Food For Thought: Brainfood 2017

Photo courtesy of Tracy Wong

This week, I questioned the limitations of Cuisine Corner. Why am I limited to restaurants? Why not maximize the amount of food and experience I get by going to… A FOOD CONVENTION! I had never been to one, but isn’t it every foodie’s dream? Think the sample section at Costco, times ten. A convention center full of people also taking 209382 photos of their food, looking for that perfect angle or lighting. So this week, despite slight concern from the Stute e-board, I decided to spend my allowance on a ticket to Spoon University’s fourth annual Brainfood Convention in Brooklyn. Shout-out to my Cuisine Corner counterpart and mentor Marko for encouraging me to do this!

The trip to Brooklyn honestly wasn’t terrible. I hopped onto the PATH, transferred at the 14th street station to get on the L train to Brooklyn, and then walked 15 minutes to the convention center. On the way, was another famous foodie checkpoint, Smorgasburg at Williamsburg Park, at which I took a quick detour at.

Upon arriving at the convention center, I waited in line for about half an hour until the doors opened just a few minutes later than 12pm. My first impression of the convention area was that it seemed really small. However,  later on, I would feel that Spoon actually made a good use of the space. There were two areas for speakers, a main stage and a side stage, which was more closed off. In the middle were vendors, and towards the side was the networking area. There was also a photo booth room set-up with food themed backgrounds and photo machines to take cute pictures with your friends. There were some sitting areas here and there, but less than I expected. Interestingly enough, this was not an issue, probably because most people were at the vendor sections standing in line.

The event’s opening speech was given by none other than THE Alton Brown from Good Eats and Iron Chef on Food Network. As you’d expect, he was an engaging and enthusiastic speaker. However, the content of his talk itself was kind of unexpected. He started off discussing the history of food media, citing magazines to be the first form to really start the trend of viewing recipes and images of food purely for entertainment. Then, magazines would lead to the creation of cooking shows and eventually photo sharing social media platforms such as Instagram. He went on to make the point that the meaning of food is lost because our generation’s first instinct is to get the perfect pictures before the first bite. He emphasized his dislike of foodie culture on Instagram—surprising coming from a food media star. He requested every food blogger listening to do some “homework” and eat a single meal without using their phone. Ballsy introduction speech for an event targeting young food fans.

After the opening speech was over, I headed over to the vendor booths. There were so about three rows of vendors promoting a variety of products. There was everything from protein drinks to toasted marshmallows! But there were a few brands that stood out to me. One of the first things I tried was Hampton Creek’s edible garden. First, I want to note that visually, their booth was eye-catching and very representative of their brand and product. Healthy, natural, and real. But was it tasty? Yes! The chef gave me a pot and in it was “soil” made of dried mushroom and quinoa, a mini turnip and spicy mayo sauce. Not a big fan of turnips, I was scared I’d spit it out so I walked away before I took a bite. But to my surprise, IT WAS YUMMY!

Next, was John’s Juice. They were giving fruit juice in fruit—just like on Instagram! I had just seen their booth at Smorgasburg, selling these for about $10 (depending on the fruit). We had the choice of pineapple, dragon fruit, orange, coconut or watermelon; all we had to do was like their Facebook or Instagram page—smart marketing! Lastly, one of my most unexpected finds. It was not the soup cubes, not the cookie dough, not even the ramen—although that was also really good! It was YOGURT! Noosa, a brand I later found out was from Australia, was giving out full-sized yogurt samples. I wasn’t a huge yogurt fan, but I mean I HAD to take one. I sat down and tried it during one of the talks, and to my surprise, it was the best yogurt I had ever tasted! I tried the “coconut almond chocolate” flavor. I tasted the yogurt first, it was a thick and creamy Greek yogurt with coconut shavings blended in it. On the top of the cap were the toppings, a blend of chocolate, coconut and almond pieces. When combined, the mix made a lot of sense. Crunchy, creamy, sweet, delicious.

In addition to speakers and booths, the convention also had a mini career fair where companies like Food Network and Whole Foods had representatives present to discuss job opportunities and internships. Spoon representatives had emphasized it was added due to popular demand by last year’s attendees, and it was great to see it brought to the convention this year. Spoon University (the organization that ran Brainfood) really did a great job of bringing in vendors and activities that specifically catered towards their attendees.

All in all, I could have honestly stayed there for a couple more hours. It was a bit disappointing to see booths packing up early at around 5:30 pm, but it definitely was a long day. The activities that were planned out were well suited for the age group in attendance. It was great to have tried so many new and different brands, and to have gained knowledge and advice about jobs and internships food media industry. I never thought I’d be writing a food column in college, and a lot of panelists who have built their successful careers in food expressed they started the same way. Something that, “In a time where there is so much divide and disagreement, [is] one of the common things that bring people together.”

Pro Tip: Go to a Food Convention!!! You might eat something you never thought you’d like… or try a brand that you would never be able to afford to eat regularly. And at least for Brainfood, there were a bunch of promo codes so that you don’t have to pay full price.

Price: $$

Location:  2.5/5 stars

Service Rating: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

I’m really glad I decided to go! It wasn’t too big or overwhelming, but I didn’t feel like I ran out of things to do in the five and a half hours that I was there. Although I  don’t have anything to compare it to, I thought Brainfood was a great event and I’ll definitely be ready to buy tickets for it again next year!