Being jet lagged and off eating sugar and wheat are hardly the perfect ingredients for being a delegate at a food bloggers conference but I didn’t let that hold me back. Less than a week arriving home from our UK trip I found myself at the new Le Cordon Bleu School in Wellington at the 2nd NZ Food Bloggers Association Conference. Two days immersed in conversation about food, blogging amongst some of the life affirming individuals you’d want to meet. Once again the Internet and Wellington proved to make the world a small place as friendships made on online or at the Inaugural conference I went to in Auckland last November were renewed, new acquaintances struck up and in my case a pleasant surprise reacquaintance with someone I met working in my first job in NZ six years ago.
The conference was held in the dying hours of Wellington’s annual food festival, Wellington on a Plate, providing a supreme opportunity to experience the best of food in Wellington. The conference maestros Shirleen and Allison pulled out all the stops to bring a fast paced and action packed programme of speakers and workshops. It was exhilarating if exhausting for a jet lagged country girl.
I wasn’t joking about the jet lag. I remember enjoying myself immensely over the two days but for the life of me can’t remember much of the detail after the event. The fact I only took a few photographs is also a testament that I was not on the top of my food blogging game. A frightful admission when reporting on a food blogging conference. Luckily there are an amazing number of detailed conference reports to jog my memory so here’s a round-up of my abiding memories.
- The charming Jared, author of the Moon over Martinborough blog, captivated us with tales of his journey from blogger to olive oil baron of his 20 acre farm in the Wairarapa. He is a storyteller first and foremost and started his blog as a way of honing his creative writing skills until people started asking where they could buy his olive oil. After much trial, error and a little help from his friends Jared has placed his olive oil in Wellington’s food mecca Moore Wilsons but more importantly for a writer he’s just signed a book deal with Random House to publish is Moon Over Martinborough stories. I’ve enjoyed Jared’s blog for some time now and it was a real pleasure to finally be able to shake his hand and say hello.
- Alison Book, Head of Publishing, Harper Collins NZ gave a free and frank account of the challenges of publishing cook books. Although accounting for 50% of the non-fiction sales in New Zealand, there is tough competition and even being a best selling cook book author here in NZ is unlikely to make you neither rich nor terribly famous. The big bucks are through international publishing deals but with a growing number of US and UK food bloggers having what it takes to be a successful food writer there is hope for NZ food bloggers yet.
- Lucy Corry, journalist for pay & blogger for fun (The Kitchenmaid), brought insight and humor with her recommended do’s and don’ts for food bloggers. Amongst the forthright views on posting your pet’s photographs on your food blog, Lucy was honest in sharing her experience of reproducing a recipe by Dan Lepard as a note of caution of bloggers who tend to blog about and reproduce recipes without permission.
- Sarah Meikle, GM Marketing, Postively Wellington, made me feel proud to be an adopted Wellingtonian. Sarah’s team are behind many of the wildly successful campaigns and events that have made Wellington the Coolest Capital in the World. A passionate advocate of social media it was entertaining and intriguing to get a peak to the behind the scenes thinking on campaigns such as Pop Up Melbourne, and Visa Wellington on a Plate.
- Rachel Taulelei, founder of Yellow Brick Road and co-founder of the City Market, educated and inspired us to the ethics of buying sustainable fish. You can’t help be infected by Rachel’s passion for the providence of food. I certainly am thinking more about where we get our fish now and aim to be more adventurous when it comes to eating and cooking fish as a result.
- Chris Archer, winemaker and wine consultant, walked us through darwinism for wines. Chris is clearly a bit of a maverick when it comes to the wine industry but has backed his own ideas and ideals in launching a rather light and tasty wine Ritzling or has he describes, “happiness in a bottle”.
Tastings and workshops
- The NZ Chocolate Festival gave the conference a sweet start with a demonstration by Juan Balsani, Pastry Chef, Kermedec. He performed magic with chocolate before our very eyes and gave me my first sugar rush in six weeks and all before 0900. We were then guests at the official opening of the festival and treated us to crowd free access to chocolatiers who were so generous with their samples and anxious to share their particular take on chocolate making. The festival organisers surprised all conference delegates before we left the conference with a huge bag of chocolate goodies to take home.
- Keeping the chocolate theme alive, Day 2 of the conference started with a chocolate tasting session led by Jo Coffey, L’Affaire au Chocolat. Just like wine tasting we were treated to the different varieties of chocolate with Jo’s expert commentary helping us to experience the full taste of the chocolate. As if I wasn’t bad enough, after Jo’s session I am now a confirmed chocolate snob.
- Soda Evangelist, Joseph Slater of Six Barrel Soda Company, allowed the scales to drop from my eyes about real soft drinks. As someone who is a soft drink facist it was wonderful to be able to taste a soft drink made with wholly natural ingredients and lower levels of sugar. I’m tempted to go retro and lash out on a soda stream just to be able to enjoy these sodas in their full glory.
- John Van Gorp, was another beverage enthusiast but this time his tipple was tea. T Leaf is a favourite haunt of mine already selling a wide range of teas in Wellington so it was a real pleasure to hear the thinking behind the business and the lengths that they go to bring the best teas into New Zealand. We were spoiled rotten with tastings of NZ Breakfast Tea, Jasmine Dragon Pearl tea and Kawakawa Fire.
- The Dumpling Queen, Vicky Ha, showed us her no nonsense way of making dumplings. Dumpling House is a regular favourite at the Wellington City Market and I can see why. Although a comfort food, Vicky creates dumplings that are fully of flavor and sophistication. Although I had to skip the wheat laden dumpling the fillings were delicious.
- Little Penang has become an Wellington institution amongst asian loving foodies in less that a year. It’s not hard to see why. They shouted lunch for us on Day 2 after a fascinating demonstration of making traditional sweets. I shall certainly be visiting them for a full blown Little Penang experience soon.
- I opted to attend a mini masterclass by NZFBA Founder Alli and Gourmet Gannet to see if I could polish up my cheese making skills. Let’s just say Alli’s skills and knowledge in cheese making means that I shall be making better mozzarella than ever.
- It was such a pleasure to see for real (or by Skype at least) Emma of My Darling Lemon Thyme, a kiwi decamped to Perth. I’ve been reading her blog for a while and all the more closely since we changed our eating regime. If you ever wanted to meet a food blogger with passion and ambition it would be Emma. She puts her culinary knowledge and skills to great effect with her style of gluten free and allergy sensitive cooking. I so hope that cook book proposal she is honing is finally picked up for publishing as a testament to the hard yards she has put in to making her blog such a valuable resource and great read.
- Kaye from Grow From Here is a prolific micro blogger on twitter and a treasure trove of information about growing food and urban organic gardening specifically. Kaye gave generously of her time and thoughts on how to make growing your own food doable wherever you live and however big your gardening ambitions. Whether it’s a few herbs in a pot or a substantial kitchen garden Kaye was such an inspiration to listen to.
You won’t be surprise that we were well fed during the course of the conference. Le Cordon Bleu provided pastries, cakes and cheese scones to die for. I drew an exceedingly lucky straw when drawn for a Wellington on a Plate lunch at the Boucott Street Bistro one of Wellington’s finest dining spots in the company of @julieleclercNZ, @eatetclesley and @ohcrumbs . The conference dinner was a pop up dining experience which I have to admit that the food and company was the perfect combination. There was a wealth of goodies provided for us in the conference bags through the generosity of some of my favourite food producers.
All up the conference was a huge success and enjoyed by all the delegates. A big thumbs up to the organisers and sponsors who really spoilt us rotten and probably more than we really deserved. I shall look forward to cooking with the goodies we were given and blogging about them at a later date. For now, I leave you with a few images from the conference. As I trawled my relatively small pool of photographs I was struck by the passion and dedication of all those who attended, especially the speakers who were refreshingly open and highly entertaining making the conference such a hit. No doubt that the tagline for the conference sums it up perfectly – For the Love of Food.
T Leaf Tasting
Some of the delicious morsels
Bottom: NZ Chocolate Festival
Le Cordon Blue Morning Tea | Chocolate Tastin and Soda Tasting
Thanks also need to go to the wider contingent of speakers, sponsors and bloggers who made the event such a success.