It goes without saying that we’d all quite literally die without food, but if you were to ask the founder of Bitten, she’d say “it’s a pillar of pop culture.” Bitten, a conference that involves conversations around the future of food, is where food enthusiasts and professionals alike come together to talk about the fun and innovation that occurs in the industry. The conference is targeted at disrupts the typical food conference by pairing food with art, technology, trends, and more. Founder, Naz Riahi, has managed to reach a massive and relatively unexpected audience — and you know we’re on board with anything that involves food. To help us get a glimpse into what this event is all about, we connected with Riahi to talk about the industry, how to she came up with the Bitten conference, and what she hopes people take away from the event.
Please tell us about yourself and how you came up with Bitten conference.
I’m a writer and filmmaker who worked for many years in the advertising industry. I had all sorts of clients from fashion to tech to food. Over time, I realized food was really the most interesting, innovative space. Not only that, but it was this great unifier because everyone was affected by it in some capacity. But when I would go to food events, I wouldn’t see my peers there. I would only see people who worked in food. Often the same people over and over again. So I wanted to create an event that was engaging enough to attract my peers who were creative and curious and entrepreneurial. So, I paired food with tech, trends, art, creativity, design, innovation and shifted the focus to welcome a broader audience.
Is Bitten just for people who are passionate about food?
No! Food people are welcome and always attend the conference (whether they work in the industry or just love food) but my goal is to encourage an audience outside of food to attend. I believe that sitting in front of our computers, thinking about the same thing day in and day out is really unproductive. I know first hand that I’ve often been most inspired when I’ve stepped away from the daily grind to experience something new and to learn from people I wouldn’t normally come in contact with. That’s often when we have our best ideas. So, Bitten is a conference for everyone, especially creative, curious people who are eager to connect with one another.
Who are some of the speakers that will be attending the conference?
Every year I think it can’t get better than this and yet it somehow does! This year our agenda is mind-blowing. We have Dana Cowin who is an absolute icon in the food world and I’m humbled that she accepted the invitation to speak. We have Nas Jab who is passionately working with refugees in food, the artist Charles Wilkin is going to talk about how his beekeeping hobby became a business in a talk that is mostly about the Poetry of Bees (can you imagine anything more beautiful?), Andy Baraghani of Bon Appetit will talk about connecting with his Iranian heritage through food, Brian Boardanick will talk about the collapse of Dinner Lab and failure, we have a food trends talk, a food design talk and one on launching a food business and so much more!
What do you hope someone to take away from the event?
I hope that they are inspired. That is my biggest goal in curating and producing Bitten. I want my audience to be moved by something they hear. I want them to make a new connection or come up with an idea or to finally launch their own project. I want them to leave so excitedly that they tell their friends and colleagues about the event.
Why do you feel the conversation around food has blown up in this day and age?
I coined the term “food is a pillar of pop culture” because I was acutely aware of this shift in perception as it was happening. We could spend days talking about this but to keep it brief, food is both accessible and aspirational. There is a celebrity element attached to food that was made mainstream by the reality TV. And while the first use of the term “food porn” was in a 1980s feminist text, the use of social (particularly Instagram) brought it to life in a way it hadn’t existed before. Suddenly it became about art and cool and who was where; it’s like the perfect explosion. That, and the fact that we all eat. Today we use food to express ourselves the same way we used to use fashion or music. It’s really fun and wonderful.
How do you hope this conference to grow in the next few years?
I’m eager to grow my brand partnerships and to take Bitten on the road more frequently. We’re also launching a new subscription trend and insight report which I’m BEYOND excited about. It’s going to be very different than everything else out there with a lot of great research and some super special features.
To learn even more about the company, head to thisisbitten.com or follow @thisisbitten and @nazriahi across all channels. If we’ve successfully peaked your interest, get your tickets here and use the code “TTS” for 10% off. See you there!
Written by Hannah Smith
Feature image via Cecille David for Bitten