Prologue: In July 2011, I was talking with a woman about social media at a networking event when I asked, “Are you @FamilyFoodie?” Her eyes flew open wide and she replied, “Yes! How did you know?” I answered, “I don’t know (because her Twitter image was a chef’s hat then), but I follow you.” Her eyes got even bigger and she asked, “You DO?” I replied, “Yes, you have like 7K Twitter followers!” (She was a local Tampa Twitter rock star imho.) She said, “I know.” “So what are you doing here?” I asked. She looked at me quizzically. Later I remarked, “Think you’ve found your next thing with Family Foodie.” No truer words were spoken. In 2011 she started familyfoodie.com. In 2012, she created an army of bloggers ready to work with food brands to bring families back around the #SundaySupper dinner table via SundaySupperMovement.com. In 2013, she launched her very first Food and Wine Conference. That is tremendous growth (and hard work!) in a very short time, especially while raising four kids. Missed the first #FWCon while moving back home. Missed last year because of other commitments, too, but really wanted to go after seeing all the food in my Facebook newsfeed! So July 17-19, I went, I saw, I Instagrammed/Facebooked/Tweeted, I ate, I learned and I grew!
What is the Food and Wine Conference? To quote the website: “The Food and Wine Conference brings together bloggers, small business owners, winemakers, chefs, PR professionals, traditional media, new media, authors and brands.” For what? To talk about (and eat!) food & wine, to discuss what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, to create road maps for success, and ultimately to work together in win-win scenarios. It’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking of beautiful, Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is that and much more. Have you ever heard if you’re doing the right thing everything will just serendipitously fall into place? One day Isabel and her best friend Lou Anne went there for lunch, they met Mr. Harris Rosen, and a beautiful business relationship was born. It is a stunningly gorgeous conference center and resort, with top-notch chefs, and it’s an absolutely perfect setting for #FWCon! Their customer service is excellent.
Here’s a fun Good Day Orlando video taken Friday morning before the conference, which shows just a few of the goodies we experienced over the weekend.
The food. The wine. Bring an eating buddy! You just can’t eat it all, and it is *ALL SO GOOD!* One thing I learned: Get your food first, talk later. I spent too much time talking Friday night and missed yummy things I wanted to try!
Saturday was jammed packed. The opening Keynote: “Everything is Subject to Change” was about how life and careers are a journey where one thing definitely leads to another, especially in retrospective. Think of your own and you’ll connect the dots between people and places and how one leads to the next.
If you think bloggers are just “little women who love food and want a part-time job” then the session with Liz Latham from Hoosier Homemade and Stephanie Parker from Plain Chicken might change your mind. Liz and her husband both quit their FT corporate jobs to work the blog, which fully supports their family. Liz and Stephanie discussed the need to create a LLC for your blog, work with lawyers to trademark your logo, use Quickbooks, and covered all financial aspects of running a successful blogging business.
Lunch was sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese and Idaho Potato: *POUTINE* in four different varieties!! Here’s when I discovered I needed an eating buddy. #FirstWorldFoodieProblem: I want to try everything, can’t eat three lunches, and hate wasting food!
My two favorite sessions after lunch were panels. The first was brands discussing working with bloggers. The brand reps really impressed me with their honesty: “Please don’t send me a pitch telling me how great your blog aligns with our Beef brand, but then I can’t find one blog post with beef in the recipe, but do find “I hate hamburger” in your ‘About’ section.” (News flash: Hamburger is beef!) They were as down-to-earth as the bloggers, and very real about their connection to their product, their audience, and their bloggers. I learned not all brands are created equal when it comes to bloggers: Some use them as an extension of their marketing team, others use them sparingly. It’s all about finding ones that best fits you and your blog.
My other favorite panel was Eat.Travel.Blog.Business, which was a panel of travel bloggers. Sounds heavenly, right? To travel about, eat, stay at beautiful places, post and write about it? It’s a lot more work than you think and not really just lounging by the pool with a cool drink! Ann Tran, who was a part of the social media panel, recently tweeted “How to Make $150K as a Travel Blogger” which drives the point home that blogging can be “a real job.”
After a very fun live rendition of “The Price is Right” with Saucy Queen Michele Northrup, we had a bit of time before dinner.
Ah, dinner. Nothing says you’re about to dine well like multiple wine glasses lined up at your place setting! After food all day (most of it not shown here), we sat down to a family style dinner of Certified Angus Beef with roasted garlic, asparagus, collards, fingerling potatoes and the most heavenly whipped sweet potatoes. Here’s a photo of my first plate. (Yep, you read that right!) Later, I just spread the roasted garlic like butter on top of the beef. #PleaseSirCanIHaveMore While I enjoyed all three of the Hess Collection wines, the Hess Treo really stood out and was scrumptious with the beef. #YesPlease [Wait, is there a job where you get paid to be a professional eater? I may have that one covered hands down!] I didn’t have room for dessert, so enjoyed watching folks do the Idaho Potato Spuds singing game while being taped, which was hysterical fun. But when the blogger I roomed with told me Rosen had made the top two winning recipes from the Dixie Crystals blogging contest for dessert and I missed Tiramisu, one would think I hadn’t eaten all day! I was truly sad. #FirstWorldFoodieProblems
Sunday was at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, right next to their resort. The sessions were like classes, where you picked from four for any given time period. The problem? Some sessions I wanted to go to three of the four! I ended up in the Cheese & Wine Pairing sponsored by Cabot and Hess Collections. Thought I already knew a lot about cheese; I was wrong. Did you know cheese is graded in some of the same terms as wine is (acidity, fruitiness, etc.)? And that different cheeses with different wines can make one or the other taste really bad? I learned that and a lot more.
My other favorite session on Sunday was sponsored by Certified Angus Beef, where we saw a live demo with Chef Michael Ollier and got some great advice on preparing beef. #1 tip: Do not cut meat while cooking to see if it’s done! Use a meat thermometer to reach the desired state of doneness (130 before resting for medium rare). Another great tip is to sear both sides quickly to seal in juices, and then finish cooking slowly.
I loved my three days at the 2015 Food and Wine Conference! Why? Because I saw people sharing best business practices, learning a great deal about food and wine, and celebrating their entrepreneurship, regardless of where they are in the journey. Learned I really need to up my photography game if I ever want to make money from a blog! What a lot of people don’t realize about blogging is you have to know and do everything: from web technology/platforms, to social media, to marketing, finances & accounting, and everything in between. If you want to learn how, and talk to people who are doing it, then plan to attend the 2016 Food and Wine Conference because you will meet them, and they will share their secret recipes! I met some truly wonderful people at #FWCon … Foodies are great people!!
Isabel asked, “What was your favorite quote from #FWCon?” Both of mine came from @SaucyQueen: After “Johnny” told every Price Is Right winner what they won, Michele added, “And a bottle of hot sauce!” (Did I mention I love me some hot sauce?) She also said, “The best advice I can give you is if you have a good idea, ‘Don’t Hesitate!'” Sound advice for life! Bon Appetit 🙂
My Facebook Food And Wine Conference Photo Album.
The complete 2015 schedule.
Michael Gray, COO of Champion Solutions Group, said, “I think women are better leaders,” during a leadership panel discussion at the Central FL Women In Technology International (WITI) meeting Tuesday evening at Mise En Place in Tampa. Now granted, he was speaking to a room full of women. Champion Solutions Group, an IT infrastructure consulting company, hosted a forum on leadership in IT, which was moderated by Kathleen Long, Director of Web Services at the University of South Florida. Debbie Brenner, VP of Professional Services, and Mr. Gray shared the conversation they had about this on their drive up from Miami to Tampa that day. (Photo L-R: Debbie Brenner, Michael Gray, Kathleen Long, Kelly Oliver, Network Director of WITI Central FL.) Michael said, “Since men are so competitive, and always want to win, they’re more: ‘Ready. Aim. Fire.’ Women, like Debbie for example, take copious notes covering all the details, analyze the information and come up with a plan.”
Michael, a former IBMer of twenty plus years, spoke about how he always knew what position he wanted next at IBM. Having grown up at Xerox, I understood; many Fortune 500 global companies have developmental action plans to grow their people. It’s expected you advance every two – three years, depending on area and performance.
Debbie, who was the CIO at an all woman run company before joining Champion, said she never had the goal of becoming a VP or CIO; she just always knew she wanted to work with computers. She attended community college, started as a programmer, and worked her way up through various organizations. Or as she put it, “One day I looked up and realized I was managing forty people.” What she kept emphasizing was how much she loved the work and wanted to do it; for her, it was all about the work.
The WITI event got me thinking about leadership and female leaders. At a minimum, women are raised/socialized to always consider others; at a maximum, women are raised to take care of others. Be it leading or managing, there are always people involved. So it’s a good trait to be willing to listen to and consider the viewpoints and concerns of those around you. But there’s more to it than that.
Hillary Rodham Clinton kept coming to mind as I thought about it over the week, specifically a conversation I had about her back in 2008. One of my favorite female VPs at my last company and I were discussing politics before the election (always a no-no at work: I’ve finally figured out why one should never discuss politics, religion, sex or even cat/dog preferences … because they’re all based upon childhood experience and no amount of logic or reasoning will ever dissuade people from what they were raised with. What I find ironic is no matter what flavor, everyone thinks those who agree with them are ‘intelligent and reasonable people!’). During our conversation, I said, “Obama will win and Hillary will become a part of his team.” Michelle replied, “Karen, you’re crazy! They just battled it out for a year; that will never happen.” I replied, “It will; she may even be a part of his cabinet.” Truth is, I never once thought about it before that moment, but I was saying HRC would be in ‘President’ Obama’s cabinet! That night I analyzed it: OK, so Obama’s smart and what do smart leaders do? They always surround themselves with smart, capable people. Hill knows the White House, foreign leaders, the process, hell, she lived there for eight years, he’ll definitely ask her. The tricky part is will she accept? So I thought about her: a wife (who stood by her man), mother, lawyer, former first lady and NY senator. Hmmm, is that enough for her? No, she wants to make an impact at the national level (that’s why she ran!), so if he asks, she’ll accept. After analyzing the situation, it didn’t seem like the craziest thing I’d ever said in my life. But the truth is, even I was surprised when it actually happened. I tell that story because it’s an excellent example of Hillary’s character and how she (and many other women) ‘put the work first’ over ego. Other people who had just fought the good fight may have declined, but she wanted to do the work. Plain and simple. I’d also venture a guess that our fair Secretary of State, ‘the only woman at the table,’ may have had more to do with the capture of Osama Bin Laden than we’ll ever know, and while the President gets the win, she gets the satisfaction of knowing she helped to right a wrong. I’ve read she’s sitting out the 2012 term; some speculate it’s so she can go be a grandmother, others that she’s resting up for 2016. Either way, I say, “Hillary, you are a leader! If you’re done, good work! If not, I’ll vote for you in 2016!”
I’ve worked for both men and women over my career (and managed both as well) and see the pros and cons of each. I’m not sure I have a preference over ‘smart, capable and fair.’ But I have met women, as recently as last year, who’ve told me, “I prefer working for men; they’re so much easier.” When I ask why, it seems that the detail orientation that Michael Gray loves in someone who reports to him ’cause she always knows the answer, may not be perceived the same by those in a reporting relationship.
Michael stated he’s tried to promote women in his organization who’ve told him, “Thank you, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.” That launched a discussion on the amount of time worked in concert with having/running a life. Debbie mentioned, “I never knew how much my working affected my daughter until we were discussing college and careers and she said, ‘Mom, I don’t want anything to do with IT! You work too much!'” Her daughter plans to become a pharmacist.
So what do you think? Do you think men or women make better leaders? Do you think Mr. Gray was just being nice playing to the crowd? Do you think it’s dependent upon area? Please comment below!