tournament of cookbooks

Last night I attended "The Piglet" which is the annual tournament of cookbooks.  Sixteen of the best cookbooks of 2010 judged by seventeen judges.  The winner goes home with the coveted piglet trophy.  Quite a large trophy that would look pretty sweet sitting in anyones home. 

The first hour was all about cocktails, nibbling the goods provided by some of the best food places in NYC and then of course mingling.  Then the event begins.  A photo slide by put on the NY Times was part of the event.  Considering the topic of the panel that evening was food porn, the photo slide contained a variety of food art from artists such as William Eggleston and even James Casabere.  At the end they showed a promo video that must have been done in the 50's of the perfect housewife in her pink pj's jumping out of bed and putting on a gown to see her brand new state of the art kitchen with every appliance under the sun that was going to change her life and allow her to place tennis more often.  Hilarious on one hand but way too long on the other.  Reminds me that at this point of my life, I too have an Internet attention span.  As my friend put it, if I was watching this online I would have put my browser down already.

Frank Bruni, former food editor of the NY Times moderated the panel of Ben Leventhal of Feast, Frank Falcinelli of Frankies/Prime Meats and Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.  Although the topic was food porn the topic really should have shifted into how the Internet is changing the food industry.  After all, the event is being put on by Food52, two former food writers turned Internet entrepreneurs using the Internet as their platform to connect communities around food. 

Supposedly a very different audience this year from last year.  Why?  More bloggers, more Internet based food companies, etc.  Fantastic to see 16 wonderful cookbooks but are those books going to sell as many as prior top cookbooks over the years when they are not using social media to build a bigger audience?  I doubt it.  The industry is changing like all industries.  Smitten Kitchen is a perfect example of someone who might not have found herself with a cookbook and a place on the panel a few years back.  She created a brand for herself in the confines of her home using the Internet to reach an audience. Not sure where it goes from there as she has not figured out to capitalize on her brand but that is ok, for her it can be a life style brand.  The income she might be able to generate from her site might provide her the ability to just fund her life and that would be a great outcome. 

As food becomes a bigger part of our lives, and it will, the businesses that are created around it will be interesting.  I recently read that food is incredibly important to the Millennium generation.  I asked Merrill from Food52 last night which industry did she find she was spending more of her time these days.  Is she connected to the food industry or the Internet industry?  I asked Emily Olson from Foodzie the same thing.  It is a dog fight and depends on the day but as much as food is their passion and their life, their business is the first thing and it is about using the net as their platform.  Look at Eater which is also connected to Curbed and Racked.  They are reporting on food, real estate and shopping.  They are in each of those worlds but they are also very much in the Internet world. 

Last nights panel missed the boat.  The Internet has taken food as well as food porn to a whole other level and that was the conversation to be had. 

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