Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Weekend to Remember: Food Blogger Connect 2011

FBC Logo
It all started with a simple tweet "Olives from Spain are delicious, nutritional and versatile ". This was the winning quote that got me access to Europe's premiere food bloggers conference.
The Winning Tweet!
I had read so much about it and had entered the previous Cusinart competition with not much success that I didn't really think too much about winning the second competition. However, on hearing the great news, I was in celebratory mood and in my head I performed cartwheels and backflips aplenty. I counted down the days to the big weekend. It was taking place at the very stylish and luxurious Hempel Hotel, Notting Hill and little 'ole me was on the attendee list!
FBC '11 Venue: The Hempel Hotel
A big thank you to my Sponsors "Olives from Spain", without whom I would never have had the opportunity to listen to some insightful and inspirational guest speakers and to meet some fantastic fellow food bloggers.
A special extended thanks to Bethany Kehdy from Dirty Kitchen Secrets and the team behind organising FBC 2011. Their dedication and attention to detail throughout the weekend shone through and it was a very polished and professional conference.
Beth delivers opening speech at Food Blogger Connect 2011
There have already been truly wonderful accounts of the weekend including some fantastic photography over at iamafeederCulinaria LibrisCherrapeno and Junglefrog to name a few.
One of my highlights of the weekend was the Food Writing Style Workshop run by Fiona Beckett, a contributor to The Guardian's Word Of Mouth Blog and a blogger of no fewer than 5 food and wine oriented blogs. She was able to distill the differences between the journalist and the blogger and has summarised the presentation on her blog post here.
Richard Harden of Harden's Restaurant Guides also captured my attention. In 1991, he founded the publishing firm, Harden's Guides with his brother, Peter. Harden's produce restaurant guides from opinions expressed from what is now the largest annual survey of restaurant-goers in the UK. Richard gave an illuminating presentation on existing restaurant critics and what he looks for in a restaurant review.
Harden's Logo
Although, Richard himself admittedly could not talk incessantly about food (he would find it too boring!)  I thought his presentation was thought provoking. These are the little nuggets, I managed to glean:

  • Forty percent of Top UK Restaurant Critics are in such a privileged position by virtue of being the son of a prominent journalist. Examples cited were AA Gill and Giles Coren.
  • The top critics devote a small amount of their column to the description of the actual food itself; restaurants are social phenomena, of which food plays an important part.
  • It is difficult to evoke images of food without coming across as pompus!
  • Richard is not a reader of other restaurant reviews, nor does he read food blogs
  • Harden's have 50,000 applicants a year to conduct restaurant reviews.
  • Richard's practical and useful approach would include :
  1. A description of the place
  2. An opinion as to whether the restaurant is any good
  3. An answer to the simple question: As a diner, would you go back?
  4. What set of people would you advise to go to this particular restaurant?
  5. Always give the reader something to take away from your review. This should make the review stand out from the others. 
The food throughout the conference was of tremendous quality, whether it was the array of flavours supplied by Olives from Spain, the cookery demos provided by Caroline MiLi Artiss and Anjum Anand, the cocktail dinner on Friday evening, not to mention the addictive chocolate delicacies provided by Leila Brandao. We were all truly spoiled!
Caroline prepares for Tapenade Demo
I was continuously blown away by the gifted photographers we had at FBC 2011. A quick glance at some of the blogs made me want to hang my head in shame! The nice thing about it is that they are all so modest with it, "Oh its just a Nikon this" or " a Canon that"  but the way they unleash and manipulate "the beast" is quite something else! I am full of admiration! I have a lot to learn and after attending the conference, I will be investing in a good camera so that my photographs can be a bit more appealing!
Happy Days: Foodie Obsessed Girls and Boys at FBC'2011
Photo Credit: Sarka Babika

It was a marvellous event. It is fantastic to be part of such a fabulous food community. You know you are in good company when your love of food is mirrored by others and is not met with a vacant or bored expression!
I have now crossed off  number 7 of my Events Wish list and number 8 of my Food and Drink Wish List.
A date in the diary has been set for next year's Food Blogger Connect; the weekend of June 22-24, 2012
My thanks again to Olives from Spain for making my foodie dreams come true! I plan to post some olive inspired recipes in the weeks to come.


  1. I am soooo jealous. Would love to attend, but live so far away and work full time. Thank you for passing on some of the knowledge you picked up.

  2. 1 event and 2 things crossed off of your to-do list - that's good going! :-)

    It also amazes me when food bloggers pull out decent cameras. By the way, I've got a Canon 40D with 4 lenses, x2 converter, 2 flashes, 2 camera bags, 1 tripod, small home studio setup, etc. ;-)

  3. Janice, thanks for your lovely comment. It's a pleasure ;-) It's a shame there is nothing equivalent for Scotland, at least an abbreviated version because I am sure there would be plenty of interest. Not sure if the peeps behind "Bite & Write" would be willing do something in Scotland if the day is a success in Birmingham?

    Techboy: Woo-hoo!Get you with all your gadgets! Coverter? Qu'est-ce que c'est? Enjoyed your presentation. It raised a lot of interest with the attendees ;-)

  4. The x2 converter is placed between the camera body and any lens to make that lens x2 the magnification. There are some cons with it, but it's sometimes handy to have.

    Thank you! The presentation was brought forward and there wasn't laptop prepared, or as much time as I should have; but that's half the fun - and it seems to have generated some interest. A few WordPress bloggers are currently having a look at the plugin and it will be released publicly in 2-3 weeks!!!

  5. Great write up Jac, and you mentioned some of the things I had forgotten already.
    Thanks for the shout-out, I'll add this to my post too.

  6. Thanks Nic. You are too kind. There was so much to write about - wasn't there?

    Techboy - Good Luck with the release - hope it goes smoothly ;-)

  7. Great post and you filled in the gaps that I missed out! Lovely to meet you and hope you will come and visit next time you're in Provence!

  8. Thanks Angela. Love the gravatar - so cute!
    I'll keep you in mind for Provence ;-)

  9. Wonderful post! Thanks for recapping Richard Harden's story! I still find it very funny that he was willing to admit he doesn't like to talk/write about food - at a food blogger conference! It was great to meet you, see you next year?!

  10. Thanks for your comment Valerie! I quite like the diversity of opinions across the foodie world. Makes for interesting conversation ;-)
    I'd love to go next year, just need to see if I will be in London in June.

  11. We're so happy you won that ticket and made it out to FBC! It was lovely to meet you and we're glad to hear you enjoyed the conference. All the best. x

  12. Thanks Bethany. It's a worthwhile event. Long may it continue :-)