This is a guest contribution from Thei Zervaki.
Each year, the International Food Blogger Conference brings together USA-based and foreign food bloggers under the same roof. During the three-day event, participants taste food, improve their food writing skills, and learn more about the latest trends in photography and technology. As a participant myself in this year’s conference held in Seattle, I share the highlights:
FOOD –the center of all activities
Food was the main event of the conference, so to speak! The opening night reception and gift suite, the wine reception on Saturday followed by the culinary fair, and two breakfast sessions hosted by two sponsors, it was indeed a show for those who are in the food business.
- Be observant, curious, open-minded and spot upcoming food trends. IFBC is rather small compared to massive food trade shows like the Fancy Food Show for example, but trends are there in terms of recipe making, propping and decorating. You can reinterpret these trends on your blog for a unique twist on everyone’s new favourite.
The trends I saw were:
- The avocado cupcakes served may well be an indication of a cupcake comeback – this time savory.
- Yogurt got an upgrade by being served in martini glasses. Is this the new way of serving, daily, modest foods and dishes?
- Cocktails were made with tea, spices and herbs, marking a soft passing to the fall and winter months.
- Street-food inspired dishes as well comfort food dishes with a twist had a bold presence.
WRITING: are food bloggers moving towards to more conventional food writing?
There were several sessions with the topic of food writing. From a New York Times writer to Seattle-based bloggers to published cookbook authors, all shared their personal writing and blogging stories, and made suggestions on how to improve our writing skills.
- Find your writing voice. Bloggers can have different voices for different blogs or outlets. One may require you to reveal yourself, a second to play a bit more of a character. Whatever you decide to go for, you have to be consistent to the outlet you contribute because consistency will bring readers back.
- Decide who you want to be as a blogger/writer. Are you a recipe tester? A mom trying to make better and healthier meals everyday? Or a professional who wants to succeed in everything including cooking? That will define your surroundings and it will be essential to find your voice.
- Do exercises to improve your writing skills like try to create a scene with your words. Don’t forget the famous Ws: when, where, what, why and who.
- Make three changes after the final post is written to delve even deeper: why the pie is so good? Who made it? Where is now? Can you improve on your writing?
- Keep an eye on the food trends for updated, fresh and interesting content that can be seasonal or holiday-related. It will help you establish yourself as a blogger who has their finger on the pulse.
- Watch out with those freebies. Bloggers should respect the FTC regulations that demand from all bloggers to disclose in their postings any free products or services they receive in order to write it. Postings can be sponsored by brands very often and this also has to be disclosed. What bloggers should build first to bring and keep readers to their sites is trust, so ethics is an important piece of food blogging.
- The well-worn path is often the most fruitful – if you want to become a published cookbook author, you have to follow the traditional path of getting an agent, sending a proposal and working with a mainstream publisher. In come cases, a publisher may ask you to find a photographer and a food stylist for the images of the book and this is an additional cost to you. There are self-publishing options of course but in this case writers are in charge of everything.
Trends in Technology
Write more, and write well
Sara Rosso, Marketing Director at Automattic (WordPress.com) gave a presentation that focused on the Jetpack plugin for the self-hosted WordPress sites. The presentation was packed with all the features that Jetpack offers from the stats to contacts and the extra side bar widgets to security backups (through vaultpress).
- Write often and well
- Develop quality content
- Adopt descriptive titles (in recipes and all content)
- Add text to images, and add links to their content.
Photography is King
But if food, writing and technology were the themes, photography actually under-staged them all. High-profile photographers talked on how to make your food look better in photos, how to prepare the food, prop styles for cookbooks and how to shoot excellent photos for major culinary magazines as well as your blog. Those well-planned and staged shots manipulate any plate of food in such detail that it looks delicious, so delicious that your desire of having it is immediate. The recipe on how to make your Thanksgiving turkey look brown and mouthwatering includes some dish soap. You’re better off not eating it afterward!
- Create the setting for your image: think about time, season, weather, indoors/outdoors, people, emotions…
- Develop your personal style to really stand out from the crowd: consider colors, props, decoration
- Tell a story through food: what do you want to portray?
- Develop recipes from different angles so they can be photographed in different ways: give a twist to classic dishes, think outside the box.
- Prop styling is as important as writing and photography: Invest in surfaces, linens, flatware, etc that you can use again, but also diversify. Scout for little treasures in antique and vintage shops, eBay and boutique stores in your area. You can also rent them instead of buying them.
- Have a budget for gear, workshops and travel in order to learn to take better photos but think where you will use these photos first
Next year the IFBC is moving to Sacramento for the much needed change of scenery. The choice is not coincidental – Sacramento is the heart of California’s farming and agricultural industry. Next year’s content will include some key issues facing the world’s food community, including drought, food-insecurity, urban farming, sustainability and agricultural innovations. It seems that food bloggers are moving to food writing with a larger scope.
Are you a food blogger? Have you seen similar trends emerging in your space?