Surf’s Up, Dude
Dan Malovany, editor

If you look at how an organization markets itself, you can learn a lot about its culture. Take the American Bakers Association. At the International Baking Industry Exposition last month, ABA’s prestigious exhibit represented itself as the representative of the baking industry in Washington, D.C.
Works for me.
Nearby, the gold towers of the booth for BEMA, the baking industry suppliers association, represented the financial support that its members provide the industry.
Again, works for me.
Then you had the American Society of Baking’s beach shack with Thom Kuk, its president, and Tammi Matthias, the association’s operations manager, wearing leis and handing out sunglasses to promote “Surf’s Up! ... Are you Ready?” That’s the theme of the society’s BakingTech 2008, which runs March 2-5 in frigid Chicago.
“The idea behind the theme is if we couldn’t have the conference at some fancy hotel in Hawaii, we’d bring Hawaii to Chicago,” Kuk explains. “In addition to the Hawaiian theme, the ‘Are you Ready?’ theme is a prelude to a rising storm in the industry. Watch out and ‘Expect the Unexpected.’”
That works for me.
Just a few years back, the society seemed mired in its roots, and I mean literally. Its technical conference featured speakers who pretty much read, word for word, research papers that were prepared several months before. You would swear that Truman was president.
Three years ago, under the guise of its program chairman, Kurt Miller, the society reinvented itself, featuring a “Hoops for Harley” and a video introduction to seminars featuring the hip-hop theme of “Who let the bakers out?”
What the ASB told its members then was that being a professional often requires taking your career seriously, but it also means you can mix it up once and awhile. Yes, the ASB is about education, communication and knowledge sharing, but it’s also about networking, collaboration and problem solving. It’s about veterans of the industry taking a leadership role and serving mentors to the next generation of bakers, suppliers or engineers.
In a small way, the ASB column that makes its debut this month is a vehicle to tap into the society’s vast network of experience and spark peer-to-peer discussion on a host of educational or thought-provoking issues. As Kuk puts it, one goal is to ignite dialogue within the snack and baking community about those timely issues impacting individual professionals on a daily or long-term basis. Another may be to take those critical issues that are not being discussed, for one reason or another, and bring them into the public forum.
In the end, the hope also is to expand the society’s membership base and increase participation and membership at its annual conference.
Feel free to contact Kuk at 1-707-935-0103 or via with any comments or feedback, or to propose topics or questions for future columns. Who knows? You might get lucky and get lei-ed at the ASB’s conference next March.