Yes, that’s quite the title and it is really fitting the weekend that we had, out at the Hockley Valley Resort in Orangeville. It was great to say the least, overwhelming almost. A whirlwind of 3 days of meeting people, eating great food, learning a lot and enjoying it to the fullest.
Writing a sum up of this conference is much harder than I thought. I seem to be unable to gather my thoughts in a reasonable manner, bringing across what I have learned without babbling.
I was quite excited to read that Food Bloggers of Canada were organizing a food blogger conference in Canada. I knew there were similar events in the States, however, that always seemed far away. Frankly, Toronto is not much closer for someone from Saskatchewan but it was meant to be for Canadian food bloggers, the first of it’s kind, something I wanted to be part of.
Friday, April 12, early in the morning my flight left for Toronto and I was nervous as to what to expect. Yes, there is the line up of events online, yes, you can see who is coming, but reading about it and actually being there are two different things.
I met up with Bridget with whom I had a lovely chat and lunch before meeting up with Valerie to share a ride to the Resort. Oh Toronto, I don’t think we will be friends, your drivers are a bit crazy. But we made it just to arrive to a black out at the Resort probably due to that freezing rain we saw on the way.
A quick check-in and before I knew it Kelly, my roomie, took me to our room, which was spacious and comfortable and I really really liked those big bed and soft sheets. I had to catch my breath, change and then off to the bar we went to chat with other food bloggers.
Now, I am not a fan of the word “swag” but I am a fan of goodies. Like grow-your-own-mushroom-kit (started two days ago), lentils in a wine bottle, cook books, coupons for things like Blurb, little kitchen gadgets, oh, a Delta touch-less faucet, and of course Moo business cards. Those were put to good use during the weekend and I was glad I had them.
Around 6 p.m. a reception was held by the sponsors with little snacks and Henry of Pelham Sparkling – Cuveé Catharine. It was a good time to mix and mingle, meet more people, or meet people you know online but never seen before. KitchenAid Canada had set up a pictures booth with little props, goofy photos were the result.
Dinner was lovely. More people to meet, more food to eat, more wine to drink, oh and some pictures of course. Funny how it is that I took pictures of the meal but not of the people who shared it with me. I know that there were three people who represented brands: Sandra from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, Annelies from Attune Foods, and one of the owners of Henry of Pelham (sorry, didn’t catch your name). And David Leite was the key note speaker, giving us some lovely insight. (I didn’t take notes but should have.)
Later that night we all switched into comfy pants and went to the movies, generously sponsored by KitchenAid Canada. We had delicious milkshakes, which were prepared in KitchenAid blenders, there was popcorn and monster cookies by Sweetopia. Most people got to the conference that day, getting up early, so the movie cleared out fairly fast. We all had a good nights sleep.
Saturday started as any Saturday should start, with a breakfast buffet. If you liked sweet or savoury in the morning, they had it. I went for French toast, hmmmm.
The following is just a “short” summarize of the panels, I took more notes than that but it would go it too much detail, I believe, if I would list them all.
Bloggers and Brands
- both sides were able to talk about what is important
- the relationship should be beneficial on both sides
- the brand should fit your blog
Critic and the Chef
- social media and blogging has changed this relationship
- everyone is a critic now, everyone can voice their opinion
- interesting to hear how chefs cope with so many critics nowadays and what they think of photography in the restaurant
Tech for your Blog
- accessibility of your blog for mobile devices
- use the right formatting tools for your posts
- Use Headings
- pay attention to picture size and use link colours
- avoid flash
- tags and alt tags for pictures
- Google webmaster tools, Google Sitemap, Google Authorship, Google Analytics
This is a two headed beast for me because on the one hand yes, I’d like to make money of my blog, but no, I don’t like ads that much. I believe this is something I will have to look into later down the road.
I struggle with good pictures much due to the lighting in my house. I also have some issues with props, or rather, the lack of props, which has something to do with space and storage….
- rule of thirds
- vertical images are better than horizontal
- depth of field
- lighting should come for the back or the side
- colour temperature and food enhancements
I need to work on most of these but as I see it photography is a learning experience. There are very few who are good right from the beginning. The rest of us learns by taking pictures.
My biggest issue though with the panel was the food enhancement. For commercial shots I understand that you prop your food, that you use materials on it to make the colours and textures pop. I get it. For me, that wouldn’t work because afterwards I am consuming that food. I prop my food too, arrange it to make it as appealing as possible. But I will not rub my burger meat or scrambled eggs with extra oil to make it look shinier. For my blog, I want my readers to see how it turns out, so they can go and bake or cook it and be like “That looks very much like what she posted.” Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear and see what a professional had to say.
Changing Face of Food Writing
- know your food history
- take care of your credibility
- tone your communication skills
- take a writing course
- find your niche
Hey, is anybody out there?
- engage the reader by thinking about him/her and make them care
- how personal do you like to write?
- who are you writing to?
- put forth an opinion
- questions, things that are trendy, kitchen disasters
- leave room for comments, e.g. leave a hole
David Leite’s Q & A
It was really funny and interesting and I guess we could have just spend the whole day listening to him, asking questions.
- language, love it, embrace is and use it right
- right use of punctuation, exclamation marks should only be used once
- smilies don’t belong in a blogger’s text
- get some one to edit if you can
- if you are busy, upload a pictures or just leave a short text so readers know you still care
- go with your guts
- Zombie posts are ok
- post of a 1000 word are ok
This concluded Saturday’s session and we had some time to hang out with others or relax and get ready for the dinner that night. Again, the evening started with a little reception and a sparkling wine by The Grange of Prince Edward. This time there was no assigned seating. The dinner was delicious and the conversations were fun.
Sunday morning rolled around way too quickly and had a little surprise for me. After checking out and taking my things to the car I found the rental care dead. Yes, I had left on the lights. So, after a quick bite I was able to get a boost before returning to the last sessions.
Bookkeeping for Bloggers
- pay attention to expenses and income
- be organized
- get an auditor who knows about blogging/food blogging
- market has changed greatly over the last 10 years
- do an app, e-book
- get some experience, co-author
- find your niche
This could be a separate conference because each blogger is different and there are many approaches to the topic.
A completely new topic to me. I tweak recipes, I sometimes combine two, but I don’t think I ever really developed a recipe from scratch.
- compare various recipes to find the things that works
- have a base recipe and change things until you have what you want
- test, double test and re-test again
There are different approaches to this and it depends much on the person on how to go about. I believe for a baker it is important to understand the chemistry side of baking. What ingredients will do what thing when baked, basically.
Future Trends in Canadian Food Blogging
Dana McCauley looked back on the development of the past years and pointed out that one should choose to be different (find your niche), have a purpose and don’t look to be popular. She had 8 simple wishes for food bloggers:
1. Tell a story2. Teach blogging basics & ethnics to children
3. Learn the difference between their, there, and they’re
4. Edit relentlessly
5. Understand the difference between a journal and a blog
6. Be transparent
7. Reward quality
8. Put a flag on it
I believe the last point resonated with most if not all of it. Be proud of being a Canadian Food Blogger because we are a unique bunch and should be afraid to point out that we are.
Thus the First Food Bloggers of Canada Conference ended. Well, not quite true, lunch was served before we all headed out to go back to our lives and blogs.
What an experience. How much was given to us to learn, to understand, to connect with and to take back home to use. I still need to work on many things but I am very glad I went to this conference.