International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference, Portland, Oregon

by Sarah Henry on April 26, 2010 · 24 comments

in food events,food organizations

My kind of meet up: A healthy mix of gourmet gossip courtesy of the food writing literati, intriguing story possibilities, and fascinating food folk from near and far. That proved the ingredients for five days spent at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) annual conference, held this year in Portland, Oregon.

I’m a neophyte to both this organization and event, an annual schmooze fest for food writers, cookbook authors, agents, editors, food photogs & stylists, cooking teachers, and other edible enthusiasts.

To be expected at such soirees, it became clear early on that the real action happens outside the program agenda in hosted dinners, private parties, and impromptu chats held in cafes, bars, and restaurants around town.

I came home with a belly full of fine food, a head full of story ideas, and a heart full of new friends. There’s so much to share I’m going to dish it out in bite-sized chunks over three days. Up first, a serving of fun facts, then a second course featuring five PDX producers at their local, artisan, original best, followed by five global gourmet offerings to feast on.

A trio of tidbits to whet your appetite:

  • I had dinner with the grande dame of food writers, ex-Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl. We sat at a table featuring some of the best of Stumptown’s locally grown and raised food, cooked by two of the city’s top chefs, Cathy Whims and John Taboada. It was a very long table in a very loud room. Ruth and I were at either end. No conversation ensued. But, truth-be-told, I was delighted to chat with fellow diners Laura Masterson, of 47th Avenue Farm, whose pristine produce was featured in the dinner, and wine maker Sam Tannahill, whose 2008 Rex Hill Jacob Hart Pinot Noir paired perfectly with a crazy good goat cheese called Up in Smoke from Rivers’ Edge Chevre.
  • Despite protestations to the contrary, The New York Times food writer Kim Severson, could easily get a gig as a TV host. She’s fast on her feet, funny, and gave off an Ellen De Generes like vibe in her schtick both in breakout sessions and on stage with friend and mentor Ruth R, whom she called “the most famous unemployed food writer in America.”
  • Carefully coifed Michael Ruhlman (has any other cookbook author received so much attention for his attention to personal grooming?) revealed his disdain for recipes, decried the ever-present excuse of no time to cook as “bullshit,” and urged an eager audience to make love while a chicken roasts in the oven. What about the vegetarians, Mr. Ratio Man?

Amusing asides aside, Ruth Reichl made an impassioned plea for the planet and food production, pointing out that the things that make fast food cheap – readily available fossil fuels, water, and predictable weather — are all in dangerously short supply.

There’s never been a better time to write about food, she reckons, or a more critical time to do so. Would you agree?

Big thanks to the fabulous Cheryl Sterman Rule of 5 Second Rule for showing me the ropes and generously sharing her food posse with me at IACP.

Check back tomorrow for part two of my IACP roundup, on the homegrown bounty courtesy of some of Portland’s finest food producers.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Shari April 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Did you get a chance to visit any food trucks or carts? Wondering if the growing street food movement was featured at all.

Oh, and it takes 45 minutes to make my baked tofu so…

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Sarah Henry April 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Yes, a report on the PDX food cart scene & fest in my next post. And it took me a minute to understand your tofu reference — too funny:)

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Robin Asbell April 27, 2010 at 3:18 am

Aah, I remember my first time. At the IACP conference, I mean, not making love while the tofu baked!
It is such a stellar group of people, and such a unique opportunity to have a city show off its food for the foodies. We are the people who can do all food all the time!

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Sarah Henry April 27, 2010 at 6:35 am

Great to meet you in person, Robin. And since you’re a seasoned IACP conference attendee I’m curious to hear what you took away from this meet.

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Dianne Jacob April 27, 2010 at 8:26 am

So happy you made it, sistah. We had a lot of fun, didn’t we? Head is still exploding from it all.

Jealous of your proximity to Reichl for an extended period. I saw her at a Gastronomica party and thanked her for letting me interview her for my book. Then I said I was looking forward to her keynote. She looked at me aghast and said, “Well I better stop drinking wine, then! I had forgotten all about it. Thanks a lot.” I was momentarily horrified but realized she was joking.

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Sarah Henry April 27, 2010 at 9:19 am

Head exploding, exactly, DJ, glad I’m not the only one. Love your Ruth Reichl story.

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MyKidsEatSquid April 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

I can’t wait to read more about the conference. What was one of your favorite dishes that you tried?

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Sarah Henry April 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

You’ll have to read my next post to find out, MKES!

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Lentil Breakdown April 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

It’s funny how the popularity of celebrity foodies has soared. I was watching The United States of Tara on Showtime last night (a quirky, well-written and acted comedy), and someone was making crepes and made a Ruth Reichl reference. I thought, “Wow, how mainstream she has become!”

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Sarah Henry April 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I know what you mean, Lentil Breakdown. Conversely, I mentioned the IACP meeting to a friend and said that Ruth Reichl was a featured speaker and she just looked at me blankly. I sometimes get the same response when I mention Michael Pollan.

So it’s good to keep in mind, especially when I’m writing, that these food folk aren’t on everyone’s lips.

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paula shoyer April 28, 2010 at 6:20 am

My head is still spinning from IACP conference overload. I learned so much and came away with a long to-do list. Although a first-time attendee like you, Sarah, I came away feeling a part of a great community of foodies.

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Sarah Henry April 28, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Glad, I’m not alone, Paula. And, yes, as you rightly note, a very welcoming bunch.

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Jill Silverman Hough April 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm

IACP was totally different for me this year – it certainly helped that I had a newly-released book to whip out, but mostly, there was a profoundly deeper sense of relatedness, which I attribute to having connections not only via conferences, but via Facebook, Twitter, and fabulous blogs like yours. Thanks for being one who I was already aware of, but got to know a little bit better, Sarah. Looking for more opportunities.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:46 am

Lovely to meet you in person as well, Jill. And all best with the new book, “100 Perfect Pairings,” which folks can read all about right here: http://www.jillhough.com/whatsnew.htm

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Jill Silverman Hough May 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Aren’t you the best ??? Thank you so much for mentioning my book, Sarah!

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Jennifer Margulis April 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

You are so right — there has never been a better time to write about food, or a more critical one. It’s amazing to see all these professionals come together. And a bit daunting to realize how much talent is out there!

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:46 am

My sentiments exactly, Jennifer.

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Kerry Dexter April 30, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I agree, there never has been a better time to write about food — and for me, that’ll always be connected with music. looking forward to your global food post with that in mind…

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:47 am

Food and music? Tell me more Kerry, I’m curious about the connections you see there.

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Alisa Bowman April 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Isn’t it great the in-between stuff that takes place at conferences. The keynotes and workshops are great. But I’m usually most inspired by meeting the other participants.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:47 am

I know what you mean, Alisa. I felt lucky that I was inspired by folks on all fronts. As we all know, sometimes that doesn’t happen at big conferences likes these.

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