When was the last time you made it through a restaurant meal with friends without someone whipping out a smartphone and snapping pictures to capture the moment for all of internet history? Between Twitter, Facebook, and a myriad of blogs, restaurants are the rock concerts of the modern age, with everyone wanting to cover every moment of the experience.
Recently a collection of food enthusiasts began organizing online in the form of the Minnesota Food Bloggers group. What began as a small gathering on an arctic winter night in St. Paul has expanded to a Facebook group with over 200 members and a website. The group is the brainchild of Stephanie A. Meyer, a writer and photographer for her own site, Fresh Tart.net and Minnesota Monthly's Dara & Co blog.
We caught up with Meyer to find out more about the group.
How did you get into food blogging?
[jump] At the end of 2006, I left my job in fundraising with the goal of pursuing freelance food writing. At about the same time my stepmom Susanna gave me the book Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. I had no idea there was such a thing as food blogging, but it sounded like a fun way to share recipes, mess around. Turns out, it is!
Your website features some beautiful food photography. Were you a photographer before becoming a blogger?
Thank you for the compliment. I've always enjoyed taking photographs, but I've had no formal training as a photographer. Like most food bloggers, I'm learning as I go--asking a lot of questions of my photographer friends Susan Powers, Maud Bryt, and Cory Shubert, picking up classes wherever I can, making hideous mistakes and trying to get better.
How long have you been professionally blogging?
For a year and a half.
What do you enjoy most about the process?
The thing about food blogging is that I love every element of it equally--cooking, photography, writing, networking, eating. I can't believe there's an endeavor that lets me equally express all of my passions. I'm the luckiest girl in the world.
What prompted you to organize on behalf of the Minnesota food bloggers?
I attended a BlogHer Food conference in San Fransisco last year, where I met local bloggers Shaina Olmanson of Food for My Family and Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker. It seemed so crazy to me that I would never have met them here at home. So I chatted with my friend Jill Wilson of 128 Cafe about putting together a blogger networking party. She and chef Ian Pierce were totally on board and we gathered for the first time in February. We had no idea if anyone would be interested--until we had almost 100 people sign up to attend.
What was that first gathering like?
It was an amazing night. All of the food bloggers spend a fair amount of time on Twitter, so we "knew" each other a bit before getting together. People complain about social media taking the place of "real" relationships, but I'm telling you, this group hit the ground running that night because Twitter had paved the way.
How have the gatherings changed since then?
There are several off-shoot groups that get together now, which I love. The men have Big Guys' Nights and the ladies have Girls' Big Nights (note the carefully worded difference--ha!). A group has organized a family potluck for October. Various groups of friends get together at the Food Truck Court on Wednesdays. Birthdays are celebrated. Happy hours pop up all the time. Fast friendships have formed, and it makes me very, very happy.
Who are the MN Food Bloggers?
As a group, including on the Minnesota Food Bloggers Facebook page, I've really endeavored to include not just the people who identify themselves as bloggers but others who interact with bloggers: food industry professionals, growers, publishers, editors, PR firms, restaurant owners, chefs, photographers, food companies. The networking opportunites are endless and have already been mutually beneficial.
Where do you see the group headed?
We started raising money for charity for the first time at our May gathering at Heidi's. We've raised more than $2,000 to date. There are so many exciting possibilities to work on hunger issues, we've really just begun. I also see the group becoming more involved in the local restaurant scene, in support of local food and growers, advocating for cooking at home with fresh ingredients--the issues that we tend to all be passionate about as cooks and bloggers.
Can you tell us about any of the upcoming events?
The next event is a Blogger Potluck on October 2. Beyond that, information is available on the Minnesota Food Bloggers Facebook page, our website--MNFoodBloggers.com and on Twitter @MNFoodBloggers.
Is the group open to new members? What are the requirements to join?
The group is always open to new members! Honestly, the only requirement is being passionate about food--how it's prepared, where it comes from, and where to find the best stuff. We're good that way.
The author is also a member of the group.