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Good times and setting a bad example

August 17, 2011

The HempelMy teens think I’ve set them a very bad example and are dining out on the story.  Firstly I’m on Twitter “It’s for stalkers Mum”; I blog – “Mum’s got a food blog (rolling eyes)” and finally, last weekend, I committed the ultimate crime and went to stay with someone in London who I’d met on the internet “You warn US about stranger danger”.  In fact I’d been given the incredibly generous offer of a place to stay by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours as I was going to my first ever food blogger conference Food Blogger Connect.  I think she was the brave one by inviting some blogger who lives half way round the world to her home.

At Food Blogger Connect 2011

So why were a group of foodies drawn from different countries (and continents) to spend a weekend at The Hempel in West London?   Dreams, ambitions and the opportunity to meet some like-minded fanatical food lovers; some came because they were thinking about putting a toe in the food blogging water and wanted some expert advice, some to emulate the awe-inspiring photography and styling of a master (or should I say mistress), others had their sights set on a book deal, recipe development, video demos and some dreamed of food blogger super-stardom, financial success (and working for 3 days a week).  There were speakers and sessions for all this and more.

La Tartine Gourmande photo session

Equally valuable and enjoyable was the chance to meet fellow foodies from all over the world including Hungary, Bulgaria, Holland, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan, the U.S. and, of course, the U.K.  Food bloggers tend to be a generous bunch – I think it’s got something to do with the sharing of food around a table and basics of breaking bread with friends.  I also realised with a jolt just how fortunate I am to interact and meet up with my wonderful group (now over 50 in number) of food bloggers in the UAE – I think this hardly happens in London, let alone in other countries (the Dutch bloggers were in heaven).  I was delighted to meet up with the authors of some of my favourite blogs including Poires au Chocolat, Extra Relish, Eggs on the Roof, Juls Kitchen, Zizi’s adventures, Maison Cupcake and Fabulicious Food.

Speakers FBC11

Just a few of the presenters:

  • Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, an incredibly warm, generous and multi-talented cook, TV presenter and author who started with a food blog and an audience of two – her husband and her Mum.
  • Fiona Beckett who is an award-winning food and drink writer, compulsive blogger (food, wine and cheese blogs!) and author of 22 books. She blogged about her presentation here and received an entertaining rejoiner from Wine, Women & Song here.
  • Tim Hayward – food writer, broadcaster and photographer and editor of Fire & Knives, a quarterly magazine of new food writing.
  • Chef, food writer and TV presenter Anjum Anand, one of the first writers to create and write Indian recipes catering for the health-conscious cook.
  • Caroline Mili Artiss who specialises in Malaysian food and is one of the first TV chef’s to be discovered on Youtube in the UK.
  • Vanessa Kimbellwho gave up a well-paid job in IT and set herself the goal of writing a cookbook and getting it published within a year.
Food and wine FBC11

OK, I know it’s taken me a long time to get to this….what about the food?  A variety of tempting delights kept emerging from The Hempel kitchens from delicate canapes to dainty tasting portions at the first reception to a sumptuous brunch including a fabulous eggs Benedict with smoked fish at the last brunch.  Olives and French goats cheese were present throughout, and Leila added another centimetre to my waistline as I was unable to resist her handmade chocolates.  But the main highlight for me was being introduced to Malaysian cuisine by May (of Malaysian by May) who took us to the Malaysian Student Canteen a few streets away.  The food and conversation were varied and spicy.

Malaysian student halls

I didn’t want to leave at the end of the weekend but tore myself away from drinking Pimms in the sunny garden with such a gregarious and talented group of friendly food bloggers, said goodbye to Bethany and massive thanks to Helen, and wandered to the tube station bowed under the weight of an enormous goodie bag, inspired, energised and ready for more cooking, eating and blogging.

PS There are masses of photos on Flickr if you’d like to see more.

65 Comments
  1. August 17, 2011 5:01 am

    Sounds like an amazing weekend! Glad you had fun.. :)

  2. August 17, 2011 9:11 am

    Looks liek I missed a grand weekend. So glad you had a great time though. And my husband always says that one day I will meet a very wierd starnger off the internet :)

    • August 17, 2011 2:19 pm

      don’t worry sukaina. That’s what my husband tells me too :-)

      I did meet strangers here, but they weren’t weird (nor creepy as Arva says). These lovely people just have that weird affection for food like I do :-)

      • August 17, 2011 4:41 pm

        Foodies are just nice, nice people don’t you think? :)

      • August 17, 2011 4:45 pm

        Yes they are! Maybe you should change the “stranger danger” rule a bit. Wacth out for strangers…except food bloggers! hahaha!

        I guess because foodies are always willing to share. But maybe not all the time. some food is not meant for sharing if you are too hungry :-)

  3. August 17, 2011 9:24 am

    how fabulous!! you must have been in your element Sally!!

    • August 17, 2011 4:53 pm

      Thanks Debi, Sukaina and Celia – it was an excellent experience.

  4. August 17, 2011 9:29 am

    Sounds like a wonderful experience…would you go again next year?

  5. August 17, 2011 9:55 am

    It is amazing how food blogging can bring people together. I have invited strangers into my home who have left as friends :)

    • August 17, 2011 11:30 am

      just had to say that i loved your comment :)

    • August 17, 2011 4:51 pm

      As I find out from Cindy’s comment. A lovely story.

  6. Simone permalink
    August 17, 2011 10:25 am

    Lol. You’re right. The Dutch bloggers where in heaven. Haha. It was soo much fun to meet everyone but I just did not get to spend enough time with everyone!!

    • August 17, 2011 4:51 pm

      I know – we need to carry on the virtual conversation.

  7. August 17, 2011 11:10 am

    Lovely post Sally! And I am honoured to be in your favourite blogs list :)

  8. August 17, 2011 11:10 am

    I love this post!! I felt like you were right here telling me all about it, especially the intro, hilarious! I am so happy that you had a chance to go and immerse yourself in all the talent there. But now the fun is over Sally, I DEMAND a list of tips and tricks you learned. An army of UAE food bloggers may just come banging on your door if you don’t ;)

  9. August 17, 2011 11:16 am

    Great post Sally, thank you for mentioning me! I’m so glad finally we could meet!

  10. August 17, 2011 11:17 am

    this is amazing!!! i am definitely going to try and do this next year

  11. August 17, 2011 11:34 am

    Wow lucky you Sally such an amazing experience, especially the networking with all these incredible foodie bloggers. Was there much in terms of restaurant reviewing? If so, might just go next year, only if you will though :)

    • August 17, 2011 4:48 pm

      Lots to tell you on this topic – very entertaining!

  12. August 17, 2011 12:41 pm

    What a fabulous opportunity you enjoyed!
    Have a happy day. :-) Mandy

  13. August 17, 2011 1:22 pm

    Sounds heavenly Sally – I am particularly impressed with your hat trick of piqueing the teenagers. With the ridiculous wobble in self-confidence I am feeling as my girls supercede me on so many levels (balanced of course with warm and fuzzy maternal pride!), I find their pooh-poohing of the various activities of mine that offend their teenage sense of what is proper, childishly satisfying. (And I wonder where they get it from when they behave the same way!?) We are off to Beautiful Days tomorrow – shall miss you! Huge potential for teenage irritation, particularly when I sing and dance – yay!

    • August 17, 2011 4:47 pm

      Shame we can’t be there. I tell my two that I am only going to get more embarrassing :)

  14. August 17, 2011 1:45 pm

    Lovely recount of an inspiring weekend! I’m disappointed that it’s over and already seems so far away, but it great to revisit it via your post! :)

    • August 17, 2011 4:47 pm

      It did go by in a flash Emiko – it would have taken all weekend just to continue all the conversations I wanted to!

  15. August 17, 2011 1:45 pm

    It was great to meet you Sally and am so glad you enjoyed the Malaysian cafe experience. Catch up with you in Dubai soon. BTW, my other food blog is Slow Food Kitchen.

  16. August 17, 2011 3:02 pm

    I would love to go next year!!! Amazing post Sally…Intro is soo funny!!! loved the pics too!

    • August 17, 2011 4:40 pm

      Thanks Dina – watch this space as there might some interesting news for something in the UAE

  17. August 17, 2011 3:50 pm

    It was such a treat to read this Sally. I’m very touched to be included as one of your favourite blogs – thank you x

    • August 17, 2011 4:39 pm

      It was a real pleasure to meet you Charlie.

  18. August 17, 2011 4:36 pm

    Oh Sally, I smiled so as I read this and could fully understand your post-event euphoria. I’m one of the strangers Tandy gave a bed to and she is – today – one of my dearest friends. There’s no explaining a Food Blogger Conference to anyone who hasn’t been to one, is there?

    • August 17, 2011 4:39 pm

      Another lovely story. Yes Food Blogger CONNECT is a great name for it.

  19. August 17, 2011 6:33 pm

    Hello Sally, I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to have met with you whilst you were over in the UK and even better that you were able to join us at FBC.

    Now I can look forward to living the whole weekend again in everyone’s posts!

    • August 18, 2011 11:50 am

      It was a real pleasure to meet you Sarah

  20. August 17, 2011 6:48 pm

    Ah, what a lovely post Sally and as always inspiring photos. I really like the ‘H’ though the window – very clever! It was a real highlight of my weekend to meet you finally after getting to know you through your fabulous blog and through the wonder of Twitter. I’m missing it already! Thank you for the mention :-)

    • August 18, 2011 11:51 am

      So good to meet you Ren, it was a highlight for me too.

  21. August 17, 2011 6:55 pm

    Oh happy day and food blogger heaven! Looks like you had a wonderful time, and I’m sure you learned so much. What a fun way to be inspired! Thank you, thank you for sharing the high lights!

    • August 18, 2011 11:53 am

      It was great fun, thanks for such a nice comment Stephanie

  22. August 18, 2011 12:00 am

    wow! sounds like a ton of fun:)

  23. August 18, 2011 6:01 pm

    Love the photos and thank you for letting me use the one of the Hempel Hotel for my piece

  24. August 18, 2011 6:28 pm

    Hey Sally! Lovely post and so good to see you again (although very briefly and didn’t get to chat as much as I would have liked) I’ll be back in Dubai in October so we’ll have to catch up then. Bxx

  25. August 19, 2011 6:14 pm

    Beautiful post Sally. It was so nice to meet you and I am so glad that you enjoyed my chocolates. Hope to see you soon!

  26. August 21, 2011 4:29 pm

    Such fun to meet up with other food bloggers – it almost tempts me to go up to London. Glad you had a great time and how lovely of Helen to give you a bed.

  27. August 22, 2011 9:14 pm

    Great post! And yeah, we defied every rule we’ve learned as a child, or are teaching our children, but really, it was too much fun not to! As one of the Dutch bloggers, I agree, we were in heaven and it was so wonderful to meet so many like minded people! Hope to see you again next year!

  28. August 23, 2011 6:39 pm

    Sally, it was so nice to meet you.

    A wonderful, especially the pics.

  29. August 27, 2011 11:11 pm

    Lucky, lucky you. I’m glad you had a swell time. I LOVE Jaden Hair – when i first started my blog, I emailed her for some reason and she replied almost immediately to encourage me. When my blog turned one and I sent her thanks for teaching me to cook great steaks, she left a comment.

    I loved FBC 2009 when I attended – I met so many wonderful people and learnt so much. It is awesome to be with a group of people who share the same focus and passion – I’m so glad you got to go! Stay well.

  30. September 11, 2011 8:27 pm

    Thank you for this virtual tour through the food blogger connect programme. I enjoyed reading it so much. Thank you for dropping by my blog and for your kind comments.
    I really love the space you have here and enjoyed browsing through so many of your posts. Will keep coming back for more.

  31. September 20, 2011 12:53 am

    Seeing as you made it half way around the world to this, I really should have hauled my booty down to London. Sorry to have missed it/you but as I had just restarted work my priorities shifted quite a bit. Struggling to keep up the blogging/reading/cooking in the way I want to.

    It looks like you had a fabulous time. We stayed in the Hempel once, isn’t it beautiful?

    • September 21, 2011 8:11 am

      I know what you mean about the juggling/struggling. I was in UK for the summer anyway but some people did fly in specially from as far as the US! It would be great to meet you one day. All those clean lines in the Hempel were really inspiring

  32. July 3, 2012 4:19 pm

    Fantastic Sally! Stumbled upon this old one as I read Arva’s post today… so so happy for you. After all you belong to us Dubai-ites Sally!

    • July 4, 2012 12:11 am

      It’s lovely that you read some of my old stuff – really appreciated as always.

      • July 4, 2012 1:02 am

        I mean if I could start from the beginning it would have been great – but I guess it’s not a small task:( thanks to some random links for directing one to the past!

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