Thursday, May 2, 2013

Second Annual Food Book Fair Kicks Off 4-Day Food Lodestar tonight at Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

It was audacious to produce the Food Book Fair. 
The event spanned four days. It was held at the then netherworld location of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
It’s layers of programs, panels, demos, and discussions were geared for a polyglot of audiences including artists, food lovers, farmers, and publishers. 
And in the parlance of marketing, “If you appeal to everyone, you attract no one. Focus.”

But that’s just the thing.

See, Elizabeth Thacker Jones is a polymath and her very successful Food Book Fair is a polymath venture that, in fact, appeals to a variety of audiences who made last year’s inaugural event such a success that this year’s program is a lodestar.  
Elizabeth Thacker Jones, founder & director, Food Book Fair

Food Book Fair is a prism through which we can view politics, entrepreneurism, food writing, science and culture.
The schedule is a drumbeat that reflects the connection to Food: “Food & Foraging,” “Food + Labor,” “Food + Tech,” “Food + Future + Design” “Food + Literature,” “Food + Conflict,” “Food + Enterprise,” “Food + Art.” You get the idea.

This prismatic approach to the topic of food is part of Jones’ pedigree too.
It’s in her DNA.
Her bio begins with her personal food story: The Food Book Fair project is inspired in part by her great- grandfather, Samuel Milton Jones, who strove to improve conditions for the working class of Toledo, Ohio, opening free kindergartens, building parks, instituting an eight-hour day for workers and reforming the city government. Elizabeth hopes that the Food Book Fair will inspire its own reforms within the local food movement.

I too share somewhat of a family connection. There was that moment at the sink in the Wythe Hotel’s unisex WC last year where I met Elizabeth’s father.  But that’s another story.  However the somewhat flummoxed – and humorous circumstances were readily overcome by pride about his daughter’s opening day success. A magic moment.

Food Book Fair
This is a food-filled adventure that has attracted food thought leaders and their kindred audiences – both the longstanding, loyal ones and the curious. 
The 2013 program is filled with more food events, according to Jones. Ticket sales are up significantly too – approximately 25% -- along with the number of events, with more than 2,000 people coming, although they are planning on double that metric.

In their words, “More than just a book fair, this is a weekend-long whirlwind of panels, lectures, how-to’s, and signings all devoted to the sharing and preparing of the delicious stuff that brings us together.  It’s an annual celebration of cookbooks, memoirs, magazines, science, culture and politics, by the writers, designers, chefs, curators and enthusiasts who inspire us to love and learn more about what we eat.”

I eagerly covered last year’s event. There was a palpable energy of being at the zeitgeist. 
While there might have been some fits and starts given the event’s gestation and casual approach to production, the content and the people was kinetic.
Jones has innate talent to curate an edibley distinctive schedule for a food-loving, food-obsessed cohort.
Her calm demeanor ushered in the next wave of food thought and vocabulary.  She even coined the term “Foodieodicals,” to capture the essence of Indie food zines or periodicals point of view who write about the permutations of food and all that the world’s it touched.
And you know the Wythe Hotel is no longer the netherworld when it lands as front-page news in Today’s Style section of the New York Times.

This Examiner spoke to Elizabeth Thacker Jones about her baby: The Food Book Fair to learn of the possibility of the “Terrible Twos” for the event this year.
But no such thing. Perhaps heightened expectations...

“It’s full steam ahead,” said Jones.  “There’s been no real surprises. We streamlined the process and it’s been wonderful,” she added. 
Asked if Food Book Fair was meeting her expectations, she quickly replied it has far exceeded that – “it is much, much more than what had expected.” 
This is the place to come if you have an interest in the evolution of food publishing.” In addition, she explained, “This the ‘Nerdy’ side of food. The event offers more topics that include the academic, cerebral and artful elements of food.”

It’s the epicenter for macro food issues, yet infused with the micro: the pulsing culinary ascendency that Brooklyn culture claims with its artisanal food makers, restaurants and food growers.

Given feedback from last year and her own keen sense to put her finger on the pulse of all things food, they added more food-focused, hands-on/interactive events and she cited a few examples to highlight:

The runaway success of Deb Perelman’s blog and her cookbook Smitten Kitchen launches tomorrow’s schedule.  She will discuss her passion for cooking and writing. The author will demo her Buttered Popcorn Cookie recipe.  

A Coffee Crawl, Friday at 2 pm is a creative, caffeinated peek into the vibrant neighborhoods that fuels the food creativity.
Merrill Stubbs is part of Friday’s “Food + Tech” and will sign copies of her The Food52 Cookbook: Volume 2.

Saturday highlights include “Food + Modern Farming” with food icons, Marion Nestle, Food Politics and Maria Rodale, Organic Manifesto.

Sunday’s kitchen demo with Hiroki Shinbo, Hiroko’s American Kitchen, at Pure Kitchen.  That day's “Cookbooks + Publishing” panel also features the founder of Williamsburg’s Overly, who are working on their first cookbook, with editors and agents, followed by Shimbo's book signing.

Food Book Fair kicks off tonight with a panel discussion packed with some of my favorite  food and garden friends, including Chef Matthew Weingarten, Executive Chef, Inside St. Bart’s restaurant, NYC, and a featured chef in my Homegrown New York City Cookbook, (Follow-on in the series to The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook) who’s own book Preserving Wild Foods is a beautiful guide filled with recipes for curing, canning, and pickling foraged edibles:

Chef Matthew Weingarten with co-author Raquel Pelzel

And Ellen Zachos, the effervescent, fellow garden enthusiast, garden instructor at The New York Botanical Garden, fellow garden blogger at GardenBytes and DownanDirtyGardening, and a garden book mentor and sherpa. (Is there really just one Ellen Zachos?!)

Her latest book is Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat:

Ellen Zachos

The kickoff panel is also a Tasting Event Fundraiser for the Far Rockaways - so devastated by Superstorm Sandy, specifically to benefit Veggie Island in Rockaway Beach.  Veggie Island was a “community hub for locally grown products and produce.”
Wine will be provided by Brooklyn Winery and beer by Brooklyn Brewery.   

Tonight’s topic focuses on foraging for food and sustainability.

For the full, robust schedule of events, and to purchase tickets, visit the Food Book Fair site:

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