Scholarship Corner

From: Dame Nancy Lutz & Dame Vanessa Parker McIntyre, Scholarship Committee Co-Chairs

Below is a recap from Crystal Leach, LDEI grant recipient, of her experience at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

IACP 2015 – Conference through the Eyes of a First-time Attendee

I have to admit, I had pretty high expectations heading into my first IACP conference – I’d heard from many of my coworkers and mentors that this was going to be “such a great experience”.  Each time I mentioned that I was attending this years’ conference, I was assured that I would “love it – you’ll learn so much and make so many contacts”.  As the conference approached, I was beginning to worry- could any meeting really live up to all of that hype?  Well, I’m happy to report that it did –as I reflect on all I experienced and learned that jam-packed weekend in DC, I must admit my colleagues were right – it was a truly incredible experience.

One of the things that most impressed me about the conference sessions was the applicability of the topics and content.  My notes are filled with helpful insights and pragmatic tips that I can put into practice immediately.  A few of my favorites include Scott Peacock’s advice on capturing food histories (“Let them fill the space – don’t talk, even if it is uncomfortable…”), Monica Bhide’s detailed checklist for self-publishing a cookbook, and tips for taking professional-looking food photographs with my iPhone. 

As someone relatively new to the culinary world, still working on charting my course, I find it easy to get consumed with the practical aspects of building my career.  Given that tendency, perhaps what I appreciated most about this conference was that it provided insight and learning on multiple levels – from very practical tips and tools for everyday use to larger, more thought-provoking topics.  This was a weekend that spoke to both my head and my heart.

One of the most stimulating experiences of the conference was Friday’s Optional Tour of the Union Kitchen Food Incubator. We spent the morning touring the facility, meeting with the development team who conceived of and built the incubator and interacting directly with the food entreprenuers who are using this unique facility.  This was an in-depth, up-close and personal look at what it takes to start a new food business and how to build a community that supports this type of grass-roots economic growth.  The sign that greets you as you walk in the lobby represents the spirit and ethic of this unique community…Create. Contribute. Prosper.

In Saturday’s session on “Leveraging Your Voice and Brand for Social Good” I was reminded that “it’s possible to make both meaning and money”.  The discussion by Food Network and Share Our Strength staff members provided insight, encouragement and contacts I can apply to my current efforts at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. And, finally, on a personal level, it was a truly uplifting experience to witness Jacques Pepin Skype into the conference to celebrate his 80th birthday with the crowd, only 2 days after having a minor stroke.

I am grateful for the LDEI grant funding that supported my attendance at the 2015 IACP Conference.  As predicted – I did love it, I learned a great deal and I made many valuable contacts.  I’m confident I will be able to leverage all of these experiences in the coming months and years.