Sugar and Spice Summit Preview
By Audrey Valbuena
Last year, Scene+Heard had the chance to attend the very first Sugar and Spice Summit, an event dedicated to celebrating and inspiring “the feminist foodie movement,” as founder and NU alumni Lauren Goldstein likes to say. She started the event while still studying at Northwestern, but has since gone on to pursue a career in the food space. This Saturday, April 28, she’s bringing back the Sugar and Spice Summit, in a much bigger and better way than before.
Scene + Heard had the opportunity to sit down with Goldstein and explore what’s new, what she’s excited for, and what we should be looking forward to at this year's Summit.
* This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
S+H: So what are you excited for this year?
LG: One of the things that I’m most excited about is that Kerry Diamond is the keynote speaker. Kerry Diamond is the co-founder of Cherry Bombe magazine and the host of Radio Cherry Bombe, which is their podcast and radio show. She’s been a role model of mine for many years. If you’ve never heard of it, Cherry Bombe is a magazine that celebrates and champions women in the food industry so everything they write about is women in the food industry. When I found out about Cherry Bombe a couple of years ago I just grew to admire Kerry so much because anyone who would create a magazine with that goal is just a hero in my eyes. To leave your full time job and start a biannual beautiful print magazine – that’s a huge risk. Long story short: Kerry is keynoting Sugar and Spice and I’m so excited for her to share her story with Sugar and Spice attendees and talk about all the contributions that she’s made to this feminist foodie revolution.
S+H: So you had a chance to work with Cherry Bombe, correct?
LG: Yes. I recently worked on Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee, which is a conference they have twice a year. One thing that really impressed me about Jubilee is that so many people come to the event alone and really use it as a networking opportunity with other attendees at the event, as opposed to only seeing it as an opportunity to learn from the speakers. I was really inspired by that, and it’s something that I want to definitely try to emulate for Sugar and Spice this year.
S+H: How is this year different from last year’s Summit?
LG: It is bigger and better. Last year, it was in Harris Hall at Northwestern, which is the History Department building – it was literally in a lecture hall. In terms of aesthetics, it’s going to be so beautiful this year. The venue is Savage Smyth, which is this really beautiful sort of raw, industrial loft, but the awesome part about it is that it’s pre-furnished. The team behind Savage Smith – which is a woman-owned space – they’re really passionate about interior design. It’s a raw space, but it has touches that make it feel finished. It’s in Old Town, so we’re doing it downtown this year, which is to sort of tap into the young professional market, in addition to the college student demographic. I was realizing last year that there were so many people who had recently graduated from school who came up to Evanston to attend the event, so I was like “Ok, well, I’m going to bring it downtown for a more central place.” It’s also bigger. Last year there were 175 people; this year there’s room for 300. Yeah, the venue is just so beautiful. It’s on the fourth floor of this space in Old Town with huge windows, there’s a view of the city, we have access to a rooftop. I’m crossing my fingers that the Chicago spring doesn’t ruin the day.
S+H: Were you happy with how last year’s event turned out?
LG: Yes, I was so happy when it was over. I felt like I had birthed this creature into the world. It was like I just need to do it bigger and better next year. One thing that really just made it, in addition to the fact that I was just thrilled with how it turned out – one thing that made me feel like this was a really worthwhile thing to pour my blood, sweat and tears into, was when I started getting messages the day after the event from people from Northwestern, Loyola University of Chicago, people from UChicago, DePaul, people who I did not know personally reaching out to me saying “Yesterday was one of the best days of my life, I’m so glad you did this. You have to do this next year.” The people who this event was meant for got out of it what I wanted them to get out of it, and so I have to keep doing this.
S+H: What sort of new things can we expect at this year’s Summit?
LG: Last year, for part of the event, we had two panels going on at the same time. I decided not to go in that direction this year. I decided to just have more people on each panel, and fewer panels. So this year each panel has three speakers and one moderator. One thing I’m also adding at the end is called the Ice Cream Social; it’s basically a dessert party at the end of the event. A lot of the panels will have a happy hour at the end, but there are so many underage people, and also, I care so much more about dessert than I care about alcohol, so I decided to have a massive dessert party for the last hour of the event to really let attendees meet each other and have the opportunity to connect with one another, in that spirit of using this event as a way to build community between these generations of women in food.
S+H: What topics can we expect to hear about in the panels?
LG: So there is Kerry’s talk, and then there are four panels. One of the panels is called “So You Want To Be Your Own Boss?” and that is the entrepreneurship panel. I got a ton of feedback last year that people love the entrepreneur stories, and they wanted to hear more of that. Then the next panel is called “The Politics of the Kitchen,” and that basically discusses how up-and-coming chefs are incorporating activism and politics and community-building within their restaurants, in addition to their cooking and their service. So the women on this panel are interested in the social impact food is able to have. The next panel is “Combatting the Mindless Scroll,” which is, you know, how do you create content that stands out in today’s media landscape. And the last panel is called “Do You Follow?” and it’s focusing on the topic of social media and influencers and how they have flipped PR and marketing tactics on their heads, how brands are adapting.
S+H: There’s a large range in the panels there. Who are you hoping will come?
LG: The sort of person that I think, that I hope, would be interested in buying a ticket to Sugar and Spice is a woman in college – or a man in college, it’s open to all ages and genders – and even someone who already has a job but maybe isn’t happy with it. Basically, the kind of person who loves food, is passionate about wellness and entrepreneurship but doesn’t really know how to translate that into a career and doesn’t really know what you can do with a love of food other than being a chef. I noticed a lot of people in my social circle care about food and wellness and entrepreneurship, but they’re not interested in being chefs. Maybe they’re really passionate about business, but their personal interest is in food, and they don’t really realize that they can take that business path within the food world. Or maybe someone in Medill at Northwestern who is interested in PR, but doesn’t know how to get into food PR, or doesn’t know that there is a path they can take with their love of PR and food. When I was putting together these panels I was thinking a lot about visibility and how you don’t know that a career is a possibility until you see someone doing it or someone successful and fulfilled doing whatever the thing is, so that was the goal in having the panels be so diverse; it was like “I can come to this event and I can learn about entirely different career paths.”
This year’s Summit is sure to be a ~sweet~ event. Speakers like Amanda Saab, Christine Cikoski, Stephanie Dietz, Nicole Pederson, Chrishon Lampley, and Lindzi Shanks (among so many more!) will be ready to share their stories and wisdom from their time in the food space.
Tickets are on sale here, priced at $20 for students. If you’d like to follow or post about the event, use the hashtag #SugarandSpiceSummit. This Saturday, find a little bit of sugar, a little bit of spice, and, most of all, a vibrant and supportive community of feminist foodies that will to leave you feeling invigorated and inspired. And probably a little bit hungry, too.