Honestly, my week at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference was a bit of a blur. I had spent nearly eight months helping to plan it. When I saw the printed schedule, it reminded me of that surreal moment when I first saw my book in a store. Then, we were off.
My conference started with a morning writing session with famed coach Crescrent Dragonwagon. Somehow, I got teamed up with sausage maker Bruce Aidells, who clearly didn’t remember meeting me at The Greenbrier years ago. We had an animated conversation about knives, reminding me that I love butchers.
After that, I was on the clock. I spent nearly four hours teaching a roomful of people about social media Wednesday afternoon with Lia Huber. During the day on Thursday, I helped manage Pitch-o-Rama, a panel of editors who listen to pitches and offer feedback featuring Joe Yonan from The Washington Post, Beverly von Biel from Bon Appetit, Laurie Buckle from Fine Cooking, Silvana Nardone from Everyday With Rachel Ray and Martha Holmberg, most recently food editor at The Oregonian. When we repeated that session as part of Night Owl session on Friday night, only a handful of people showed up. We ended up in a hotel suite with wine until midnight, talking about stories and ideas.
The biggest highlight (and the only lowlight) for me was on Friday morning when I led a session titled PBS Now & Then. I”d been up until nearly 2 a.m. at a midnight dinner thrown by the notorious Michael Hebb. First up was a screening of Ruth Reichl’s show Gourmet Adventures with Ruth. Everything started fine — and the DVD stuck. It started. It stuck. With 150 people and Reichl in the room. After it finally played, her mic wouldn’t work during the Q&A. Completely mortifying. Fortunately, she’s a pro. She talked about behind-the-scenes stuff while the AV guy helped me with the DVD and talked loud during the discussion.
The technical issues were solved by the time Judith Jones showed up for her turn discussing Julia Child’s work on The French Chef and The Way to Cook DVD series, the latter of which she helped produce. Judith and I stood up, showed scenes and offered dualing Julia Child impersonations. Judith was warm, open and quite funny. I’ll upload the dodgy video that we got of the session soon.
The week ended with the IACP Foodista Food Film Festival. I helped to organize and as a result, ended up hanging around with Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show and his producer, Nimmit Mankad. At midnight on Saturday, the audience roared approval of their film, “Today’s Special,” with a standing ovation for the feel-good food comedy, officially ending the conference on high note.
It also provided me with my favorite quote of the conference. “Wow, that movie was so realistic that I could actually smell Indian food,” a woman told me. I then directed her to the makeshift midnight curry buffet that we’d set up in the back of the room…