Craft foods calling: nationwide schools, seminars and workshops teach you how to launch your own business

Most children don’t dream of selling cheese or hacking apart animal carcasses when they grow up, but it’s a popular fantasy for many adults. Like most romantic-sounding culinary vocations, making craft foods and beverages can be hard work, and a risky business enterprise. “No matter how passionate someone is about their product,” says Heidi Yorkshire, founder of Portland, Oregon’s Food by Hand Seminars, “without business skills, they’ll never survive.”

Yorkshire, a small business consultant and former food and wine writer, was inspired to launch Food by Hand in 2009 because she saw a niche. “Our courses are mini-apprenticeships in running a sustainable business.” Past curricula have included butchery and craft distilling.

Food by Hand offers two-to-three-day intensives that teach the “craft and business of artisan food.” While the courses are designed for prospective business owners, they’re open to anyone wanting to know more about handcrafted foods.

[Photo credit: Flickr user mystuart]Food by Hand has an artisan cheese program that teaches everything from tasting, buying, storage and shop design to creating a business plan. The course is led by esteemed Portland cheesemonger Steve Jones, the son of a Maytag Dairy herdsman. Additional instructors include an expert on business planning and a tax specialist.

Jones has been in the business for over 17 years and is now on his second retail cheese venture, Portland’s Cheese Bar. He’s an industry badass and the winner of the 2011 Cheesemonger Invitational (yes, it really does exist and let me tell you, as a cheesemonger, it’s a pretty intense occupation and competition).

Food by Hand’s fourth annual seminar on The Craft and Business of Retailing Artisan Cheese will be held in Portland from May 30-June 2, 2012, and costs $1,795 per person; a $1,595 early enrollment tuition fee is available if paid in full by April 1. Click here for details on how to register.

In Spokane, Washington, Dry Fly Distilling’s aptly named Distilling School teaches their “farm to bottle” ethos (they use only locally, sustainably-grown raw ingredients in their vodka, gin, bourbon and whiskey) in two-day and one-week courses designed to “provide a variety of hands-on training opportunities to aspiring distillers.”

Opening in Oakland’s Jack London Square in April is the Food Craft Institute. Supported by sponsors and partnerships with some of the Bay Area’s most renowned artisan food organizations, farmers and food artisans (some of whom are also the instructors) the new school aims to “reinvigorate the creation and success of artisan food craft business in the U.S. through a combination of…training courses steeped in technical techniques along with a rigorous entrepreneurship program.”

It’s easy to poke fun at the overuse of words like “artisan” and “handcrafted,” and even I cringe when I hear naifs dreamily speak of quitting their six-figure tech jobs and buying a goat dairy. The reality is that unless you put in the hard time doing internships and learning the business end of things — and that’s assuming you have real, honest-to-god talent and passion — you’re not going to succeed at any food business. Having seed money or disposable income doesn’t equal good product.

On the positive side, my former employer, a Seattle cheesemonger, did her homework and spent two years interning, developing a business plan and taking Jones’ workshop as well as making him her mentor. Her business has been a success from day one. If you’re serious about getting (food) crafty, you can run a viable business. Just don’t think it’s going to be easy.

and incubator kitchens such as San Francisco’s La Cocina have helped many craft food businesses get off the ground. If you’re considering a career in this industry, I highly recommend these and similar programs as resources. And don’t forget: craft foods make excellent travel souvenirs.

[Photo credit: lamb, Laurel Miller; cheese, Flicker user Mitchmaitree]

Why start a craft food business? Because you “can pickle that.”

Video: Disneyland 1957

This footage of Disneyland 1957 was previously unreleased until recently. The film was cleaned up, edited, and paired with music, but all of the images are original. In 1957, the Disneyland park in Anaheim, California wasn’t even yet two years old. The park opened in July of 1955. The best part about this footage is that it is actually good! The editing and overall cleanup job helps, of course, but the original filmmaker did a respectable job at capturing various aspects of the park and the young Disneyland experience.

Photo of the day: Disney silhouette

Images of Disneyworld fall into two categories: personal snaps and images that look like they could be used as marketing collateral. I love this image of the Magic Kingdom’s iconic Cinderella Castle towers, taken by Flickr user insEyedout, precisely because it falls into neither camp. It’s too pretty to count as a random snap and too sparse to go in a brochure.

That said, it certainly achieves the aim of advertisement. What better way to encapsulate the deep thrill that Disney’s amusements inspire than to reduce those towers to a silhouette on a horizon? How recognizable is this image to hundreds of millions of people?

Upload your photos of Orlando (and Las Vegas, while you’re at it) to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Our favorite images are chosen as Photos of the Day.

Whistler: On the inside looking out

We’ve all heard it before. Spoken in commercials, printed in brochures and even told to us by friends when describing a place: “There’s something for everyone.” Sure, many places live up to that incredibly broad statement. Certainly diverse cities like New York, Barcelona and Tokyo truly do have something for every type of person and traveler. However, some places fill very specific niches. They specialize and their offerings to tourists reflect that. What happens, however, when you end up in a place that wasn’t really intended for someone like you? That’s what I experienced when I was a square peg in Whistler’s round hole.

%Gallery-131623%Whistler, British Columbia is undoubtedly an adventure playland. Its natural wonders are spectacularly and certainly make it a worthwhile destination for action sports enthusiasts. It’s famous for its ski and snowboard trails and is one of the most popular locations in the world for mountain bikers. For casual travelers, however, Whistler doesn’t really seem to offer much.

Almost everything about Whistler looks new. This is not surprising, considering that most of the buildings are, in fact, new, relatively speaking. Most of Whistler’s development has occurred in the last 30 years or so. While that has created an excellent example of urban planning with an pedestrian friendly, no-cars-allowed village, it has also left it lacks personality. The true beauty and spirit of Whistler can be found on the mountains and on the trails meandering through the foothills. That’s where Whistler shines and where it defines itself.

My attention was constantly drawn back to the mountains. There’s brilliance all around Whistler and activity surrounds the village on all sides as people attack challenging bike trails, hop onto the gondolas and share tales of epic snowboard runs during the winter. In the heart of the village, however, I felt a void, as if all the energy had flowed into the landscape around it.

Meandering around the village, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was in a Disney replica of ski resort town with a series is strip malls featuring souvenir shops and rather generic-looking restaurants.

Ironically, what I wanted to find in Whistler I found instead just outside of the village, where I came across a skatepark riddled with graffiti and a beautiful mural painted under a bridge. It was here that the town of Whistler felt lived-in. Otherwise, the real action is on the mountains.

That’s not to say that nothing for tourists exists in the town. History seekers will enjoy a few hours at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which hosts a collection artifacts from local First Nations Peoples and does an admirable job of telling the story of British Columbia before colonial settlement. There are also plenty of places to spend your money and fill your belly. The village is not lacking for retail.

After a single day, however, I was left shrugging my shoulders and looking wistfully at the mountains, wondering what my impressions of this place would be if I was the kind of person who enjoyed hurtling down hills at breakneck speeds. Instead, my feet remained planted firmly on level ground.

The people are friendly in Whistler and the food and beer taste pure. But what defines Whistler is its geography, topography and the infrastructure that has been built to serve people who have come to enjoy the landscape. If you’re not going to venture into those mountain trails and just happen to be passing through British Columbia on a trip to the Pacific Northwest, Whistler might flummox you as it did me.

This trip was sponsored by Tourism British Columbia and Tourism Whistler. However, my opinions are my own and sometimes I’m just a square peg.

Disneyland in Sand: The Blankenberge Sand Sculpture Festival

If you’re traveling near Brugge, Belgium, over the next two weeks, you might be wondering if you took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the outskirts of Paris. No worries – your GPS is not broken – you’ve just stumbled upon the annual Blankenberge Sand Sculpture festival. This year’s theme happens to be the recreation of the Disneyland Paris Resort, based on the Magical Moments Festival currently underway.

Drawing a team of nearly 40 of the most talented artists in the world, Blankenberge’s Sand Sculpture Festival is a world-renowned event that continues to grow each year. In 2010, it set the world record for the longest sculpture promenade at 841.80 meters – more than a two hour walk!

While past festival themes have taken inspiration from Disney elements, the recreation of an entire Disney theme park in 125 sand sculptures is a first.

Enter the first festival tent and find yourself in the middle of Disneyland Paris’ Main Street, U.S.A. Intricate details and elements are vividly captured in each of the sculptures, helping to bring that special Disney magic to life.

As you wind through the tent, the sculptures seemingly get more detailed and larger than life as you now find yourself in Fantasyland with iconic Disney attractions, like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Casey Jr. Train.

Much like each of the Disney Theme Parks, the central focal point is the iconic princess castle. The tallest and most elaborate sculpture in the initial display tent is undoubtedly Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which is flanked by many legendary and modern day Disney princesses.

While most people stopped to admire the castle for what seemed like hours, I found myself drawn to the labyrinth that was just ahead. Next to the 3-D experience of watching Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie – or perhaps a visit to an Amsterdam coffee shop – this is probably the closest any of us will get to “being” Alice.

%Gallery-132752%Nearly one-third of the first tent was devoted to Alice and her labyrinth. Each turn presented a sensory overload with walls of sculptures and iconic Alice in Wonderland characters. Pose by the Cheshire Cat, have tea with the Mad Hatter, or take a toke with Absolem the Blue Caterpillar

In what has been a seemingly wet summer for parts of Europe, the outdoor sculptures have fared surprisingly well. Here you can walk around many iconic Disney “E-Ticket” attractions including Big Thunder Railroad, Space Mountain, Hollywood Tower of Terror, and my personal favorite – Phantom Manor – Disneyland Paris’ version of the Haunted Mansion. Complete with the cemetery, a visit on a stormy day is definitely a great way to get in the Halloween spirit now!

Another tent includes an ode to Disney movies and everyone’s favorite pirate – Jack Sparrow. A mix between notable Pirates of the Caribbean attraction elements and the movie characters, this is a definite festival highlight for many Disney fans.

Sadly, it seems the pirates in the jail scene might’ve had their sentence lengthened since the dog’s key didn’t survive the duration of the festival. You’d almost have to assume since they’ve been trying to bribe the dog since 1967, one more year won’t make that much of a difference.

Other Disney classics include characters from Peter Pan, The Lion King, and even The Jungle Book. And it wouldn’t be a complete recreation of Disneyland Paris without the one-year-old Toy Story Playland and Disney-Pixar characters, showcased in the third and final tent.

Despite Disney fans’ divided opinions on the land as a whole, you can’t help but love the artists’ whimsical recreations of Toy Story Playland elements, including the entrance marquee. Represented Pixar movies include Wall-E, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, and Cars 2.

If you are interested in visiting the Blankenberge Sand Sculpture Festival this year, you better hurry as the Disney magic ends on September 12. The festival is open 10am – 7pm daily and prices are €11 for adults, €9 for students and 60+, €7 for children between 4-12 years old, and children under 3 are free.

Don’t despair just yet if you didn’t make this year’s Disneyland themed festival. There’s a chance you might be able to see something similar at one of the Disney Theme Parks in the future. While nothing is official yet, has reported that representatives from Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World held talks to discuss the potential of building sand sculptures in both theme parks. With Walt Disney World’s 40th anniversary right around the corner on October 1st, and Disneyland Paris approaching its 20th anniversary next year, anything is possible with a little pixie dust.