get the shot?

One of the highlights of this year’s IFBC will be, for me, hearing from our Keynote speaker, African American-Jewish culinary historian and James Beard Award winning author Michael Twitty.  Go check out his blog, Afroculinaria, and get totally sucked into his unique style of storytelling.

Obviously, there’s a whole list of places I want to visit, and restaurants I’d like to try, but, I’m a girl on a budget. August just happens to be “COOLinary” month in New Orleans. If you’re familiar with the concept of Restaurant Week, it’s like that, only all month long. Perfect timing to get to try one of the city’s upscale restaurants for a fraction of the cost. I haven’t decided where I’m headed yet, but of course, there will be pictures and a full recap when I finally sit down to stuff my face eat a beautiful dinner like the classy lady that I am. I’ll also be utilizing a few other tried and true tips to get a taste of what the city has to offer without burning a hole in my wallet:

* Check out the bar menu. Small plates and bar snacks are a great way to try a little of what a restaurant has to offer without all the fuss of a full, sit down dinner. If you can catch a happy hour,  even better, because you might find one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails on the menu for a discount.

* Ask a concierge. IFBC is being held at the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street. You best believe I’ll be quizzing their concierge staff about where to get some great, local eats that won’t break the bank. A knowledgable concierge will know their city’s restaurant scene like the back of their hand– not just the fine dining places, but also the hidden gems you might miss if you’re relying on your average travel guide.

* Ask a local. If you’re looking to step out of the tourist stream and experience the city like you live there, be brave and ask a local. For every IFBC I’ve attended, I’ve utilized the Couchsurfing app to find a local host, rather than staying in a pricey hotel. One of the most obvious benefits is all the great advice you can get from your host on where to eat, which attractions are worth the cost of admission, and the activities that really should not be missed. I’ve not been steered wrong, yet.

* Hit the grocery store before you leave. I know, it’s tempting, especially in a city known for its food culture, to want to eat out for ALL the things. There are so many places to try! But, you’ll find yourself blowing through your food budget pretty quickly that way. Obviously, I’ll be hitting Cafe du Monde for those iconic beignets and chicory coffee at least one morning, but I’ll also bring some snacks and breakfasty stuff with me from home, to fill in the meal gaps. When your dining dollar has to really stretch, let the grocery store do some pinch hitting.

I am, not surprisingly, not packed, or even close to packed yet, but my excitement for this little working getaway is set to 11. See you in New Orleans!

Kitchen Tech Saturday: My Kitchen

Hi folks!

Today’s Kitchen Tech Saturday is a little different. Today, I’m talking to you about a web page that doesn’t specifically have anything to do with food, or cooking, or food policy. It’s my Patreon page, and it’s a tool I’ve added to my toolbox to help hold me accountable for my consistency (or lack thereof, thus far).

I’ll tell you more about Patreon in a minute. But first, a little update on what’s going on with me.

I’ve been in Chicago since the end of February. I’ve been working part time to pay the bills, cooking as often as I can, and trying to get out into the world to experience the food culture of this Windy City, but not everything has gone exactly according to plan. Chicago is expensive, and I actually live pretty far outside of Chicago proper (25 miles from the nearest park and ride train station), so getting into and out of the city as much as I’d like has been prohibited by the cost of just… doing it. In other words, I can pay my bills, but not much else.

My time here in Chicago is coming to an end. I head back to Colorado for a week on April 30th, then onto the next adventure, hopefully somewhere in the Pacific Northwest or Northern California. I’ll be doing it all on a shoestring, and quite honestly, I’m not sure the money is going to stretch as far as I want the journey to go.  I’ve come to realize that if I want this blog to become the multi-media, multi-platform COMMUNITY that I’ve envisioned, I’m going to have to put more into it than just the extra $20 bucks I scrounge up here and there.

Enter, Patreon. It’s a website where creators of all types can invite micro-investors to be patrons of the work they’re doing. And when I say micro-investors, I’m talking… as low as $1 a month. How can $1 a month possibly help? Well, if 20 people invest $1 per month, I can create two recipe based blog posts that month. If another 10 people invest $10 per month, I can create two blog posts each week, PLUS be able to produce additional food policy, food activism, or food system related content for the blog and social media. I am very good at making dollars stretch, and those dollars… trust me, they add up.

Why Patreon? Because I want those who support me to be a reflection of the values of this blog. I have been approached with opportunities to do sponsored posts for products and to start running banner ads on my site. But… the products involved were not ones I believe in. They were made with ingredients that are harmful, and/or with processes that create damage to our bodies and/or our environment. I would not be able to control the advertisers promoted in the banner ads, and there are definitely companies whose values don’t align with what this blog is about.

Utilizing the Patreon platform requires a huge amount of trust… from both sides. I have to trust that my patrons will continue to support my work, as long as I continue to produce it. My patrons have to trust that I will consistently provide them with content that is relevant, informative, educational, and entertaining.

This is way bigger than fund-raising. This is me, setting a powerful intention to continue to create, come hell or high water, every week. This is me saying, “You can count on me.” This is you, saying, “You do the work, and I’ll continue to invest in content I enjoy and appreciate.”

It’s not easy to ask for… anything. I have friends who have built successful networks that support and promote their work, and I’ve always wondered what sort of magic it takes to put yourself out there like that. And then, of course, I realized there’s no magic. You just have to put yourself out there. Yes, like that.

I’ve built some more immediate rewards into the investment tiers… things such as the opportunity to more directly influence the development of content, exclusive access to patrons-only content, and personalized video walk-throughs. Notice something? All of those rewards require me to make content. I literally cannot stop creating without breaking our trust, and I’m not about to do that.

I have a big vision for what I’m Gonna Cook That! can be, and you’re a part of that.

Please click here to join me in building that future.

#IFBC2016 Here I Come! (Also, a few tips from me to you…)

This post is one of (at least) three posts I’ll share about Sacramento IFBC 2016. In exchange for a discounted ticket, I agreed to share my own personal experience about IFBC on my blog.

I last attended IFBC (The International Food Bloggers Conference) two years ago, in Seattle. It was my first time going to any food blogger conference, and I was nervous as f*ckdge. I’d barely started writing, and was totally intimidated by all those other bloggers.

This year, the conference is in Sacramento. I’m still nervous, mostly because the last year of blogging hasn’t gone at all like I meant for it to, and because I am, once again, in a place where I’m looking for help in getting serious about doing this for real. Like, eventually, I’d like to pay the bills with it, for real.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the scope of what I talk about here on “I’m Gonna Cook That!” is evolving.  I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I really want this blog to be about… and the voice I want to have in The World– the world of food blogs, the food world, and the world at large. I believe this blog can be fun, and full of recipes, and reviews, and goofy conversation… but as often as possible, still tie in the overarching themes of how we connect to our food; our local, state, and national food systems; the future of food; and food justice issues.  I don’t want to get preachy, but I do want to take a stand. Out loud. On purpose.

So, as you can see, a Farm to Table themed IFBC couldn’t be more relevant.  This year, IFBC will address everything from sustainability, to reducing food waste, to alternative food sources. (Prepare yourselves. There will be more mentions of bugs on this blog.)

And now… a little advice to those bloggers who are in the place I was two years ago– pretty new to food blogging, definitely new to blogger conferences, and a little worried and overwhelmed about how to get the most out of my experience.

You’ll get lots of advice from other bloggers, all good and valuable, about bringing business cards, maybe a media sheet if you feel like you’re ready for that, dressing comfortably, getting your “pitch” ready, and all that jazz. You should read their advice, too. It’s worthy. But, I’m also going to share what I did to help just feel a little more in control, and a little more mentally and emotionally prepared.

  1. It’s ok to be nervous about all those new people. I have pretty major social anxiety, and it definitely takes effort to put myself out there and talk to strangers. At my first IFBC, everyone seemed to already know someone and I’ll admit to feeling a little out of place. So, start small. Just say hi to the person standing next to you. Every single blogger, vendor, chef, and speaker I worked up the courage to speak to was friendly, warm, gracious, and genuine. I promise you’ll get more out of your IFBC experience if you make a connection or two, if for no other reason than it gives you a friendly face to find in the crowd in those moments when you start feeling a little shaky. On the flip side, don’t feel bad about stepping away from the crowd… Get a drink of water, take a few deep breaths, do some positive self talk, and remind yourself that you are here to learn and grow, just like everyone else. You deserve to be here.
  2. That making connections thing? There’s another reason to do that. You will, invariably, find yourself feeling like you’re making Sophie’s Choice at some point in the conference, trying to decide between two sessions you REALLY want to attend. If you make “notes buddies” with someone who is attending one of them, you can agree to swap notes afterwards so neither of you feels like you missed out on some great information.
  3. On that note, try to have a plan about which sessions you’d like to attend and what you’d like to write about when you get home, but prepare to change your mind. In Seattle, at least twice I felt 100% committed to a particular session, only to come out of the one before it feeling led toward something totally different. Again, you can always ask someone to send you their notes later. If you feel called to a certain session, listen to that call. I don’t regret switching it up either time.
  4. Even if you don’t feel ready to dive head first into the world of big time marketing and vendor sponsorships, still take time to introduce yourself to the vendors whose products interest you. You never know what they’re looking for, and maybe your voice will turn out to be one they find valuable. I recommend doing your research about any vendors that stand out to you ahead of time to learn a little more about them. That way, you can decide exactly how you want to connect before you ever walk up to their booth or table. Plus, having specific questions to ask or observations to share always makes me feel a little less awkward.
  5. Finally, and maybe I’m being Captain Obvious here, but remember to have fun! The organizers of IFBC do a great job of not only putting together an informative, varied program, with lots of great speakers and teachers, but they also manage to make it a really good time. Learn everything you can without wearing yourself out, but don’t forget to exhale. Relax. Enjoy the food, and the drinks, and the opportunity to hang out with people who are just as obsessed with food as you are.



News! and IFBC! and Things!

Hi folks! I’ve made it through the Menu Management project with most of what’s left of my sanity in tact. I actually had to stay up all Tuesday night to finish my presentation, just in time to give it in class Wednesday. I was so sleep deprived at that point, I can’t even tell you what I said, but I think it went ok. I guess I’ll find out when Chef posts the grades. The nice thing about giving my presentation this week is that next week I get to just sit back and listen to everyone else’s stuff. And then, just like that, the quarter is over. Needless to say, this month on the blog has not gone at all like I wanted it to, but I have a week off of work coming up and this place, and you lovely readers, are at the top of my priority list.

Also, I have a little news to share.

Since I started school in January, I’ve had this grand plan to work until the end of March next year, and save up a bunch of money to get started on this burgeoning culinary career thing I’ve got going. Well, The Universe conspired to expedite the plan by  six whole months. About three weeks ago, I started looking for a new job, something food related, and I’ve been offered a very “low on the totem pole” kinda gig working for Colorado’s largest catering company. Getting that job meant that I could put in my notice at this corporate thing I’ve been doing for about five years and finally start gearing up for the rest of my life. I’ll be a production cook, so lots of potato peeling and vegetable chopping and cookie dough mixing, and needless to say the money is significantly less than what I’ve been making, but I’m SO excited!

I’ve never heard of a Baby Step of Faith. It’s a leap, or it’s nothing at all. So here I am, flinging myself out into the world to do the thing I’m passionate about instead of just earning a paycheck doing something I happen to be good at. What’s weird is that I’m not even a little bit scared. There have been so many signs pointing me in this direction, and I’ve been kind of turning my head away, believing that I wasn’t ready for such a big move. But tell me this… what makes someone ready for that? I think you just have to do it. So, I’m doing it.

Step one was getting the job. Step two is sucking every single bit of experience and knowledge I can out of it.

Now, let’s move on to the more immediate excitement… the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle! It starts tomorrow night with the opening reception, and runs through Sunday afternoon. I am beyond excited about this. It’s my first food blogger conference ever, but all the veterans I’ve talked to have been so welcoming and warm (at least, as warm as you can get over Facebook) that I know it’s going to be a great experience.

IFBC’s sessions are broken into three tracks– Food, Writing, and Tech. If you look at the Agenda online, you’ll see that there’s a LOT of information being covered, and I’m still not entirely sure which sessions I’ll be attending. There are a couple of time periods where there are two sessions I’d like to attend (Learn about butchering beef or about Bordeaux wines? I want to do both!). However, what I think I need the most help with is the Tech side. Luckily, some folks from WordPress will be there to hopefully answer some of my questions about the actual process of making my blog more reachable, but there are other sessions on Branding and using Google + that also sound like they’re going to cover stuff I really need to know. Google + especially feels like the Wild West to me, so I hope I can learn how to make some sense of it.

I’m also really hoping to make some new friends, and get some time to meander around the city a bit.

I have a recipe ready to share (about damn time, right?!) when I get back, as well as an interview from a guy who owns and runs a local ice cream shop. He has a great tip for those of us who aren’t blessed with access to an industrial sized ice cream maker that I think you’ll all appreciate. And, now that all the madness has died down, I’m going to share the menus I created for this fictitious restaurant I’m never going to open. Plus, of course, I’ll be sharing lots of details and information from IFBC.

Thanks for bearing with me folks. Have a great weekend!

Ok… this is awkward.

So, this is going to be short and sweet, and I’m probably only going to do it once. I really hate asking for help– ask anyone who knows me. I will take the long and twisty and difficult way around so many things in order to not have to ask for help. I tell you that so you know that this is serious, and I’m serious.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I’ll give you just a little back story. All of this blogging and going to culinary school and recipe writing and just general obsessing over food and cooking is all going somewhere. I want to go out in the world and learn a little bit more after school, and then come home to Denver and open a little cooking school of my own. I want to help normal folks– not people who are looking to be famous on the food network or go work in a restaurant– but home cooks, and aspiring home cooks, or even just the culinarily curious, to feel that same sense of empowerment in the kitchen that I do. I want to share my knowledge, and connect my students with others in my community (virtual and literal) who have knowledge to share.

Eventually, I’ll take material from this blog and use it to put together a cookbook. Even if I have to self publish it, it’s something I have always wanted to do. It will serve as a sort of guidebook for my students, and hopefully, a helpful resource for anyone who buys it.

The International Food Blogger Conference is being held this September 19th-21st in Seattle. I believe that attending this conference is the best way to not only gain the knowledge I need to become a truly successful blogger, but also connect with other food bloggers and become an active member of the food blogging community. But, I can’t afford to go without some help. If you click the link below, you’ll see that this isn’t a vacation I’m trying to plan on other people’s dime. This is a work trip, and will be treated as such. I’ve broken down the costs to keep expenses to the absolute minimum. I won’t be staying in a fancy hotel, or taking cabs around town. It’s public transpo and a homeshare for me.

If you are so inclined, and are in a position to help financially, I really hope that you’ll do so. If you think you need to see a little more from me before you make any kind of investment, or you simply aren’t in a position to help with money, I would really appreciate all the good vibes and encouraging words you can muster. Those are just as important.

To my dear, sweet friends Nikki and Casey, I offer a heartfelt thank you for the support you’ve already provided. I hope I can do you proud, because your faith in me means the world.

Ok… that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Thanks everyone! Tomorrow we return you to your regularly scheduled food and fun!