Last night, I attended the first Foodportunity event in Portland at the Heathman Hotel. Billed as a networking party for chefs, food journalists, PR types and anyone else associated with the food industry, the event was very well attended. Food samples were provided by great restaurants like Beaker & Flask (ok, I’m just a bit biased on that one but Benny’s food rocks), Metrovino (tied with Lincoln for my favorite restaurant in Portland), Nostrana, Ten01, Gilt Club, Clarklewis and some other spots. Most of the food samples were quite good although there was one restaurant (not one of the ones above) that was clearly in over its head in trying to compete with Portland’s heavy hitters with quality and technique.
Two of my favorite discoveries of the night were Confectionary as well as Runa, an Amazonian tisane that energized me throughout the night. Confectionery put out wonderful samples of macarons and caramels for the crowd to enjoy. My two favorites were the rosemary and sea salt caramels and the Makers Mark macarons that ran out very quickly once word got out how good they were.
As for networking, I did meet a lot of PR people, some who will be great to work with in the future and a ton of bloggers. I’m pretty sure I spotted Roger Porter in the crowd talking to Michael Zusman. I talked briefly with Kim from Culinate.com, and Byron Beck was clearly making the rounds. Paul Paz from Waiters World was in attendance, and if you haven’t met or talked to Paul, you are missing out. As for chefs, a couple were making appearances at the event, and some others were behind their respective tables but I honestly didn’t see any chefs that I knew using the event for networking. That is to be expected though, most chefs are in the public eye so much that they relish their privacy.
I didn’t stick around for the speed networking session to end the evening. I guess it would remind me too much of speed dating, and, lets be honest, if I want to meet someone, I’m just going to walk right up and stick out my hand and say hi. That said, I do think it probably had some real value to the people who participated. Its definitely a way to make some quick introductions and exchange business cards with a lot of people in a short time.
So the question remains, was Foodportunity a good networking event? I’d say it was. It was fairly priced, had a number of writers, bloggers and PR people as well as some restaurant people in attendance. Would you be able to find a restaurant job through this event? Probably not. Could you find more exposure for brands, writing opportunities or industry information from this event? Definitely. I’m glad Foodportunity came to Portland and I think it meets a real need in the food community here. I’m looking forward to future Foodportunity events in the area and I’m curious to watch this event grow and evolve.