In the 10 months since I started Mondomulia, I have learnt a lot about food, photography, social media, and I have also met many wonderful people. I had no idea that any of this would happen. I didn't create Mondomulia to become a 'blogger'. I was bored with my job and depressed about it, so the blog made me feel creative, it gave me a reason to use my camera and improve my skills, and it also offered a space to share my photos.
Many people around the world have a food blog, like me. They all have different motives: maybe a passion for cooking, or the dream to be a writer, or a need to promote a business or a book. Apart from the love for food, we usually have one thing in common: we like to meet up and share our knowledge and experiences in person!
That's the purpose of Food Blogger Connect, a convention of international food bloggers, which takes place once a year in London. FBC12 took place in the last weekend of September and, as soon as I found out about it, I wanted to be there.
Blogging is a personal activity: even though a part of what we do is going out to restaurants or attending events, the work behind a blog post happens in our homes and in our kitchens. Our writing is personal, as we talk about food while sharing our lives, our fears, hopes, dreams.
Food Blogger Connect gives to food bloggers the opportunity to meet up over three days in one of the greatest cities in the world: London. Many bloggers are willing to travel from other countries just to be here for FBC. It is undeniably a unique opportunity.
This year's convention took place at Beaconsfield, an art gallery located a few minutes away from the river Thames, close to Westminster and Vauxhall. The location was perfect for me, as I could reach the venue by bus. The weather was also kind to us, as we were blessed with a beautiful sunny sky and not a drop of rain.
Food Blogger Connect lasts for three days, from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon. Several lessons take place in the main hall throughout each day, but there are also many breaks, so that all attendees can socialize, as well as learn.
While the lessons last only 30-60 minutes each, there are longer workshops with famous international speakers, which are the main attraction of Food Blogger Connect. One of this year's highlights was Ellen Silverman workshop on food photography and styling (sadly I couldn't attend, but have heard great things about).
Here are some shots I took of the props that were used during the 4-hour course.
Attending FBC12 was an expensive affair, with the minimum entry price set at £299. This gave full access to the convention for three days; there wasn't an option to buy a ticket for one day only. Entry to the workshops was not included in the ticket and the cost varied from £35 to £99 (workshop tickets could not be purchased without paying the £299 ticket first). If you add travel and accommodation costs, you can imagine how costly it becomes and how it makes it impossible for many bloggers to attend.
Is it worth it? Yes, it is worth spending the money because FBC is a unique chance to learn about varied topics related to food blogging and to meet some really nice and interesting people.
Is the price fair? No, I personally think that the ticket was too expensive for what we received in terms of venue, food, quality of the lessons.
Will I attend FBC next year? I am not sure, I will make a decision when the time comes, based on the price, location and speakers.
I regret not taking part to the workshops, but I know that I simply could not afford spending the extra money.
What I loved the most about FBC was learning bits and pieces of every aspect of food blogging, some things I was clueless about, and yet they may well play a key role in the success of my blog: recipe writing, doing your own PR, e-Publishing, managing relations with PR agencies, self-hosting, blog security, publishing a cookbook, niche blogging and most of all...
my everybody's scariest enemy: SEO techniques! I must thank Judith and May for their incredibly valuable lessons!
I also enjoyed the lessons with Sarka of Cook Your Dream: even though I already knew about Lightroom and natural lighting, I still got some very useful tips from her.
Food played a big part at FBC12, as you can imagine. This year's theme was "street food" and meals took place in the "Market & Social Playground". Different street food stalls were set up every day in the courtyard, the smell coming from their grills and reaching our lecture hall every morning and afternoon! As I mentioned before, we were very lucky it didn't rain, or else queuing for food in the courtyard would not have been much fun. Still, we were dry, but we were also cold.
That would be my negative feedback to the FBC organizers: the hall was too big for the small number of people attending the lessons (15-20 on average) and was not heated. The market and social playground were outdoor, so we were going from being cold inside the hall to being colder outside. Despite layering on clothes, I felt constantly cold and clutched paper cups of hot tea to warm up. It might be just my personal experience, but I know most of the bloggers spent the weekend with their coats on.
Every day started with breakfast in the Ragged Canteen, served by Urvashi Roe of Botanical Baker as part of Better Breakfast Week. The Wheat Bran, Baobab & Banana Muffins were delicious and I will attempt to make them at home soon!
There were hot and cold drinks available for the attendees: coffee by Nespresso, tea by Joe's Tea Company, smoothies by Good Heavens and AMAZING apple juices by Cawston Press - my favourite discovery from the weekend! For those interested in booze, bubbly, cocktails and Wines of Lebanon were also available.
I must mention the Vitamix team, blending away amazing smoothies, soups and ice-creams in a few minutes, mesmerizing every single one of us with their amazing blender! Three lucky FBC attendees even won the Vitamix in a raffle!
Every afternoon we had the traditional English afternoon tea with scones, with clotted cream and jam...
...but also the special "High Chai" prepared by Pistachio Rose, a baker who creates wonderful Indian-inspired desserts. I loved her Chocolate Chai Tart and the Pistachio Naan dipped in hot chocolate, a re-inventation of the classic churros con chocolate.
I discovered a few London-based street food businesses that had escaped my radar until now. I only have a few photos from Sunday, but here's a list of all the food I tasted at FBC12: salt beef bagels by Bel Brisket; pastel de nata and chocolate salame by Silmar Taste; homemade ravioli by Pasta e Basta; canapes by La Tentation; tongue on a roll by Tongue 'N Cheek; mini-burgers by Mother Flipper; tasty potato salad by Russian Revels; Mexican flautas by Toma Mexicano.
And finally some delicious and spicy curry by Vinn Goute.
Italian focaccia sandwiches by Gurmetti.
Venezuelan food by Guasacaca
The thing that really makes Food Blogger Connect valuable is the people. Having the chance to meet face to face bloggers that we love and read about every day, people who may live in different countries and speak different languages. They come together in one place for three days and exchange ideas, get to know each other, learn from each other. At the end of the day, this is what makes it worth it.
And so it is sad to know that MANY MORE bloggers would have loved to come. The venue had capacity for a larger number of attendees and I personally know some of London's best food bloggers, who weren't at FBC12 because they were put off by the price.
If the best part of Food Blogger Connect is meeting bloggers, then it is a real shame that many of them cannot afford to attend it...it leaves a pinch of bitterness to an otherwise great experience.