I have never had a hobby as such and haven’t worn an anorak since I was a child; but since I have been blogging, I have felt the rub of its nylon fibre against my skin on a number of occasions. No more so than when I realised that my attendance at FoodbloggerConnect11, a conference for food blogging which took place last week at the very stylish Hempel Hotel in London, marked the second blogging event I had participated in in the last eight months! I was practically becoming a Treckie!
To people outside the blogging World, the idea of a blogging conference is something of an anomaly, the mention of which is generally met with a certain amount of snickering behind the hand of the unenlightened friend. Blogs and blog-writing, I find especially in Europe, are just not taken very seriously.
Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, who I had already heard speak at foodblogcamp in January in Mexico (have anorak will travel), showed us over the three days, just how serious blogging can be. She has created, in only 4 years, a very strong brand that goes way beyond her blog, and includes recipe developing, a cook book, TV appearances, newspaper columns, radio shows and speaking at conferences. Her story is inspiring and her mantra is that f she can do it, we can too.
Also talking was Tim Hayward, who I enjoy reading in The Guardian and watching his very entertaining and informative videos, my favourite of which is the use of the duck press in a Paris restaurant. Watch it here. He gave us his story of how he went from working in advertising to helping to set up The Guardian’s Word of Mouth Blog and publishing the very popular food subscription magazine Fire and Knives.
As blogging is relatively new, everyone has a story of how they came to it. No-one it seems has yet left school with the intention of becoming a blogger, they all come from having done, or are still doing, something else.
So who and what exactly is a blogger? Fiona Beckett, also a Guardian columnist, filled us in on the differences between a blogger and a journalist. She read out an example of bad writing (thank God it wasn’t mine, how quickly we all revert back to school-day fears) and examples of good blogging (the unfried fried chicken by Christine Chan of The Bountiful Plate). Journalists can often be snotty about bloggers, seeing them as amateurs, who work for free and are bringing down the standards of writing etc. But Fiona showed us that it is possible to do both successfully, as she does herself. I’m sure there are as many journalists out there who might want to get a few hints on how to start a blog as there are bloggers needing to learn how to write a good article!
We were given insights on how to best approach magazine editors (at least get their name right when you email them!) by Alex Mead from Food and Travel, when to pitch and how to best present your story. We learned all about stock photography and how to make money from one’s own photos from Jonnie Léger of StockFood Ltd and how much a simple photo of a trickle of honey can make (wonder if she’s interested in Scottie Dog photos?)
Nando Cuca spoke about the importance of using videos in our blogs and Anjum Anand did a cooking demonstration for us as part of a video workshop. She really is as beautiful and elegant as she looks in her photos and she cooked a delicious starter of courgette carpaccio and chickpeas which showed what an inspiring cook she is (word to PR company, please stop comparing her to Nigella Lawson, it’s put me off in the past!)
For those of us who had signed up in time there was a photo workshop given by Beatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande, sadly I hadn’t, but had a very interesting talk given by Jemma Watts about her experiences working in food photography instead.
We heard the success story of Vanessa Kimbell, who is herself a foodbloggerconnect alumni, and is now a regional food journalist and radio presenter and has just had her first cook book Prepped!: Gorgeous Food without the Slog published, all as a direct follow-up to the success of her blog!
We learned the importance of using social media sites like twitter and facebook to enhance our blogs and partake in the general community of food bloggers.
Throughout the 3 days we enjoyed delicious food prepared by the Hempel Hotel
We also got to taste the many delicious cheeses generously supplied by easy cheesy chèvre, a favourite of mine as goat’s cheese is mainly what we eat in Provence!
At the end of the three days I packed my anorak into my goody bag stuffed with lots of treats including The Kerelan Coconut Curry sauce, developed by Anjum Anand as part of the new Spice Tailor range for Waitrose. I went to stay with my friends Loretta and Steve McNicholas in Brighton for the night before my early morning flight from Gatwick to Marseille and we cooked the curry with some Icelandic line caught haddock loin. It took about 5 minutes to cook and was very delicious. We all agreed that this was fast food worth buying whilst licking up the last of the sauce with our fingers in true Indian style!
Every conference brings something new, and I’m hoping that with implementing what I learned at this one, my blog will be enhanced further for the enjoyment of all my readers.
Please leave a comment.
Links to the event can be found here