I’m a proud member of Food Bloggers of Canada, and when I learned they were organizing the first-ever conference for Canadian food bloggers in April, I knew right away I was going to attend. In fact, I adjusted my work schedule to make sure I was among the first members to register. The conference, called FBC2013 for short, was held last weekend and the experience was beyond my expectations.
If you’re a Canadian food blogger, please consider joining FBC if you’re not already a member. They provide many helpful resources and member opportunities each and every week on their website. And, if there’s another conference in future, you won’t want to miss it.
As I reflect on my conference experience, four words encompass what it meant to me: community, learning, food and generosity. And, I was lucky enough to have a bonus experience that I’ll tell you about at the end of this post.
Prior to the conference I had never met a single food blogger in person. While I have some online blogging friends, a different connection forms when you meet people in real life. I have a whole stack of cards on my desk now from people with whom I’ve spoken, eaten and laughed. We’ve shared our dreams for our blogs, had some deep discussions on issues like how much of our personal stories to share, and traded tips on technical stuff like search engine optimization (alas, blogging isn’t only about food, you know).
I also had a chance to meet (or at least be in the same room with) some luminaries on the Canadian food scene and beyond who were present to share their knowledge and insights. I hesitate to name names because each and every speaker added so much value to my experience, but to give you a flavour of the event there were Emily Richards, Mairlyn Smith, Dianne Jacob, David Leite, Dana McCauley, Adell Shneer, Aimee Wimbush-Bourque and Julie Van Rosendaal, to name just some.
I think triumphing together over adversity also helps build bonds. In true Canadian fashion the conference opened to an April ice storm that disrupted travel and a four-hour power outage at the resort. Yes, these things added stress but were also great ice-breakers (if you’ll pardon the pun) as we all straggled in and met our fellow bloggers in the dim light of back-up power.
I’ve come away from FBC2013 with new friends and feeling a strong sense of community with my fellow Canadian food bloggers. I’m prouder than ever to have my Canadian identity on my blog.
Okay, the food was a close second, but learning really did come before the eating. Having the chance to hear panel after panel of respected speakers talking about subjects of keen interest to me was invaluable. I’ve come away with many ideas and resources to improve my writing and technical aspects of the blog, a greater understanding of recipe development, and awareness of some of the sober realities of being a freelance food writer in today’s market (hint: few people get rich doing this).
I learned from every session, but the topics that most spoke to my current needs were:
- recipe development 101;
- food photography and styling;
- blog tech to get and keep visitors;
- how to write so readers will comment (oh, please do!);
- how to form an effective partnership with brands;
- earning a living (or ‘dough’ as we food people like to say) from writing; and,
- how food writing is changing and future trends in Canadian food blogging.
If you follow me on Twitter (@MusingMar), you may have seen that right after the conference I tweeted: “I wonder what gourmet meal with four wine pairings I’ll be served tonight?” The conference was held at the beautiful Hockley Valley Resort north of Toronto, and the chefs there delivered one amazing meal after another. The first starter of our first meal was – are you ready for it? – poutine, but, oh, like no poutine I’ve had before. This was gourmet poutine. And believe me, it set the standard for everything else to come.
Respect for Canada’s food producers was evident throughout the event, with an emphasis on Canadian-produced whole foods such as beef, turkey, mushrooms, maple syrup and more. At the two dinners, each course was paired with Ontario wines and each wine was introduced by representatives from their respective vineyards. To hear someone talk about how intensively wine is farmed, how she planted the vines and blends the wine herself , and how the vineyard is affected by the vagaries of weather engenders a new level of respect for what’s in our glass.
Generosity of spirit was pervasive throughout FBC2013. It was definitely among participants who shared a spirit of celebration about being part of this event. The three co-founders of FBC, Melissa Hartfiel, Mardi Michels and Ethan Adeland, worked tirelessly (and perhaps at times tiredly) to put on a stellar conference. Volunteers gave of their time. Presenters freely shared their knowledge and experience during their sessions and over the course of the weekend. Sponsors stepped up with a staggering amount of gifts and prizes. We attendees kept asking each other, “Can you believe it?”
From cookies left on our pillows and handed out at sessions, to a variety of food products including Canadian lentils and a mushroom growing kit, to business cards, books and e-book coupons, to kitchen gadgets and food styling tools, the gifts just kept coming. Kitchen Aid had draws for a stand mixer and attachments, as well as two sets of handheld appliances. Delta Faucet Canada is going to send each participant their choice of a Touch20 Technology faucet. As I wrote about in my last post, here, Nordic Ware sent everyone several pieces of cookware prior to the conference and anyone who reviewed the cookware would be eligible for their grand prize.
And the Winner Is …
Imagine this scene — the Nordic Ware representatives took to the stage to wish attendees well and thank those who wrote reviews of their cookware. Then it was time for the draw –a hand reached into the box and pulled out a folded strip of paper. Another slip clinging to it fell back into the box. The representative unfolded the paper and read into the microphone: Marlene Cornelis, Life Through the Kitchen Window and I realized … that’s me! I stood and waved to the room and felt such a flush of good fortune. It was a lovely moment, made all the better by the congratulations of my fellow Canadian bloggers throughout the rest of the conference.
I would like to thank Nordic Ware not only for their support of the conference but for their generosity in providing this prize. So, are you curious? You can see an itemized list of the grand prize in the previous post, but here is a photo of what was delivered to my home last Friday.
Sharing My Good Luck with a Giveaway
Update May 1, 2013: The Giveaway is now closed. The winner is Sharon! Thanks to everyone who participated.
I’m giving one of my Canadian readers (apologies to those of you from outside Canada) an opportunity to share in my good fortune. One lucky person will receive the Nordic Ware Pro Cast Traditions™ Mini Cocottes (set of two, with a retail value of approximately $58.00). To enter, please leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite kitchen tool is. You have until midnight EST April 30, 2013 to do so. For a second chance to enter, please ‘like’ my Facebook page (a link to do so is at the top right of this page) and leave me another comment here telling me you’ve done so. If you’ve already liked it, just leave a comment telling me that. Only these two entries per per email address allowed. I will conduct a random draw on Wednesday, May 1 and announce the winner here, as well as follow up with the lucky winner. Good luck!