Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Food blogger connect: The highlights

A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend hanging out with 100ish other food bloggers from around the world at foodie conference Food Blogger Connect (at the Battersea Arts Centre). The event has been running for five years now, but this was my first visit - and having had such an inspiring experience I think I'll be a regular attendee for many years to come.

The weekend was packed full of motivating talks given by seasoned foodie bloggers and industry experts, excellent food (of course) and networking with some of the loveliest bloggers I've ever met. I won't cover it all here (or you'll be reading for hours), but these were a few of the memorable highlights for me.

The weekend kicked off with a street market meet, greet & mingle. Being vegetarian my options were a little limited here - but I did try some of the most amazing asparagus and pearl barley sushi and mushroom dumpling by Dorsi Sushi - a company specialising in the re-imagining of East Asian cuisine. It was a real Asia-meets-West-Dorset blend, with the rich flavours of traditional British cooking exotically packaged.

The afternoon's talks opened with the captivating David Lebovitz, the pastry chef and recipe book author heralded by many as the original foodie blogger (he started blogging way back in 1999). David's talk focussed on the changing nature of blogging; witty and insightful he stressed the importance of imperfection, including the personal when you blog (within reason, of course) and the significance of the audience's understanding of the person and process behind the words they're reading.

When he came to the subject of personal development (whether you should edit old blog posts to improve them) and un-constructive negative comments being left on a blog, David's advice was simple - "delete things you don't like!". Interestingly, he also described blogs as a 'dictatorship' - claiming that freedom of speech just doesn't apply when it comes to negative commenters a personal blog. Luckily I've never received any negative comments here, but it was refreshing to see someone taking such a no-nonsense approach to moderation.

Afternoon tea, courtesy of Petit Gateau
Next, David was joined on the stage by Naimh Shields of Eat Like a Girl and Emma Gardner of Poires au Chocolat, for an insightful discussion around the definition of successful blogging. Again, more inspiration and reassurance. Emma discussed feeling rejected by sites such as Foodgawker and Tastespotting when some of her imagery didn't quite fit the criteria (which food blogger can't relate to that?), how obsessing over analytics can be terrible for a blogger's self confidence - and again, the importance of including personality, flaws and humanity in your writing. Niamh echoed Emma's rejection of Tastespotting, spoke of the importance of loving what you do and the rewarding feeling when strangers tell you they've tried your recipes - and noted how infrequently readers comment on blogs. She spoke about the significance of challenging yourself, pushing boundaries and being afraid - at which point David interjected with my favourite quote of the whole weekend: "If you're not terrified before you hit the publish button, you're not doing it right".

As someone who's always been quite shy about my blog, that it exists at all, this was really inspiring - there's something reassuring about hearing your own blogging insecurities echoed by writers you aspire to (and I'm sure I'm not the only one listening who felt that way).

One of my favourite new things discovered at FBC - Chobani yoghurt
For me, Saturday's highlight was early afternoon, when Holly Taylor of Pure Taste Pop Up and Adriana Rabinovich of Gluten Free 4 Kids spoke on breaking the mould with free-from recipe writing - with lots of troubleshooting tips for gluten free baking (for example, did you know you can add a little glycerine to a gluten free cake to stop the sponge drying out?) they've really inspired me. I could feel recipes developing in my mind as they spoke - and a few which I'm sure will make their way to this blog when they're ready.

One of the best inventions of all time - butter infused with maple syrup
from Moose Maple Butter
Two of my other favourite sessions from Saturday afternoon came from the witty Kersten Rodgers of Ms Marmite Lover and Denise Baker-McClearn of Moel Faban Suppers, who both spoke about launching a food career from your blog and founding two very different supperclubs - Kersten's an inner-city supperclub, Denise's located a steep trek up Moel Faban, the mountain in Wales where she lives!

Roasting aubergines - destined to become baba ganoush for the
evening's street party
Saturday closed with a street party including a middle eastern feast by FBC founder Bethany Kehdy - who was also launching her beautiful new book, The Jewelled Kitchen.

Bethany Kehdy's middle eastern feast
Other memorable talks over the course of the weekend included Karen Burns-Booth of Lavender and Lovage and Ren Behan discussing how to get published in magazines, some excellent tips around writing up recipes from copy editor and proof reader Alison Bolus - and a wonderful presentation about how to launch a product line by Dana Elemara of MyArganic.

Sponsor Chobani served us an incredible Sunday brunch - with some
of the best scrambled eggs I've ever had
Attendees left with the heaviest and most exciting goodie bag of all
time - filled with gourmet ingredients and foodie treats
I left feeling inspired and with a mental checklist of places to visit, things to improve on my blog, recipe ideas and people to stay in touch with. Almost two weeks later and I'm still really excited about FBC, only I've now developed serious Chobani yoghurt and Jax Coco withdrawal symptoms (both sponsors of the event)... a small price to pay for an amazing weekend.


  1. Great post Emma! It was nice to meet you at FBC5, hope we meet up at some point for a coffe :)

    1. It was really lovely to meet you too Sylvia - yes, I think we need a mini blogger meet-up in London soon :)

  2. What a lovely piece - and thank you so much for the mention!

    1. Thanks for the comment Farrah - the Moose Maple Butter is a winner!

  3. Very nice to meet you, albeit briefly. You summarised so many of the highlights of the weekend here.

    1. Lovely to meet you too Sally, I hope we get to catch up properly soon

  4. Lovely to meet up with you at FBC5 and thank you for the mention. Please let me know if I can be of help in the gluten free baking department. Really happy to share tips and advice and anything which spreads the word that gluten free (and dairy free) baking can be exceedingly tasty.

    1. Thanks Adriana - yes I will definitely be in touch with you! Took loads of notes during your presentation, but I'm sure I will be dropping you a line with a few questions - I'm starting to develop some gluten free recipes already :)

  5. Hi Emma! So glad to hear you enjoyed discovering Chobani at FBC5, and that you enjoyed our brunch. Hope you have fun experimenting with CHO yourself! Hope to see you again soon, Christine

    1. Thanks Christine, I am a Chobani convert :) Having trouble finding UK stockists at the moment, but when I do I'll definitely be buying A LOT :)