Late does not even begin to describe this recap. I had every intention of posting this recap the day after the Blog Better Boston (BBBos) Food Summit, which was on Sunday, October 21st, but first the batteries in my camera died and I couldn’t edit the photos, then life (including midterms and a hurricane) hit. So while I am over a week late on this recap (for which I genuinely apologize) it’s finally here!
I first learned about Blog Better Boston in much the same way I learned about the Healthy Living Summit. I was looking for more opportunities to get involved in the blogosphere, specifically connecting with local bloggers, and stumbled upon the website.
Luckily I found it prior to the Food Summit and had plenty of time to register and attend. I debated it for a while because I wasn’t so sure about driving to the Stonewall Kitchen headquarters in Maine early on a Sunday morning, but I’m glad I did. The foliage on the way up was gorgeous, and that was just the first perk of the day.
I arrived right around the 9:30 check-in time to pick up my name tag and grab some breakfast. Au Bon Pain had provided bagels, pastries, fruit, and coffee, which was a great way to start the day.
Immediately after breakfast we started our tour of the Stonewall Kitchen facilities, starting with storage and a GIANT freezer.
This part of the tour was a lot of fun because the Stonewall Kitchen employees had a lot of fun stories and trivia for us. Because it was a Sunday there wasn’t much happening in storage or on the production floor, but it was amazing to see all of the equipment and just how many dry goods are needed for the production of Stonewall Kitchen’s variety of products. After storage we moved on to the production floor to continue the tour, complete with hairnets. It was amazing to see all of the equipment, everything from pasteurization and cooling to label application and painting was all there for us to see.
One of the most interesting things I learned on the tour is that all Stonewall Kitchen employees are trained at every job so that everyone knows what it is like to work production. Also interesting is that production jobs are alternated throughout the day to avoid fatigue from repetitive motion.
After our tour of the facilities we were split into two small groups. This allowed for all of us to be in smaller, more intimate groups for the sessions. I appreciated this opportunity a great deal. My first session was on food photography with Michael Cabelin, the Stonewall Kitchen photographer.
Michael was a great teacher and I learned a lot, including the following tips:
- Always use a gray card in your photos to let the camera know color temp for light
- Always shoot with a tripod. It will control for even the slightest movements your hands would cause.
- Shoot with the longest lens you can possibly use, like a macro lens approximately 100mm
- A wider lens will distort the image and include things you don’t want.
- Balance your computer monitor so that you are seeing the actual colors in your photos when you edit them. This will allow you to see true colors and true saturation.
- Light has values on a camera between 0 (white with no details) to 255 (black with no details). Use color cards to fill contrast in your photos and adjust the light values.
- Layer textures in your photos (wood, fabric, a subtle-patterned napkin, etc.) to create depth.
What a lot of info! After photography I went to a session on restaurant reviews with April White, a former food editor for Philadelphia magazine and contributor to many other publications. I live-tweeted her session, so I will be posting a more extensive list of those tweets in a future post. Be on the lookout! I will leave you with one, however, which was her final thought: “The primary requisite for writing well about food, is a good appetite.”
Luckily for us, we did have a good appetite because lunch was next! For more information about the cooking school demo, check out my WIAW post that featured the food.
In addition to the amazing food, chef Patty Roche also gave us some great info, which I shared on Twitter:
- On wine quality: if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.
- Don’t wash chicken, it spreads bacteria in kitchen. Instead, get chicken from reputable source.
- Don’t just trust a cooking thermometer, make sure it is calibrated.
- Freeze herbs in butter or vegetable stock for later use.
- No wooden cutting boards for raw meat. After washing, bacteria can remain in cracks & make you sick.
The final two sessions of the day were on recipe development and photo editing. A lot of the info provided in these sessions was similar to info I received at the Healthy Living Summit. Still, there was a lot of great info. In the photo session, I learned how to use the Histogram in my photo editing software and how important it is to shoot in raw settings with a DSLR. Just as soon as I get a DSLR I can put that tip to good use.
Similar to the restaurant review session, the recipe development session included far too many gems to put in a general recap, so I will share those with you in a dedicated post later this week.
After all of the sessions were complete, I was exhausted and my brain was full of a ton of brand new knowledge. Not only that, but my belly was full of amazing food and my arms were filled with incredible swag, which I photographed as soon as I got home.
That’s right, among a ton of other goodies we got an immersion blender and a veggie chop! What an awesome end to a fantastic day! Plus, I may or may not have gotten an early start on my Christmas shopping at the Stonewall Kitchen store (I so did!). After such a long day I was grateful to get home, but I was even more grateful I had the opportunity to meet so many new bloggers and share in an amazing experience. If you’re a local (Boston) blogger, I highly recommend checking out Blog Better Boston. I can’t wait to attend whatever event comes next.