The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

by Adam on February 11, 2013

This weekend marked the second annual Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in NYC, three days of programming focused on the past, present and future of cookbooks and recipe content. I was pleased to be able to take part as a co-organizer of the event, focusing on 16 sessions that explored the evolution of digital content, apps, online monetization models and more.

The conference kicked off on Thursday, February 7, with workshops on a variety of subjects. I was involved in the Cookbook Publishing 360 panel from 1-5pm, which took a deep dive into the world of cookbook editorial and marketing. The afternoon was split between those two topics, respectively, with the editorial track led by Dan Rosenberg of Harvard Common Press, with participation from Bonnie Benwick of the Washington Post, Martha Holmberg of The Oregonian and IACP, and Lori Galvin of America’s Test Kitchen. Discussing such topics as what makes a good cookbook proposal, how authors can be found by editors, and what topics are trending in the world of recipes, the panel looked into how cookbooks have typically been approached from editorial perspectives and how that is changing. The panel ended with an interactive portion where audience members were given an opportunity to play acquisitions editor for four separate (fictional) potential book projects.

The marketing track, taking place immediately after editorial, was led by Marika Flatt of PR by the Book, along with Julia Usher, author and home baking expert, Katie Workman who has played both authorship and publisher roles in her cookbook career, and Lee Dean of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The talk of the day was all about platforms, how to build them, how to take them both online and off, while also looking at the positives and negatives of author tours, social media and everything in between.

Friday and Saturday were devoted primarily to niche sessions on things from copyright infringement and enhanced content in cookbooks, to video production and social media best practices. The panel on Future Food was particularly popular as a standing room only crowd listened to Molly O’Neill, Amanda Hesser, Isabel Laessig and Maggie Battista share their stories for how they built thriving online food communities in the face of incredible competition.

The perennially popular Trendspotting in the Food Space panel was also well-attended, with Sara Kate Gillingham Ryan, Terry Newell, Addie Broyles and Joe Yonan sharing their thoughts on what had happened in the past year in food, and what’s to come. Paleo, kale, gluten-free and more shared space on the stage as panelists explored how food sense is changing in the year ahead.

Joe Yonan also won the award for most-tweetable quote when he said “saying you found a recipe on the Internet is like saying you found a recipe on earth.”

I can also say that this was the first conference I had ever helped organize in the midst of one of the worst snowstorms in New England history. Boston was buried under three feet of snow, but NYC’ers, undeterred, were able to make it out in force for the event. Overall, it was a great conference and I’m looking forward to all the connections and collaboration that may come out of it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my fellow co-organizers, Bruce Shaw, Andy Smith, Cathy Kaufman and Anne Mendelson, as well as the Roger Smith Hotel for all of their support and tireless effort in helping us pull off a great conference.

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