Connecting, Inspiring, and…. (gulp) Moderating
7th July will go down in history as the day that a Brit finally regained the crown at Wimbledon Tennis Championships. A mere 3 miles up the road in the beautiful Battersea Arts Centre. I had won my own personal championship. Getting through 3 days of moderating non-stop at FBC!
Niamh Shields, (me!) & David Lebovitz. Photo Credit Šárka Babická
Food Blogger Connect is the annual gathering of food bloggers from all over the UK and beyond, where we get to learn, meet and inspire. Whether it be from speakers, food traders and specialists or quite simply each other.
As a second time attendee at FBC and returning volunteer (my report from last year is here) I felt far more relaxed as I approached the weekend – that is apart from the rather huge task I’d been set by organisers Bethany & Joslin of acting as Master of Ceremonies for all of the sessions. It was my job to time-keep, moderate all 3 of the panel sessions and, the most daunting task of all – working all the power point presentations on an Alien-to-me Mac.
Being involved behind the scenes with the conference has again this year been an incredible experience. Speaking in front of that many people is not something I thought I felt natural at – I tend to make silly whoop noises, stumble my words or swear inappropriately given half the chance… It turns out I’m not so bad after all and I actually felt like I thrived on the experience (all those years of nerve wracking clarinet recitals must have been perfect preparation). Thank you Bethany and Joslin for the experience. I feel I’m richer for it.
BAC, Keynote speaker David Lebovitz & FBC founder Bethany Kehdy, Sessions in Session. Photo credit: Šárka Babická
Anyway – back to the blogging!
An incredible diverse range of topics populated the schedule this year. From sessions to inform & provoke debate, technical sessions to be a ‘better’ blogger, and those that just inspired me.
It was a pleasure to take part in panel sessions with the likes of David Lebovitz, Niamh Shields (Eatlikeagirl) & Emma Gardener (Poiresauchocolat). Bloggers who in my eyes are a little bit famous. On meeting them it was refreshing to realise that as bloggers we already have one thing that unites us all – no matter how successful. I particularly appreciated David’s advice to just be who you are warts and all. The stories behind the recipes, are what does it for him, the human side behind a failed recipe or a less than perfect plate a charm. We discussed what successful blogging means anyway. The outcome? A unanimous decision that success means something different for all of us.
I particularly enjoyed the forward thinking sessions from organisations I knew little about – The Sustainable Food Trust and Food Cycle. As bloggers I think we have a huge responsibility to go out and spread the good word that these organisations are doing rather than hiding in our own little blogging world. I’d really love to volunteer with Food Cycle.
Penny De Los Santos, Emily Jonzen, Niamh Shields and me. Photo Credit: Šárka Babická
I have no designs on being a photographer – I can barely use my camera on anything other than the automatic setting but Penny De Los Santos‘s session really did inspire me to get out there and capture life (and food) through a lens. Personally, I found Emily Jonzen’s food styling session incredibly useful – I will be trying my damned hardest to take some of her tips on board, when I’m next trying to make a pot of meatballs or chocolate nut balls look appealing (my last nut balls looked like poo…) Her work is stunning. Swoon.
Meeting Kerstin Rodgers (Ms Marmite Lover) was as to be expected entertaining. She was there to talk to us about her food career enterprises launched with her blog as back up – including her infamous supperclub. When I told her I had been thinking of starting a supperclub for about 2 years. She told me just to get on and do it and stop making excuses about not having the right table (point taken). She also told the whole room I live in New Cross. An open invitation to everyone from FBC?? Likewise was great to hear Denise from Moel Faban Supers talk about her supperclub experience. If Denise can hold a successful supperclub in North Wales half way up a mountain – surely I can get a few people to pop along to my tiny flat in SE London??
Others to briefly mention included a session on Free-From recipe writing by Holly taylor (Puretastepopup) and Adriana Rabinovitch (Gluten Free 4 Kids). Hurrah for a topical for me session to be placed on the schedule! I hope others found it as useful as I did. Plus Regula (missfoodwise) on breathing life into your brand & design. Having just been through a re-brand, I wish I’d heard her speak before starting out on the process!
Once 3pm Sunday arrived I had firmly put my heart on producing my own book with Blurb, whilst simultaneously launching a street food stall thanks to Toma Mexicano, managing my own product line thanks to Dana Elemara (Arganic), and in my spare time getting my work published thanks to Karen Burns Booth and Ren Behan (not forgetting the supperclub plans). A tad ambitious to do list me thinks…
There was street food…. Like last year street food stalls had been drafted in to feed us. Queueing for food and eating in such an informal way in the glorious sunshine provided perfect opportunities to chat and connect with fellow bloggers. Special shout out to Pig A Chic for the most amazingly flavoured pork and chicken skewers – would love to know what was in the marinade! Also to Yummy Choo Eats and her flavourful Mauritian food. I’ll be visiting one of her pop up events as soon as I can!
Pig a Chic, Yummy Choo Eats, Lidgate butchery demo. Photo Credit: Šárka Babická
There were also tastings…. I was enamoured with the Sauces and Oils by Seggiano. I’m already a pesto lover and with many of these being NKA friendly I am excited to try more. Ooh and Rare Tea Company with their very fine tea especially brewed over ice for us due to the sweltering temps.
There were also brands & products…. We had coconut water literally on tap with a what felt like unlimited supply from Jax Coco coconut water. It kept me suitably hydrated in the rising temperatures all weekend – amazing! Plus Hackney based Happy Kitchen Gluten-Free Brownies which were I’m sure strategically placed around the reception areas purely so I could eat them with each trot past.
As an appreciator of quality meat I was sad to miss most of the the butchery demo by Lidgates due to a combination of my official duties and being in the Pig a Chic queue.
For me, the pinnacle of the eats was the amazing Lebanese Feast cooked up by Bethany Kehdy (and family) to launch her stunning new cookbook “The Jewelled Kitchen” readers of the blog will be fully aware I love this cuisine – so a feast that included dishes such as; Barbequed meat skewers in an incredible marinade, smoky aubergine dip, smoky aubergine & split pea stew, finishing up with date & tahini truffles was not to be missed. Bethany had been cooking for nearly 2 weeks in preparation for the feast. There was no chance we were leaving hungry. All these recipes are in the book (which I now own) – and are accompanied by gorgeous photography by another FBC attendee – Šárka Babická (who also provided the photos for this blog post – thank you so much!)
The Jewelled Kitchen feast in preparation. The Photo Credit: Šárka Babická
Food Blogger Connect is not only about learning and sharing about blogging – but connecting with people. It was great to reconnect with those I’d met last year and kept in contact with in the interim – but also fab to say hello to many new faces – some I already knew of from the Internet and some who I’ve been chuffed to find. Each and every blogger making me a little more humbled with their passion and talent for this ‘hobby’. I was reflecting last week about what inspires me in life – I thought a lot about my answer and settled on ‘other people’ – their stories, ambitions, achievements.
A special mention must go to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly as a team behind the scenes, before, during and after the conference to make it all happen. Who knew taking down a marquee or sticking your face in a fridge could be so much fun?
Until next year….