IACP in Denver

A year ago, somehow I was crowned the chair of the Food Writers, Editors & Publishers section of IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). It’s the largest membership section of IACP, with more than 1,100 members in 26 countries. But even so, it’s still a volunteer role, one that yields a lot of work and the occaional flashback to corporate life.

Although it’s sometimes hard to justify spending a lot of time on an unpaid gig, I’ve embraced this role. It’s a hard time now for all writers, not just food writers. Newspapers are slashing whole features sections, or going online sans food coverage, a la the Post-Intelligencer here in Seattle. Magazines are cutting pages, or requiring staff to pen articles, cutting down the market for freelancers. In this climate, cookbooks without a clear niche market are a tough, tough sell — especially since glossy four-color numbers run as much as $30 or $40.

Meanwhile, there’s all this online activity, including a rash of food blogs on every possible subject. Yet, most of those bloggers labor for free, adrift without a clear career path or a clear way to make their work pay for itself.

So… what would you do? I packed for Denver, arriving Tuesday. A six-pack of food writers met up at the Irish bar in the Sheraton, including Nancy Hopkins of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Nancy might live in Des Moines, but she dresses as if she lives on the Left Bank. We discovered that we each packed no less than three pairs of boots…

Somehow, we ended up at the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant, and a tourist destination of sorts. And why not? The walls are lined by literally a hundred or more heads of animals who found themselves in the path with a hunter and a gun, and well, they lost. At first, it felt a bit creepy to eat as dozens of glazed-eye game looked on, but after awhile, it seemed almost normal. Admittedly, it felt a tad odd to eat elk while being gazed at by a dead elk, and to taste a bit of yak while looking at what I’m pretty sure was a yak. (I don’t run into them often in my everyday life.) But it reminded me that, in the end, there’s a short distance between death and dinner. And the buffalo was terrific, perfectly seared and juicy. He was right in my line of sight, too.

Wednesday started early with “The Experts Are In,” a mentoring roundtable session that was slightly complicated by a last-minute expert cancelation. In the afternoon, we held the food writer’s forum, an activity which scared the daylights out of Jason Sheehan at Westword. That evening, Maggie, Lisa and I ate at the bar at Rioja, an awesome tapas restaurant. The soft, subtly flavored cardamon-spiced Kurobuta belly “bacon” may be the best thing that I’ve eaten in years. So much for my mostly veggie life?


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Filed under cool food events, food blogs, food writing, iacp, Le Cordon Bleu

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