2018 AFJ Annual Conference Agenda September 25-30

Host HotelSheraton Grand Phoenix, 340 North 3rd Street, 602-262-2500. Please be sure to book your room through this dedicated AFJ registration site


Tuesday, September 25

1-4 p.m., AFJ Board Meeting, invitation only, Sheraton Grand Phoenix, North Mountain Room.

4:45 p.m. Buses load at Sheraton Grand Phoenix to head to the Musical Instrument Museum

5:30-8 p.m., OPENING RECEPTION at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix, a global treasure featuring an astonishing array of musical instruments, exhibits and galleries. Since the museum opened in 2010 – the largest of its kind – the museum’s restaurant, Café Allegro, has focused on sourcing produce and proteins from the local area. Join the AFJ Board and sponsors Bon Appétit Management Company, the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild and Arizona Vignerons Alliance for a stimulating evening of music, hors d’oeuvres and some of the most exciting beer and wine Arizona has to offer.

8 p.m. Buses load at MIM for return to Sheraton Grand Phoenix

Wednesday, September 26

8-10 a.m., CONFERENCE REGISTRATION, Camelback A room

Registration takes place at the Sheraton on the second floor, Camelback A room. All other AFJ events at the Sheraton take place in the Paradise Valley ballroom, located directly across the hall from Camelback A.


Cutino Sauce Co. creates handmade, small-batch habanero-inspired hot sauces with fresh, natural ingredients. This Gold-level sponsor is providing conference attendees with a luxe breakfast box that guests can enjoy at their leisure after completing registration. Each guest will receive a beautifully designed box that includes a breakfast burrito, a bottle of Cutino sauce to use with it and a small breakfast pastry. Sponsored by Cutino Sauce Co. We ask that you respect hotel policy and enjoy this boxed breakfast outside the public areas of the hotel. Take the treats to your room or dine outside at one of the adjacent green spaces.

Other than registration, all AFJ events at the Sheraton take place in the Paradise Valley ballroom. Registration takes place in Camelback A.

9:00 a.m. Conference Opens Welcome by AFJ president Kathleen Purvis as well as a brief overview of sessions and events from the 2018 conference committee.

9:15-10:15 a.m., PITCH DESK.  Here’s the drill: Practice-pitch your story idea to a diverse panel of editors – from a nationally known digital outlet, a mainstream newspaper and an alternative weekly – and get instant feedback. Pitches will be timed – 90 seconds – and first come, first served, so be ready to step up to the mic. Session open to all paid attendees. Come watch or pitch!

Panelists: Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor, Extra Crispy; Debora Britz, Food and Drink Editor, The Arizona Republic Media Group; Chris Malloy, Food Editor, Phoenix New Times.

10:30-11:15 a.m., KEYNOTE. Kat Kinsman, senior editor of the Meredith Corporation’s all-breakfast site, Extra Crispy, a nationally recognized food writer, speaker and author of the book, Hi! Anxiety: Life with a Bad Case of Nerves. Kinsman is the former editor-at-large and editor-in-chief of Tasting Table, founding editor of CNN's Eatocracy and former editor and writer for CNN Living. A much sought-after speaker, she has her finger on the pulse of today’s fast-moving food writing industry and will share her thoughts on the ever-changing landscape.

12-1:15 p.m., LUNCH AT BITTER & TWISTED, Housed inside the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters at the historic Luhrs Building in downtown Phoenix, Bitter & Twisted is both a stylish eatery and hip drinking space, with innovative bar bites and a world-class, award-winning and globally recognized cocktail program. PLEASE NOTE: Bitter & Twisted is a .5-mile walk (10 minutes) from the Sheraton Grand Phoenix hotel.

1:45-3 p.m., ETHICS IN FOOD WRITING. Our industry is fraught with ethical landmines from how to cover the sexual allegation scandals to knowing when and how to disclose potential conflicts. Join Julia Wallace, Cronkite Professor of Ethics, Hanna Raskin, AFJ Vice President and Chair of AFJ’s Ethics Committee and J.M. Hirsch, long time AP food editor and current editorial director for Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, as they discuss the current landscape and how ethics play an increasingly important role for today’s journalists. Panelists: Hanna Raskin, food editor and chief critic for The Post and Courier and a 2017 James Beard Award-winning author based in Charleston, SC.; J.M. Hirsch, editorial director, Milk Street, and 2018 James Beard Award-winning author; and Julia Wallace, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism Frank Russell Chair, Professor of Ethics.

3-3:30 p.m., BREAK

3:30-4:45 p.m., DIGITAL DARKROOM. Sure, you know how to style your food, you know natural light produces better images, but once you snap the shutter, what comes next? Learn how to get the most of your media on the backend. Learn practical tips and which tools are best for organizing and editing your photos and videos.

Speaker: Dominic Armato, Dining Critic, The Arizona Republic.

4:45-5:45 p.m., BREAK.

5:45 p.m., Buses load for Taste of Phoenix at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix

6:30-8:45 p.m., TASTE OF PHOENIX. The Taste of Phoenix offers a sparkling evening under a canopy of twinkle lights and pecan trees, as the Valley's most talented and beloved chefs bring the best of Arizona cuisine to The Farm at South Mountain. While sipping local beer, wine and spirits, sample bites and stay to chat with local legends like Phoenix's pizzaiolo philosopher, Chris Bianco, and the "veggie whisperer," Charleen Badman of FnB. Try Mexican dishes from chefs like Barrio Cafe's Silvana Salcido Esparza and newcomer Suny Santana of Taco Chelo. Explore indigenous ingredients presented by chef Ryan Swanson of Kai and the fruits of the farm that will host the event, as planted and prepared by Dustin Christofolo of Quiessence. Two generations of Japanese chefs — James Beard Award winner Nobuo Fukuda of Nobuo at Teeter House and Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery — will combine Asian sensibilities with Arizona ingredients. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ will bring his knee-buckling smoked meat to the table. Brash culinary talents like Cullen Campbell of Crudo, Gio Osso of Virtù Honest Craft and Bernie Kantak of The Gladly will sling bold, creative American fare. Helen Yung of Sweet Republic will bring the evening to an appropriately cool and sweet finish. Thanks to our sponsors Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, meet recent winners of the World Beer Cup from McFate Brewing Co, Saddle Mountain Brewing Co and OHSO Brewery. Pro tip: Ditch the heels and wear comfortable shoes as this is a real working farm.

8:45 p.m. Buses load at The Farm for return to Sheraton Grand Phoenix

Thursday, September 27

Morning sessions at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix, Paradise Valley Ballroom; Afternoon sessions at the Heard Museum (transportation from hotel to lunch to Heard provided)

9-10:15 a.m., AFJ ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING (members only)

10:30-11:30 a.m., SECRETS TO COOKBOOK SUCCESS. Whether you land a traditional publishing contract, or go the self-publishing route, the most important task you’ll face isn’t creating the book – it’s selling the book. Our experts will offer insider tips on how to maximize book sales and share marketing tips that translate into even more book sales. This is a must session for anyone thinking of writing a book (including ghost writing with chefs), or anyone who already has a book out or in the works and wants to learn how to make it a sales success.

Panelists: Donna Battle Pierce, moderator; Nancie McDermott, author of Southern Cakes, Southern Pies and eight other books; and Andrea Nguyen, 2018 James Beard Award-winning author of The Pho Cookbook and five other books.

11:45 a.m. Buses load at Sheraton Grand Phoenix to go to Gallo Blanco

12-1 p.m., LUNCH AT GALLO BLANCO. Enjoy lunch at Gallo Blanco, a contemporary Mexican restaurant recently reopened in the humble Garfield neighborhood just east of downtown. Born to a French-Vietnamese mother and an English, French and Jewish father, and raised in Mexico City, chef Douglas Robson brings local and familial influences to bear on casual Mexican fare that emphasizes quality, simplicity and flavor, while bar chef JT Taber slings refreshing cocktails fine-tuned to the waning days of a hot desert summer. Cash bar available for alcoholic beverage purchases.

1:15 p.m. Buses load at Gallo Blanco for two afternoon sessions at Heard Museum

2-3:15 p.m., NATIVE CULTURES and FOODWAYS. Native Americans have called the desert southwest home for millennia. Learn how Indigenous cultures have utilized this unique desert landscape to create diets of sustenance that nurture the body, keep Native communities connected to their cultures and enrich regional and national cuisines.

Panelists: Shaliyah Ben (Navajo), Director of Public Programming, the Heard Museum, Freddie Bitsoie (Diné), Executive Chef at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and Twila Cassadore (San Carlos Apache), traditional foods preservationist and evangelist.

3:15-3:30 p.m., BREAK

3:30-4:15 p.m., INCLUSIVE STORYTELLING. Get practical tips from journalists who excel in reporting voices that might be otherwise marginalized by mainstream media. Identify new methods to seek out and elevate voices from cultures and communities often overlooked.

Panelists: Members of the The Arizona Republic Media Group Diversity Committee; Explore Arizona reporter Weldon Johnson; storytelling team reporter Richard Ruelas; and Diversity & Demographics reporter Maria Polletta. Moderated by Dianna Nanez.

4:30 p.m. Buses load at Heard Museum for return to Sheraton Grand Phoenix

4:45-6 p.m. FREE TIME

6-8 p.m., AFJ ANNUAL AWARDS. Gather at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix Paradise Valley ballroom to celebrate the finest in food journalism, with co-emcees Dominic Armato and Nancy Leson. The evening begins by celebrating Jan Longone, the fifth recipient of the Carol DeMasters Service to Food Journalism Award. Cocktail attire recommended. Light hors d'oeuvres, cash bar. Please feel free to make dinner plans for after the ceremony from the Arizona Republic’s dining critic’s dining guide, available under events at afjonline.com.

Friday, September 28

All Friday sessions will be held at ASU Cronkite School of Journalism in the First Amendment Forum. Please use the main entrance to the Cronkite, located at 555 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix.

8:30-9:30 a.m. FINDING YOUR VOICE – THE CRAFT OF WRITING.  If Ruth Reichl, Michael Twitty and Mayukh Sen wrote a profile of a chef, would their pieces read the same? No. “Voice" is what they use to stand out as writers. Join Dianne Jacob, author, writer and coach, as she discusses first-person journalism. She will offer tangible tips on how to discover and capitalize on your own unique voice.
Speaker: Dianne Jacob, award-winning writer and author of Will Write for Food.

9:45-10:45 a.m., INNOVATION TOOLS. Enjoy a powerful presentation from the Cronkite Innovation Chief, Eric Newton, as he details how modern-day journalism tools were predicted in pop culture and science fiction. How does the past impact the future? Newton explains where we go from here. Don’t miss this.

Speaker: Eric Newton, Innovation Chief, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism.

10:45-11 a.m., BREAK

11-12:15 p.m., EMBRACE SOCIAL: HOW TO MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA WORK FOR YOU. Social media is a huge part of today’s communications. Learn how to harness this technology to better share your stories and reach new audiences. Discover which platform works best for you and — most importantly — how to measure your efforts through various analytics.

Speaker: Jessica Pucci, Ethics and Excellence Professor of Practice, Data Analysis and Audience Engagement, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism.

1-2 p.m., LUNCH at monOrchid:

Friday’s lunch will be hosted at monOrchid, a multi-use venue located in downtown Phoenix Roosevelt Row arts district. Think gallery, studio, venue and co-working space — all rolled up in one distinct setting. The lunch menu is courtesy of Conceptually Social, a staple of downtown Phoenix which prides itself on serving uncommonly good food, all while building meaningful relationships with the community. For a little extra Phoenix flavor, wander over to the adjacent Be Coffee and The Dressing Room. Sponsored by Visit Phoenix. PLEASE NOTE: monOrchid is a .5-mile walk (10 minutes) from the ASU Cronkite School of Journalism.

2-2:30 p.m., CONFERENCE CLOSING at monOrchid. AFJ President Kathleen Purvis will officially wrap up the business side of the conference before the weekend festivities begin.  Hand off of the gavel, introduce new co-directors and executive committee.

2:30-5 p.m., FREE TIME.

5 p.m. Buses load at Sheraton Grand Phoenix to attend Savor Scottsdale at LON’s at the Hermosa Inn

5:30-8:30 p.m., SAVOR SCOTTSDALE: A TASTE OF LOCAL. The same 300+ days of sunshine that heat up Scottsdale’s pool scene bring life to five growing seasons resulting in an abundance of crops. The evening will kick-off with a cocktail hour in the garden showcasing the passionate partners and purveyors that make the Scottsdale area a hot culinary destination. Executive Chef Jeremy Pacheco of LON’s at the Hermosa Inn will take center stage for a seated dinner under the stars where he’ll dig deeply into his roots as a 10th-generation Arizona farmer to craft artful fare featuring the regions local bounty.  Sponsored by Experience Scottsdale.

8:30 p.m. Buses load at The Hermosa Inn for return to Sheraton Grand Phoenix

Saturday September 29

8 a.m. Buses load at Sheraton Grand Phoenix for trip to Tucson

OVERNIGHT ROAD TRIP TO TUCSON! Tucson was the first American city to receive the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designation as a City of Gastronomy. A mere 100 miles south of Phoenix, Tucson is a historic destination making serious waves in the national culinary scene. Yes, they have a vibrant Mexican food scene — as you might suspect from a city 80 miles north of the border — but Tucson's culinary culture runs more deeply, incorporating historic ingredients reflecting the 4,000 years of food production in the area.

Here is your chance to explore Tucson via an overnight trip to the Old Pueblo-turned-culinary destination (participation limited to 30 members).

Your taste of Tucson will be a crash course on why food journalists (and their readers) should care about the city, with stops at a seed bank, a heritage garden/living museum, a single-malt distillery using mesquite to smoke its grain-to-glass product, visits with chefs using the flavors of the Sonoran desert to drive their innovation — and yes, an opportunity to get a Sonoran hot dog, recently named an America's Classic by the James Beard Foundation. Don't worry, you'll get plenty to eat — and write about — on this brief adventure.

Accommodations at the scenic and luxurious Loews Ventana Canyon for a discounted rate of $125 (plus taxes and fees).

Sunday, September 30
Board buses at 9:30 a.m. for the trip back to Sheraton Grand Phoenix. If you prefer to fly out of Tucson, we can arrange transportation  to the Tucson airport instead of returning you to Phoenix. Sponsored by Visit Tucson. PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED.