When Paul Simon sang I'm going to Graceland… in 1986, he likely wasn't thinking of SAVEUR's 2018 Blog Awards—and of the 66 finalists invited to join us in Memphis from all over the world. But we certainly felt like singing as we packed our bags to meet up with some of the most talented seasoned and new names in the food and travel blogger, photographer, and influencer world this November. Bloggers traveled from Germany, Chile, and as far as South Africa, excited to meet and collaborate with their fellow finalists, and eventually, to potentially take home a prize for our Readers' Choice or Editors' Choice Awards.

Our two-day event this year was not just a celebration of talent, but of community, diversity, and reaching out to support one another across the food, restaurant, and travel industries. In partnership with the Memphis Brand Initiative (MBI), we called on guest speakers from renowned writers and TV stars to distillers and restaurateurs to join us in welcoming the nominees to a place that has become one of our favorite food cities in America.

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
The Blog Award nominees became fast friends in Memphis: Jenn Davis, Trang Doan, Astrid Field, Ellen Gray, Jaughna Nielsen-Babbit, and Sarah Fennel enjoy breakfast together in the Peabody Hotel’s grand Venetian Ballroom.Michael Butler Jr.

Friends and guests checked in at the grand Peabody hotel, and that night we all met up at the Old Dominick Distillery, a modern new addition to Memphis' downtown riverfront housed in a historic building, where everyone got acquainted over cocktails. There were delicious wines from Opici, and cheese and charcuterie from our friends at Murray's and Kroger. SAVEUR executive editor Stacy Adimando introduced David French, President and CMO at Memphis Brand Initiative, who reminded us that, no matter where we've traveled from, we're all a part of the Memphis story now. And with that, we headed out to Broad Avenue, in Memphis' historic arts district, for a bar crawl.

WiseAcre Brewing Co. was first on our list, a warm, colorful brewery and tap room where we all knocked back a pint or two before heading to our next stop: the beloved Liquor Store. While Memphis entrepreneur Lisa Toro's bar and diner might sound like a corner liquor mart, inside it's a lively, tropical-themed space serving up comforting treats like Cuban sandwiches, biscuits, and top-notch cocktails. We had a final nightcap in the cozy upstairs bar at Bounty on Broad before making our way back to our beds at the Peabody.

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
SAVEUR senior associate editor Alex Testere moderates a panel with Amanda Frederickson, Kat Gordon, and Stacy Adimando about the challenges of staying true to your creative vision as you develop your voice into a meaningful brand.Michael Butler Jr.

In the morning, mimosas flowed and beignets were fried-to-order as SAVEUR senior associate editor Alex Testere led our first discussion panel in the Peabody's Venetian Room. Recipe developer and influencer Amanda Frederickson, Muddy's Bake Shop owner Kat Gordon, and executive editor Stacy Adimando spoke about the challenges of staying true to your unique vision as you develop your voice into an influential brand. Shortly thereafter, the Peabody Duckmaster made a surprise appearance, and his squad of ducks waddled their way down the red carpet to strut their stuff for us.

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
A detour to locally beloved restaurant Central BBQ for ribs.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Left to right: Soleil Roth of Somewhere Soleil. The Peabody Duckmaster. Mimosa station in the Venetian Ballroom.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
SAVEUR Blog Award nominees were treated to their own private Peabody Duck March.Michael Butler Jr.

For lunch, we visited the historic Four Way restaurant, once a popular gathering spot for the participants of Memphis' famous civil rights protests, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We dined on their famous fried catfish, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, and mac and cheese while SAVEUR senior editor Chris Cohen led our second discussion—about celebrating diversity in the local restaurant scene—with Cynthia Daniels, founder of Memphis' Black Restaurant Week, and Patrice Bates Thompson, owner of the Four Way.

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
At the Four Way, the bloggers made sure to capture a few choice shots of their soul food lunch before digging in.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
The Four Way's classic soul food lunch—fried chicken, okra, greens, fried green tomatoes, and corn bread.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Apple pie for dessert at the Four Way.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
SAVEUR senior editor Chris Cohen moderated a discussion with Cynthia Daniels, founder of Memphis’ Black Restaurant Week, and Patrice Bates Thompson, owner of The Four Way, on celebrating diversity in the local restaurant scene.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Julie Hubert and Ashley Rodriguez of Kitchen Unnecessary.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
At The Church Health Nutrition Hub, bloggers participated in a hands-on food-styling challenge, using Kroger’s generously donated groceries and luxe cookware courtesy of Blog Awards sponsor Le Creuset.Kat Craddock
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Sarah Fennel and Coral Sisk discuss their plan for styling a recipe that will stand out on camera.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Soleil Roth and Kristin Guy buddy up to make the perfect chicken soup.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Inspired by the last night’s bar crawl, bloggers Susan Schwartz and Yulia Dyukova have a shared vision for styling a hangover-healing soup.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Left to right: Julian Ángel of Historias del Ciervo. Bloggers use a selection of props and photographer Michael Butler Jr.’s portable light studio to style and photograph their recipes.Michael Butler Jr.

After a brief refresh back at the Peabody, the time for the awards ceremony had arrived. We all gathered at Clayborn Temple, a famous staging ground for the civil rights movement that's currently being restored into a revitalized community space. On the grand stage, the ceremony kicked off with a private concert from Memphis singer-songwriter Talibah Safiyah, who blew us away with her rich soulful sounds.

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
At Claybourn Temple, Ekundayo Bandele, director of Memphis’s Hattiloo Theatre, mingles with the guests and nominees before the awards ceremony.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Singer-songwriter Talibah Safiyah kicks off the Awards Ceremony.Kat Craddock
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Going native—the SAVEUR edit team is taken in by the sounds and soul of Memphis.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Daryl and Mindi Hirsch of 2FoodTrippers, winners of the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Travel Blog.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Tashauna Caraway from SAVEUR congratulates Maryam Jillani of Pakistan Eats for her Editors’ Choice Award in the Best Food and Culture Category.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Maurizio Leo of The Perfect Loaf and Pat Polowsky of Cheese Science Toolkit celebrate their wins in the Best Single-Interest Blog Award.Michael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
The SAVEUR editorial and events teamsMichael Butler Jr.
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
SAVEUR executive editor Stacy Adimando with Blog Awards panelists, Peter Meehan, Joy Wilson, and Amanda Frederickson.Michael Butler Jr.

One by one, the winners were presented, with the coveted Blog of the Year Award going to The Cinnaman, who video'd in from his home in Dubai to accept the award with a heartfelt message. The reveling continued into the night, and we wrapped up the festivities at Memphis' classic dive bar Ernestine & Hazel's for a few beers and one of their famous, cheesy "Soul Burgers."

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, and sweet potato pancakes for breakfast after the awards.Kat Craddock
2019 Saveur Blog Awards
The bloggers and the SAVEUR team shared one final, celebratory meal together at the Arcade Restaurant.Kat Craddock

Our last day in Memphis began with an epic brunch buffet at The Arcade—grits, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato pancakes, chicken-fried steak, we had it all. While we ate, executive editor Stacy Adimando led our last panel of the trip, a discussion with world-renowned blogger Joy Wilson, of Joy the Baker, and Peter Meehan, L.A Times contributing food writer, co-founder of Lucky Peach, and co-star of Netflix's "Ugly Delicious," about how to potentially expand your writing talents into other goals like TV shows and cookbook deals. After brunch, we were led on an art walk around downtown Memphis, visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and the infamous Lorraine Motel, Memphis art galleries, and public art displays. Our guide, a joyful local named Queen, insisted on giving each of us a hug as she left us, which seemed to perfectly embody the spirit of the city we were in.

2019 Saveur Blog Awards
Bloggers and the SAVEUR team took a guided art history walk through historic Downtown Memphis before parting ways.Kat Craddock

Back at the Peabody, we all said one last goodbye to the ducks swimming around the fountain in the lobby, packed our bags, and departed back to our far-flung hometowns (some of us making at least one last stop for barbecue along the way). While this was the first visit to Memphis for many of us, the city, its soul, and the people who created it had left an indelible impression. We were all Memphians now, too.