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Eat, drink, chat, blog – FBC5

July 15, 2013

The sun shone on Lavender Hill as I tramped up it towards my third Food Blogger Connect. This year I was ‘Chief of Tweets’ so spent a great deal of it glued to my iphone or computer, so enjoyed the conference in a slightly different way. As I’ve written before about what made me go in the first place and why anyone would want to go to a food blogger conference, here’s a bit about all the key ingredients that made up #FBC5 (the fifth anniversary).

The speakers

David Lebovitz was as amusing offline as on it (see his from London here). Who else would write this answer for a prize draw trip to Canada ‘I want to visit Canada because….I can’t imagine life without maple syrup.’! His advice to stay true to who you are and blog about the quirky bits e.g. your mistakes as well as your successes really struck a chord. He is also a phenomenal grafter, despite his air of insouciance  and told me he works all the time. He admitted to spending two hours to edit a post and testing recipes 17-18 times. Wowzah!. He also advocates making commenting on your blog as easy as possible – no captcha codes. Hear, hear.

Penny de los Santos was all about finding the story behind the food. She has been to some pretty terrifying places in order to do this. We were all entranced by her account.

I’ve always found that Niamh Shields comes across as, er…a bit formidable online. Being a complete whimp, I was rather nervous about meeting her. In reality she captivated me and everyone else with her warmth and Irish charm. Her talks about the blogging side of life were informative but when she took the floor to describe her visits to Canada she came alive and there were glimpses of the lengths she goes to really understand the food culture (delving into kitchens, tasting everything – flipper pie anyone?). At the end of it EVERYONE wanted to visit Canada!

The room was a bit hot and stuffy and after an excellent but technical session about editing recipes by Alison Bolus we were all flagging. Then Kerstin Rogers aka Ms Marmite Lover took that dreaded mid afternoon noon slot and it was like someone had just flicked the switch on Blackpool illuminations. Her stirring talk ranged from how she learned to cook (partly by sleeping with French men and then standing at the stove with their Mums; and she urged us to do the same), how every woman should have an independent income, to catering at dodgy festivals (no one on Ecstasy wants to eat anything until the morning when it wears off and they are desperate for a fry up). She set up the first supper club in the UK and kick started a whole movement. Confessing how ‘Ms Marmite Lover’ was used as a pseudonym at the beginning as she was terrified that she was breaking the law. She’s dealt with council regulations, planning, alcohol laws, even the London Underground who thought there might be confusion that her flat was a station (no kidding) and Warner Brothers who suggested she call her ‘Harry Potter’ themed evening ‘some other generic wizard’ dinner….which she did! Levity aside, she’s has my admiration for her impeccable, searingly honest writing and lyrical vocabulary, encyclopaedic food knowledge which she translates into very practical advice and the creativity of a true artist. And it wasn’t just me she inspired:

Some sound bites from some of the other compelling speakers:

For the many food bloggers who would like to take their content into print Ren Behan and Karen Burns-Booth detailed how to deal with magazine publishers. They recommended that digital magazines are not to be sneered at as many have greater readership figures than through traditional publishing.

Regula Ysewijn of Miss Foodwise is a walking embodiment of her brand, and, as a graphic designer, dissected all the key branding elements on and offline. An important question to ask yourself is exactly why it is you are blogging. And remember – a brand is not just a logo. In her passionate delivery I think she was the first person to use the F word during a presentation at FBC!

“Do something that scares you every day – it becomes addictive” – great advice from Dana Elemara, who left a high flying corporate career to found Arganic, a small food company that only sells 100% pure organic argan oil directly from trusted sources in Morocco.

One of the aims of Aine Morris of the Sustainable Food Trust is to bring about increased collaboration amongst all those working for better food. She quoted some impressive figures about how influential bloggers are as the reason we should all take our role as opinion formers very seriously. Our voices combined can have an impact on the way food systems and our world is shaped.

Many wise words of wisdom dropped from the lips of Aoife Cox of The Daily Spud but really (to borrow a phrase from Frank Carson) it was “the way I tell ’em”. She spoke about creating a niche blog “I just love spuds” and humour in blogging where she recommended visiting some very funny blogs including this one.

Emily Jonzen styled the food for Penny’s workshop and also The Jewelled Kitchen. She gave a myriad of tips on how to make food in photographs look good and also gave an insight about what goes on behind the scenes for the stylised shots you see in adverts. When you next see a steaming turkey in an ad remember that it probably has boiling hot wet tampons stuffed inside it and boot polish on its skin! She prefers a much more natural look with her own projects. There was a point where she asked if she should answer questions or show more pics. “Show more pics” was the plaintive reply as over 100 bloggers slightly grabbed a tissue to mop their moistening mouths.

If anyone is thinking about writing about food in the UK, the Visit Britain talk was packed full of ideas of great content (visit the media page for some highlights). From the gin craze in London to the Ludlow food festival and everything in between, Britain is a very exciting place for food right now.

Quick shout out for Veronica, Guila, Janie and Becky all food bloggers who have published cookbooks – all worth having a look at.

There were many more things to be learned – quite a few of the presentations are here.

The venue

Battersea Arts Centre is like Miss Havisham – a faded beauty. I’ll bet its 120 year old walls could tell some stories. Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst held suffragette meetings there when it was Battersea Town Hall. I wonder if there were cheering Ms Marmite Lover on from above? Edwardian baroque meets Arts and Crafts, there is a theme of bees running through the building most notably on the mosaic tiled floors. The rooms are elegant and labyrinthine and sunshine streamed in through the tall windows. The café, with deep red brocade walls, held all of us for brunch hosted by Chobani (with lovely recipes from Iris). The wireless connection could have been better but 150 food bloggers tweeting, instagramming and live blogging is quite an unusual strain on the system!

The people

The theme of this year’s Food Blogger Connect was community and while I am perfectly happy to connect online it is meeting up offline is a real joy. I could spend the whole weekend nattering and eating. If I try to mention everyone they’ll just be a huge list and I’ll leave someone out. As bloggers travelled from all over Europe and North America it was fantastic to finally connect in real life with some old friends made virtually. Because of being glued to my tweets I didn’t meet as many new people as usual but loved finding new faces and putting many new blogs on my reader including:

Adventures in Fussy Eating – the best looking site I have come across in a long time

Chilli and Mint – foodie thoughts and recipes to make you smile

Hearty Food – beautiful food styling

Top with Cinnamon – young, talented blogger

The Imbiber – Graeme’s has closed the door on his Scottish heritage recipes blog and started this excellent new drinks site.

Merlin Jobst – who came to FBC as a representative of Jamie Oliver but also has a music, photography and food blog of his own.

Keep in touch Mary, Torie, Val, Izy, Graeme and Merlin. And this proves that there were male food bloggers at FBC!

The food

The street food wasn’t as varied or as abundant as last year; I believe this was due to a huge street food event on the same weekend. However, there were some treasures. Loved Dorshi – sushi made with local ingredients from Dorset (apart from the nori – they experimented with nettles and spinach but it didn’t work!). Yasmin from Lovedesh curry is either brave or mad. She lit a fire and cooked a Bangladeshi curry in a hanging pot (worth waiting for). I learned an awful lot about pepper from Peppermongers and will be replicating their pepper laced shortbread soon. Totally in love with the Funky Chicken van and who could resist a couple of tarts (especially when made with rhubarb from their garden)?

Not only did I hang round after the Lidgates excellent butchery demo to nibble one two a few of their superlative lamb chops but ate the photography workshop steak as well (I have no shame). I was thrilled to meet Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie again and made a serious dent in her cheese display especially the truffle brie – so ripe it was running off down Lavender Hill (infused with slices of truffle not that horrid old truffle oil).

Bethany gathered family members from Lebanon to help prepare a Middle Eastern feast and she buried herself in the kitchens for two whole days. Her husband was barbecuing aubergines for about the same length of time! The little pastry nests topped with venison meatballs and sour cherries caused many moans of pleasure! A great way to sample the recipes from The Jewelled Kitchen.

Ren not only spoke but did a pop up Polish Kitchen stall too and the food was divine especially the bigos. The honey and cherry vodkas in tiny ornate glasses went down well too (although it was the large measures of rum from the Appleton Estate stall that caused some merriment). Smacznego and Na Zdrowie.

The Chobani brunch was lovely – who knew that putting yoghurt in everything (including the scrambled egg) was such a good idea.

PS Tyrrells mustard pork crackling – oh yes.

lovedeshIf I didn’t meet you at FBC5 please say hello here – love to hear what you thought of it all. Have you been to any other blogger gatherings? Any you’d recommend? If not a blogger do you think we are all mad?

Related articles – Three fantastic posts about food blogging inspired by FBC by Fiona Beckett one, two, three. Read about Food Blogger Connect in 2011 and 2012

  1. July 15, 2013 2:34 pm

    A wonderful event and report! It looks like you had a great time in London.



    • July 16, 2013 9:43 am

      I did Rosa – made even better by the sunshine.

  2. July 15, 2013 2:42 pm

    Wow Sally – you’ve captured the true spirit of Food Blogger Connect so amazingly well in this post. I wish I didn’t have to miss the Saturday and Sunday – I was so busy I hardly had time to chat and there were so many details and brilliant things I missed. Still, last year when I saw the Russian Revels pop up, I set myself a challenge to run my own – so, mission accomplished (and thank you for the mentions). I hope you got something out of the weekend other than sore fingers from Tweeting. Really, an excellent post – and quick off the mark, too!

    • July 16, 2013 9:44 am

      I did miss having a proper catch up but made up for it by eating so much of your delicious food. You are really inspiring Ren.

  3. July 15, 2013 3:30 pm

    Fantastic round-up Sally! I always enjoy the recaps of FBC so much!
    And how lucky we were with the weather. glad you enjoyed my talk, I feel quite proud I used the F word for the very first time, I’m sure I will be a trend setter now 😀
    Hope to see you again soon x

    • July 16, 2013 9:44 am

      Such a pleasure to see you Regula – always a trend setter 🙂

  4. July 15, 2013 4:01 pm

    Great post. I would love to come along to this one day!

  5. July 15, 2013 4:21 pm

    Wow! How do you get an invite to this?

    • July 16, 2013 9:55 am

      Subscribe for updates on the website so you can see when next year’s dates are released. Best to buy early bird tickets plus there are some great giveaways. No invite necessary.

  6. July 15, 2013 4:28 pm

    Sounds a fab event. Now I have to follow lots of those links above.

  7. July 15, 2013 4:30 pm

    Fantastic!I would love to join in one day Sally. And I love the ‘pop up’ caption bar in each photograph. Sally, you are writing more from UK than from Dubai. Is it the weather? or is it being close to home? I am going to keep Dana’s advice in mind – “Do something that scares you every day – it becomes addictive”. Only women blog?

    • July 16, 2013 9:57 am

      It’s because my Mum is cooking and shopping – no chores! There were male bloggers as links show!

  8. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    July 15, 2013 4:45 pm

    Sounds fabulous!! love the photographs 🙂

  9. July 15, 2013 4:49 pm

    Sounds amazing!

  10. July 15, 2013 4:49 pm

    What an amazing post Sally and what a reference for people who couldn’t make it! And your pictures definitely reflect the great atmosphere and overall happiness surrounding the entire weekend. 😉

    • July 16, 2013 9:53 am

      It was a good atmosphere wasn’t it. Thanks Benedicte

  11. July 15, 2013 4:59 pm

    Hi Sally – what a brilliant write up! You really managed to capture the weekend, even with your head burried in your tweet duties. Great to see you again – and here’s to FBC next year!

  12. July 15, 2013 5:18 pm

    Looks like you had a good time! Would love to join some day.

  13. July 15, 2013 5:40 pm

    Oh, I wish I could have come – sounds like a fab event!

    • July 16, 2013 9:51 am

      One day I hope Neelu and The Little Loaf – it’s always so nice to meet offline too.

  14. July 15, 2013 7:20 pm

    hi Sally what a lovely, detailed reminder of that busy weekend when it was so nice meeting some of the global community of food bloggers. Nice to chat to you briefly and I am off to look at those blogs you have suggested!

    • July 16, 2013 9:50 am

      My only regret is not catching up with enough people…ah well….next time?!

  15. Sylvia permalink
    July 15, 2013 8:25 pm

    Great post and fab pictures 😉 I really enjoyed the whole event, I’ve met lots of great people 🙂

    • July 16, 2013 9:50 am

      So nice to meet you – thanks for the kind comment.

  16. July 15, 2013 8:26 pm

    I heard Penny de los Santos speak at IFBC a few years ago and she is inspiring. Additionally, I now have some good advice if I ever cater a dodgy festival, thanks to Kerstin.

  17. July 16, 2013 1:09 am

    Looks like you had a fabulous time! Wonderful photos of everyone looking so happy! 🙂

    • July 16, 2013 9:48 am

      Thanks Celia. We did. We were!

  18. July 16, 2013 1:30 am

    Happy memories captured beautifully xx

    • July 16, 2013 9:48 am

      Thanks Urvashi – a pleasure, as always, to see you.

  19. July 16, 2013 2:17 am

    I have just enjoyed reading all of your thoughts on FBC5 and also it was great to then go and read your experiences at the last 2 events you attended. I remember reading about The Hempel as a venue when I was just starting to blog and I thought, wow, what a place to go and spend a weekend, learning and meeting fellow bloggers.
    I hope you enjoyed your new role as master of tweets and I hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay in the UK. It is still so hot here, I just love it at the moment. Thanks for your lovely comment too x

    • July 16, 2013 9:47 am

      Thanks Laura – I am loving every minute of this fantastic weather. Thanks for looking back too – the other two FBCs I’ve been to were different but had one thing in common – fantastic people.

      • July 16, 2013 9:47 am

        Fantastic seems to be my word of the day!

  20. July 16, 2013 8:53 am

    What a great write-up of the event! I had such a great time and was great to meet so many people!

    • July 16, 2013 9:46 am

      I’m so glad you had a great time – there’s something about meeting people with the same passion as you.

  21. July 16, 2013 11:07 am

    I think we all left feeling much as your response to the comment above. I’m still well behind with my posts, but actually the little trip to Cheltenham was just more of the same in the sense of meeting up with people with the same passion. Next time I hope we’ll have more chance to chat

  22. July 16, 2013 12:48 pm

    Hi Sally – I love your post but it’s made me feel very very hungry! What a great event and a brilliant round up of all the lovely foodie stuff and people

  23. July 16, 2013 1:30 pm

    Fab post on FBC5, I felt I was reliving the whole weekend again!

  24. July 16, 2013 2:44 pm

    Oh- your post is taking me right back to that fab weekend of food, food bloggers and food blogging tips. Cant wait to go back next year.

  25. July 16, 2013 2:51 pm

    What a fantastically comprehensive report Sally! As Bintu said, it’s taken me right back! We only said a quick hello in all the madness, so I hope to get to know you better through your gorgeous blog. Thanks so much for this post!

  26. July 16, 2013 2:57 pm

    A great report from the event, Sally! Sounds like so much fun. I hope to make it for the Dubai based photography workshop, if my work schedule permits. Oct is a busy month 😦

  27. July 16, 2013 4:34 pm

    All that hard work tweeting, snapping, chatting and listening intently – whew! – paid off with this brilliant review of a most enjoyable weekend. Fabulous images too 😀 For some reason I was feeling a bit shy this year so I didn’t chat to as many people as I would have liked 😦 but I enjoyed speaking to you and a few ‘well kent’ faces. And I must agree that Ceri did a fantastic job: as moderator, timekeeper and all-round face of FBC5. I only wish I could attend your food styling and photography workshop in Dubai. PS hope your extra time in London with your daughter was fantastic. I gained 3 lbs over my extended week!

  28. July 16, 2013 7:49 pm

    It was a real pleasure reading your post, Sally! I enjoyed so much those 3 days of FBC, and I am so happy that I have discovered your lovely blog, it is so inspiring! ❤

  29. July 17, 2013 2:33 pm

    Great blog post eloquently written and some superb reportage photos to boot. Thanks for the heads up in the post re my blog. Much appreciated. Love Torie

  30. July 17, 2013 5:43 pm

    A comprehensive and very honest appraisal of the weekend Sally, and with beautiful photos; it was a pleasure to meet you again, although fleetingly and I am sure we will meet again soon – you are always welcome in France! This is such a wonderful and informative précis of the weekend and I will make sure to link to it when I finally get around to writing mine! Karen

  31. ttholler permalink
    July 18, 2013 12:49 am

    Great post Sally. I really enjoyed reading it and of course all the photos brought back lovely memories. It was great meeting you (briefly).

  32. July 19, 2013 2:46 pm

    I’ll never forget how FBC 2009 transformed my life. Sally you have done a TERRIFIC job of sharing FBC #5……Thank you

    • July 20, 2013 1:34 pm

      Hope we’ll meet at one some day.

  33. July 22, 2013 7:19 pm

    Sounds like you had a lovely time. I’ve, surprisingly, never been to a food blogging conference, but perhaps someday I’ll make it to one. Also, learning to cook by “partly by sleeping with French men and then standing at the stove with their Mums; and she urged us to do the same)” made me giggle out loud 🙂

  34. dailyspud permalink
    July 24, 2013 12:53 am

    Reading that was pretty much like being there all over again Sally, and thanks for the kind words about my attempts at stand up 🙂 Humour is indeed about the way you tell it!

    • July 24, 2013 11:11 am

      Wish I had your gift Aoife 🙂

  35. July 26, 2013 5:03 pm

    Thank you so much for the super pictures! I would have loved to attend… next year I’ll be there for sure.

  36. November 11, 2013 5:54 pm

    I was just searching for a pic from my flickr via google and found your post. Sorry I hadn’t seen it earlier. A little concerned you found me formidable online – ouch – but it was lovely to meet you and I did enjoy FBC.

    • November 11, 2013 6:35 pm

      Whoops no intention to offend Niamh – and it was really lovely to meet you in person. Your travel stories were really inspiring and I love the way you evidently roll your sleeves up and get stuck in the kitchen. Thanks so much for the comment – very much appreciated.


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