Holy Moly! I thought the first NZ Food Bloggers Association Conference last year was the bees knees, but this second NZFBA Conference was out-of-this-world, slap-me-silly ah-may-zing. Yes, I become a blubbering idiot when faced with feats of combined genius, generosity and deliciousness.
Shirleen of Sugar and Spice (General Shirleen I salute you, one of our luminous speakers remarked that Shirleen could organise a small war, and I have absolutely no doubt she is more than capable) and our leader and founder, Alli (Gourmet Gannet) put on a truly spectacular 2-day event. The masterclasses, the food, the truly generous sponsors (see list below), the passionate food producers/writers/marketers. I came away imbued with a sense of wonder of being part of an enthusiastic (and very well fed) community.
This year we descended upon Wellington which completely lived up to its City of Cool status. As an opening act, Juan Balsani, the very caliente pastry chef at Kermedec showed 40 bloggers how to manipulate chocolate into different shapes and textures. Then it was next door for the official opening of the NZ Chocolate Festival. The boutique chocolatiers’ experimental flavours, shapes and enthusiasm, and all that chocolate tastings kept me well buzzed. I am starting to believe chocolate goes with everything.
We then moved to Cuba St to christen the newly established Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. This place is heaven for anyone with culinary interests; the envy-inducing gleaming kitchens with commercial grade appliances, the modern lecture theatres, and just the beautiful environment.
The first speaker, Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough, was at his storyteller best with his amusing talk about how his reluctant move to the country inspired a blog, which inspired an olive oil label and led to a book deal. We listened intently as Alison Brook from HarperCollins Publishing informed us of the stark realities of the NZ publishing landscape. It may be of no surprise that cookbooks make up 55% of all non-fiction books sold in NZ, and celebrity chefs dominate the market. Even so, Alison encouraged food bloggers especially those with a authentic, unique angle and a growing audience to pitch ideas, and gave tips on how to translate a blog into a cookbook.
Then it was time for more food. We spread across the CBD for lunch to one of 10 restaurants participating in Wellington on A Plate. I went to The General Practitioner with Alice (Alice in Bakingland), Gillian (So So Simple) and Sarah (Gluten-free Love Kitchen). We were split between the burger challenge and the WOAP special, a lamb and chorizo cassoulet. It was a difficult decision, and everything was delicious. The pork and beef Philadelphian cheeseburger was massive, moist and flavoursome. The dessert of a beer chocolate soup was probably the most intriguing use of chocolate I’d seen.
Lucy Corry (stuff.co.nz Lifestyle Editor, The KitchenMaid blog) spoke on a controversial topic; is it blogging or writing? Lucy rightly said that loving food and having a credit card is not enough. She urged bloggers to think about our audience and take our time. Let our ideas marinade and ensure our writing has integrity. Read Lucy’s post on her talk here. Her demand that food bloggers stop putting photos of cats on their blogs resulted in her getting tweet-bombed with cat pictures the evening of the following day. Meeowww. Rest assured it was all done in good nature, and much hilarity ensued.
We had compelling talk on the use of social media by Sarah Miekle (GM Marketing, Positively Wellington Tourism). By embracing digital marketing, Sarah has ensured huge success for PWT’s events, website, given the brand a personality and a following. Inspired by Sarah’s talk, I cast aside my apprehensions and joined the twitter-sphere.
For afternoon tea, Le Cordon Bleu had made miniature treats for us, the lightest cheese scone and delightful morsels of macarons and madeleines. We were thoroughly spoilt.
I attended a Skype Q&A session with incredibly lovely Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme, a blog focusing on dairy and gluten-free recipes. Emma spoke frankly about her blogging journey and the importance of good photography and connecting with your audience. A recap of Emma's talk and more here. Kaye Reardon from Grow Here Now opened up the floor to let us mine from her extensive knowledge of organic gardening. I learnt that I had been starving my container plants of nutrients, and quietly vowed that I will schedule a proper feeding regime for my next crop of tomatoes.
The secret location for dinner was Floyd’s, where chefs Ben Barton and Andreas Eggmann had prepared a special pop-up dinner menu. We started the evening with a cocktail masterclass by Justin McKenzie of Liquid Winks, who taught us a how to make a delightful aperitif with rum, bitters and ginger ale. The dinner was a continuous train of delicious morsels. I especially loved the tuatua fritters and beetroot roulade.
It was an amazing first day and we had another packed day to look forward to. Continue the adventure on Day 2.
Le Cordon Bleu | NZ Chocolate Festival | t Leaf T
Speakers, Mini Masterclasses, Tutorials and Tastings (24 August)
Alessandra Zecchini | Grow from Here | HarperCollins Publishers | The KitchenMaid | Moon over Martinborough | My Darling Lemon Thyme | Positively Wellington Tourism | Viviane Perényi Photography
Morning and afternoon Tea sponsors
The Collective Dairy | Le Cordon Bleu | t Leaf T
Lunch (24 August)
Wellington on a Plate | Boulcott St Bistro | Coco at the Roxy | Fork & Brewer | Foxglove | The General Practitioner | Hummingbird | Maginnity’s | Monsoon Poon | The Tasting Room | Ti Kouka
100% New Zealand Pork | Floraditas | Floyd’s | Liquid Winks | Moore Wilson | Omega Seafood | Pop Dining | Regal Salmon
Goodie Bag sponsors
100% Nutz | All Good Bananas | Archer McRae | Aroha | The Collective Dairy | Eco Store | Equagold | Floraditas | Kokako | Little Bird Organics | Love Plant Life | Moon over Martinborough | Peoples Coffee | RQute