Spoon NU got a chance to connect with HQ execs and up-and-coming foodies at the TABASCO® Brand x Spoon Brainfood Conference this past Friday.

The event featured a live stream photography session taught by Victoria Vargas, an interactive Q&A with Joseph Labrador and a “Perfect Bites” cook along with inventive TABASCO® Brand hacks lead by Karen Rosenbloom.

The Northwestern team kicked off the week with a chapter-wide TABASCO® Brand pepper sauce tasting, complete with bucket hats and plenty of spice. Thanks to our TABASCO® Brand sponsors, members were able to sample the entire product line, finding new favorites in the TABASCO® Chipotle Pepper sauce and the TABASCO® Cayenne Garlic flavor.

Our social media team made delicious breakfast burritos and called on students in the dining hall to “Take this bottle and pose” with TABASCO® Brand to get the word out about Brainfood on TikTok.

How to Develop and Write Compelling Recipes

The event opened with words from managing editor and head of Her Campus Media, Izzie Ramirez. Calling in from her home kitchen, Ramirez took Spoonies through the best practices of recipe development and how to elevate their culinary creations.

Ramirez said research is the key to a good recipe. Developing a dish takes time and expertise. Local restaurants, cookbooks and community members are wonderful resources to tap into as a way to better understand the cultural ties and background of  food.

When it comes to experimenting, Ramirez said the more the merrier! She recommends writers recruit friends as taste testers to supply a variety of opinions and plenty of feedback. Both fun and functional (who needs an excuse to eat good food?), it is a great way to get an honest perspective on flavor.

Ramirez shared her own Fire Roasted Salsa recipe inspired by her favorite Tex-Mex restaurant from childhood. 

Telling Your Story Through Photography

With the help of a classic grilled cheese and a bowl of tomato soup, Victoria Vargas emphasized the use of accessible equipment for the perfect photo.

Telling a story through photography only takes a few things: natural light, some service ware and a little garnish!

Vargas said plating is an important aspect of food photography because it is how your dish is presented to the world. Napkins, utensils, cutting boards and other kitchen items on hand can be interesting additions to composition.

Garnishes are a chance for purposeful creativity and a way to make food beautiful. On their soup, Vargas added sour cream and a spoonful of basil pesto for color.

Good photography takes experimentation and finding what works for you. Vargas encouraged content creators to play with their food and try everything from angles to action shots. They said getting to interact with food and those behind delicious dishes is their favorite part of the job.

Joseph Labrador built on earlier conversation during the live Q&A. In response to a question about writing articles on unfamiliar food and cultures, Labrador said it is always best to reference an expert.

When dealing with new culinary terrain, Labrador said it is important to remember the expansive vocabulary that exists beyond “good” or “bad”, “yucky” or “tasty.” A lack of exposure to certain cuisines is not a reason for disrespect.

Labrador said content creators should always go into new experiences with an open mind and focus on flavor elements like sweet, salty, sour and savory to describe their meal.

A big supporter of portrait mode and video when it comes to snapping his creations, Labrador said Spoonies should make use of free photo editing apps like VSCO to play with exposure, color correction, vibrancy and shadows. Video offers the chance to capture movement, action and energy when it comes to cooking.

Labrador said cooks of every caliber need a “poppin” spice cabinet and fresh herbs for garnish. He recommended students have basic baking supplies on hand in case the urge for cookies or quick bread hits.

Perfect Bites, Presented by TABASCO

The day finished with a Karen Rosenbloom’s TABASCO® Sauce cookalong featuring 1-minute, low-stress recipes perfect for a college crowd.

Rosenbloom shared her three favorite recipes, each with a twist featuring different TABASCO® pepper sauces. She started with a spicy French Toast, the batter infused with a few dashes of the brand’s classic sauce. 

For lunch, Rosenbloom made a Chipotle caprese sandwich with prosciutto. From their individual kitchens, Rosenbloom and Ramirez stacked burrata, fresh-sliced tomato, arugula, prosciutto, pesto, extra virgin olive oil and, of course, TABASCO® Chipotle Pepper sauce, on toasted sourdough bread. Rosenbloom said the smoky meat and sauce are a match made in heaven. 

To top things off, Rosenbloom stirred up a non-alcoholic jalapeño margarita using mild TABASCO® Green Jalapeño Sauce. Students get all the flavor of a classic infused syrup in seconds flat without an unnecessary grocery list.

After a virtual cheers, Ramirez wrapped up the event with a reminder of “Never forks!”

Feeling thoroughly spiced, Spoon NU can’t wait to put these tips and tricks into practice and will definitely fry up some French toast at our next Sunday brunch. The Brainfood Conference brought the heat, we’re looking forward to what TABASCO® Brand x Spoon cooks up next.