SXSW is about Music, Film, and Interactive. So why are there so many panels that center around food? I’d argue that it’s because, more and more, food culture impacts wider culture. Chefs are now celebrities in their own right, and Millennials pride themselves on having been to the new “it” restaurant. Our social feeds are constantly punctuated with photos of avocado toast and check-ins at the food truck du jour. Food isn’t a subculture–it is culture.
The food panels I was fortunate to attend had one common thread: food connects us–just as technology, music, and interactive media connect us. When seen through the lens of human connection, the proliferation of food-related SXSW sessions makes perfect sense.
In the multi-speaker panel “The Future of Food,” Brian Bordainick, CEO and founder of DinnerLab, spoke about the true mission of the multi-city pop-up dinner club: to bring together people from all walks of life around the dinner table. Bordainick believes that “if you like bulgogi, and I like bulgogi, we can make this work.” When you start with a commonality as simple and pure as a shared love for a dish, you can find deeper, more challenging commonalities, too.
But I got most excited about the discussions around where food and interactive really converge: social media.
Chef Jennie Kelley (a fellow MasterChef alum) spoke about Instagram as a “connected table.” By sharing our food experiences with other people, we are symbolically “breaking bread” with people we care about, even if they’re not there to physically commune with us. DinnerLab’s Bordainick, on the other hand, felt that constantly Instagramming one’s dinner can diminish the intimacy of the dining experience, but he acknowledged that if you take an anti-Instagram stance, you’re “on the wrong side of history.”
Regardless of whether you’re pro #foodporn or vehemently against phones at the dinner table, it was clear that the worlds of social media and food have not only collided, they’re inextricably linked. Social media is driving food culture, and vice versa. Perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, SXSW will encompass Tech, Music, Interactive, and Food.
In his panel on music and Millennials, our own Matty B explained the concept of “DIFTI” (“Did It For The Instagram”), meaning that today’s youth are motivated to do and try things–to actually modify their behavior–by the social currency of sharing those experiences. I’ll admit that while in Austin, I “AIFTI” (“Ate It For The Instagram”); but did that make my breakfast tacos any less delicious? Nope. I think it made them taste even better.