When I attended my first Food Wine Conference in 2014, I knew two people in real life. I knew a few more thanks to blogging with #SundaySupper, but since I didn’t yet know them in real life, I was more than nervous to attend two years ago.
But after that first night of the three-day event, I made friends rather quickly and haven’t looked back. I met other local foodies from Tampa Bay, and Orlando, found my #SundaySupper family, and stayed at the Rosen Shingle Creek, which makes you feel extra-special, with its size, accommodations, and amenities on site.
This year, my third year attending, I was asked by the founder of the conference, Isabel Laessig, to join the event planning committee. I was able to combine my love of food, and blogging with my love for event planning. It was a lot more work than I ever dreamed, but it was the best kind of work, and I felt so honored to have been on the other side this year.
What to expect from the Food Wine Conference:
+ You’ll make friends for life – Each year my network of people grows. I connect with other local foodies, restaurant owners, bloggers, etc. And we stay in touch! It’s so nice. We can bounce ideas from one another, work together, and obviously eat together.
In 2014, one of the keynote speakers, Emily Ellyn, had recently competed on The Next Food Network Star. I know she did not win, but I couldn’t tell you who did, to be honest. But I remembered Emily Ellyn. I was kind of a fan girl watching her compete. Now? Now, I see her every now and again at local events, and she is genuinely a wonderful gal. Like who would have thought I’d watch this chick compete on FN, and then one day she’d ask my husband how law school was going, and we’d be taking selfies!
You learn at the Food Wine Conference, we’re all kind of the same at the core, and no matter where you have been, or what you have done, you’re all kind of just friends in the end. It’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.
+ You will hang out with sponsors. In the few other blog conferences I have attended, the sponsors are very clear. That’s nice, but sometimes intimidating too. They’re working, and you’re trying to network (therefore, you’re working too), and sometimes it just feels forced. At the Food Wine Conference, everyone is learning together. It’s refreshing! You feel more calm, and I think the sponsors do too. That goes back to we’re kind of all in it together. Feeling relaxed helps you to connect with brands you may want to work with. It has for me, and in all honesty, it ended up just being two people that clicked over something in common. You just never know who you’re talking to, but at the end of the day you all love food, and food is universal.
+ You’ll learn SO much! This year, I missed a few sessions, as I ran around making sure things were as flawless as I could personally make them. But the sessions I did attend were inspiring, and helpful. Sometimes, at other conferences you tend to hear the same things over and over again, and that makes me zone out, to be honest. This year’s keynote, Donatella Arpaia, was incredibly inspiring. She has always faced adversity, first as an immigrant from Italy with a language barrier, who went to law school. To a female restauranter in a male dominated world. She told us to “stay hungry”, and so many of us could relate to that. Continue to learn, never stop, and to stay hungry if you want it…and that was just the start of Day 2!
This year’s theme had a lot to do with meeting the farmers, and families behind the brands. We learned so much from industry leaders, talking in depth about the heritage, innovation, and people behind the brand. Learning where our food comes from, was my favorite session.
+ You’ll eat (A LOT) – you will never ever go hungry, my friends. There are so many wonderful meals prepared by the amazing chefs, and staff at Rosen Shingle Creek. Being on the other side this year, I can tell you the sponsors also want you to enjoy their product, because as much as we may love writing about it, they love working with it, so again, we all kind of win. If for some reason, you’re still hungry, Rosen Shingle Creek has 7 restaurants on-site to dine at (at some point, I just want to stay a week, and try them all).
+ You’ll have FUN! Wining, and dining with friends (new, and old), learning from some of the best experts in the industry, and attending a themed dinner. This year we opted for a Denim and Diamonds theme, and people did not disappoint! We also hosted the first annual #Hashed competition (think: Chopped style), you’ll leave exhausted in the best way, with a full belly, and a full heart.
…and if this isn’t enough, for the first time ever my husband was able to attend with me! He knew no one, but was a champ, as I warned him people would know him from my blog, and he’d have no idea who they were. He had a great time meeting everyone.
If you’re new to blogging, you may not care about any of this. Or you may not know how to grow your site. Some of us want to do it full-time, and some of us, just like blogging as an outlet. Whatever the reason, attending a blog conference is a great way to find your ‘people’, connect, and maybe grow in ways you never even thought of for yourself. I would have never dreamed I’d get to combine my two passions in one fabulous weekend. Dream big, find the ones that also dream big, and continue to build your tribe up. It’s amazing what you can do, if just one person believes in you. That’s the biggest thing I have learned from attending the Food Wine Conference.