Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Decompressing from ACS
It is really difficult to put into words the experience I had at ACS last week. My head is still reeling a little from all of the amazing people I met, the bounty of great information I absorbed, not to mention the nights of plentiful cheese and beers with new friends and colleagues.
In a nutshell, making the decision to go to this conference was one of the best I've made yet. I know now that this yearly excursion will be one that I always make the time and money for, no doubt about it. During the Becoming a Cheesemonger seminar back in June, I remember Steve Jones saying that every year he agonizes over the cost of going, and by the time he's on his flight home, he wonders how he ever could have questioned the choice to do so. I can't agree enough; by the time I was making my trek back to Seattle a few days ago, I was so full of cheese love that I couldn't stop from smiling to myself.
Seminars I attended were all good, ranging from those that confirmed a lot of the ideas I already had, to those that opened my eyes to so many new possibilities for this venture. Notably, Ari Weizenberg of Zingerman's gave a rousing talk of customer service and the incredibly important role it plays in anything food related. The Affinage seminar was affing-awesome, especially getting to hear Mateo Keleher of Jasper Hill's Farm, and of course the Cellars at Jasper Hill, talk about the great undertaking of creating a state-of-the-art cheese cellar in Vermont. Grassroots Marketing was a huge highlight; Jeanne Carpenter of Cheese Underground and Ken Monteleone of Fromagination were both refreshingly progressive voices of the Wisconsin movement towards Artisan cheese culture (which in my mind is automatically inclusive of Grassroots marketing). There were many more but I can't possibly wax even the slightest bit poetic on each one or you'll be reading this post for the next hour.
Each session I attended left me more elated and jazzed, and the momentum was simply contagious. After a few days everyone seemed to feel more comfortable, conversations started quickly and organically with just about everyone I literally bumped into as we rushed around to attend to our various commitments. I did sort of find "my people" within a very small but motley crew of other hopeful cheesemongers, and we had a great time reconnecting for post-conference beers in the Texas heat, sharing what we'd gathered from our experiences of the day. One of the best things about a conference centered on your passion is meeting the many people who are right there with you. Bonding through sharing experiences, thoughts, reflections, and naturally a lot of alcohol (we are all on a tad bit of vacation after all!) is just as important and worthwhile as the formal education of seminars led by the professionals in the field.
I am eagerly awaiting next year's ACS conference, which will take place here in lovely Seattle. I am in the process of figuring out how my presence can and will be an instrumental part of this yearly gathering of cheese fiends. Naturally, you will all be privy to that as is comes to fruition.