The first Bitten Conference, created by marketing hipsters, Naz Riahi and Emily Schildt, took place in New York City last year at Scholastic Magazine headquarters and was a slam-dunk. More than 300 strangers came for a full day of 20-minute presentations showcasing the future of food told by the people who are making it happen. Think TedTalk meets StoryCorps. Dynamic speakers from diverse corners came to share their triumphs -- from rooftop aquaculture, to non-profit partnerships bringing safe water to developing nations, to futuristic ways to grow meat from the guru of 3D bio-printing, to a farmer in Australia solving the world's hunger problem with the cultivation of chia seeds, to the founder of the League of Kitchens (not a bad approach for world peace), to the founders of Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea. The organizers' strategy, and it was a brilliant one, was to introduce the audience to people they were not familiar with and, in the end, "curated" a stellar cast of (mostly young) innovators. I enjoyed every minute of the jam-packed program and filled my own notebook with new ideas and data-driven daydreams.
This year's conference, to be held on Friday, February 12, has thankfully moved to a larger space that is filling up fast. No wonder. More than a food event, Bitten's "conversation" begins with technology and trends (macro and micro), geared to entrepreneurs and sidepreneurs from various industries - from fashion to manufacturing, from agriculture to travel. In one short year, they have attracted hundreds of folks beyond just the food space.
This year's line-up is as impressive as last year's. Maybe more so. "Although California is often considered the epicenter of disruption," according to Naz, Bitten wants to highlight the energy and conductivity of New York's food world, but has also invited a few speakers from elsewhere. There's Claus Meyer, co-founder of the renowned restaurant Noma who will speak about a non-profit bakery he is spearheading in Brownsville, New York; the editors of two new glossy food magazines; Adam Eskin, founder and CEO of Dig Inn "farm-to-counter" restaurants; Andrea Lipps of the Cooper Hewitt Museum, talking about the historical impact of design; Kim Huskey, the food services manager at Google; Niki Russ Federman, 4th generation owner of the Lower East Side's beloved Russ & Daughters; Mitchell Davis, the Executive VP of the Beard Foundation who helped mastermind the Milan Food Expo; and Michael Whiteman, the "dean of restaurant consultants" who will speed-dial 20 trends in 20 minutes.
Naz's and Emily's own story fits right in with the food-as-pop-culture zeitgeist: moxie, entrepreneurship, and risk. They met on Instagram (they liked each other's feed). Naz was living in LA and on a trip to New York, invited Emily to lunch. When Naz came up with the idea to launch a food-centric platform, she asked Emily (who worked for a fast-growing food startup) to work with her instead. Bingo, Bitten was born. As a result of the conference, Naz and Emily have established a marketing firm to help companies redefine or strengthen their brand's potential.
Bitten wants attendees to feel inspired by the beauty, creativity, and innovation in the "food space" and to take a break from the routine and grind of everyday life. "The audience should feel like they have a right to engage in the conversation, to have an opinion, and to stake out their own space in it." Nine hours, 20+ speakers, breakfast, lunch, and all the inspiration you can eat. For more information and tickets: www.thisisbitten.com.
Rozanne Gold is a four-time James Beard award-winning chef and author of Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, Healthy 1-2-3 and Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease.