Food bloggers descend on Santa Monica to meet, eat -- and tweet
Ask chef Michael Moore what he plans to serve Saturday night at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Santa Monica and you are likely to get a cagey answer.
The Aussie celebrity chef with restaurants in New York, London and Sydney says something about "a salad with cheese" and a beef dish, and seasonal fruits with vanilla. If it sounds like he's being vague, he is. He wants flexibility to change the menu up until the very last minute, depending upon the produce he finds while trolling local farmers markets this week, including the famed Santa Monica Farmers Market.
After all, he has a room full of foodies to win over, and he wants to use every advantage he's got.
"I know they are going to be tweeting and photographing and making comments on the food before the main course hits the table," Moore said. "It really has to be a reflection of what is really in season right now.... I want it to be reactive to what is in California at the moment."
Although some chefs still hold bloggers at arm's length, sneering at their ability to pass judgment with the swipe of a smartphone, Moore said he embraces them. "There's a lot of resistance among some chefs, but I'm not anti-food blogger. They report what they see and experience and that has its own integrity." He asks only that bloggers be fair -- not snarky -- because a restaurant's livelihood could be at stake.
He says he tries to read what everyone writes about his restaurants and food because he can learn a thing or two, and head off potential problems.
"Very often [food bloggers] are some of the first people in" a new restaurant, giving the team near instantaneous feedback. He said that in many ways, food bloggers can provide readers with a purer evaluation of a restaurant than traditional, old-media critics who may be more seasoned but also more jaded. Food bloggers "are not having to justify everything that they write. Good food is about a moment in time. If you can get it right and they are there, it's all good. More chefs should embrace them and work with them."
Learning how to work with chefs and build one's blogging brand are among the topics on the agenda at the three-day conference starting Friday at the DoubleTree Guest Suites Santa Monica Hotel. Guest speakers during the conference include cookbook author Amelia Saltsman, "Sneaky Chef" Missy Lapine, "Will Write for Food's" Dianne Jacob, a food styling-and-photography session with Matt Armendariz and a keynote address by critic Jonathan Gold.
Another star of the event? The food, of course. True Food Kitchen, La Cachette Bistro, Stefan's at LA Farm and Sprinkles Cupcakes will compete for bloggers' attention. And it wouldn't be a Los Angeles food conference without food trucks. A Saturday luncheon will arrive courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Truck, Glowfish, Steel City Sandwich, Rosa's Bella Cucina and Chomp Chomp Nation.
Conference co-organizer Allan Wright said he expects a big issue this conference to be about the push-pull between blogging your values and blogging for those all-mighty clicks. "That is a hotly debated one right now. Do you need to care about Google [and getting Web traffic?] Or should you just be happy with writing about something you are deeply passionate about? Or a combo of both?"
The conference is near its capacity of about 210 people, but a few tickets are still available, he said. The event is drawing bloggers from across the country as well as a handful of folks from outside the country, including Israel, Canada, Germany and Australia.
If you can't make the conference but want to watch from afar, use #ifbc on Twitter. The bloggers won't be the only ones tweeting this weekend, however. Chef Moore plans to join in the fun. In fact, that's the way that bloggers will find out their final menu come Saturday night.
Moore will use his Twitter account -- @MichaelMooreSyd -- to show off a picture and description of the final dish before it heads out of the kitchen.
-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch
Photo: Chef Michael Moore. Credit: Steve Brown