Eat. Drink. Blog.
In much the same way that Eat. Drink. Blog. is more than a terse summation of our activities as food bloggers, the eponymous annual Australian food bloggers conference is more than a group of food enthusiasts discussing and learning about their passion for all things food related. It’s an affirmation of our talents, our passion, our diversity and our strength as a community; as eager to seek out and savour wonderful food experiences as we are to share our experiences, interests and knowledge with each other and the rest of the world.
This year, the fourth annual Australian food bloggers conference was hosted in Perth, one that I was honoured with the invitation to present a talk on food and mobile photography. It was a great event filled with good food, good presentations, great people and even a little contention and some vigorous debate.
As with any conference, there were a number of informative speakers and panels on various topics, though regarding matters relevant to food blogging in this case. These talks ranged from the current state of blogging and a great talk by Thang Ngo (bottom right) on suggestion of where we should be headed for the future (Food Blogging in Australia, The Future), to technical skills on writing and food photography.
Adam from The Amateur Gourmet (bottom left) was a special guest blogger from the US, flown in to talk on a number of panels, passing on his knowledge and wisdom as an accomplished blogger, writer, TV personality etc. I wished there was also a panel on how to be as effortlessly charismatic as he was.
As mentioned previously, the talk I was invited to present was on Food and Mobile Photography. While I’ve conducted a few workshops and numerous talks on the subject of photography, for some reason it felt like I was doing it all for the first time. Perhaps it was a certain amount of self-imposed pressure of presenting a talk that would be informative without alienating anyone in an audience of varying levels of skill and experience. An audience of fellow food bloggers who had given up their own time and spent their own money to travel around Australia to attend the conference and hear my talk.
As a speaker, naturally you’d want to ensure that your presentation would be worth their while. Something that is simple enough for the novice to comprehend, relevant for the experience blogger and offer a fresh perspective for the veteran conference attendee. From the feedback received, thankfully my talk seemed to have gone well.
For those who were keen for a blog post on the contents of the presentation, I’ll see to that soon in another post. It’ll also give me the opportunity to pick up some things that I didn’t have much time to talk about as well as offer a bonus titbit or two that had to be cut from the final presentation. Watch this space :)
There was some serious debate on the issue of whether or not it is considered ethical to accept and post either PR-provided products or events, or paid sponsored. Cynthia has a very progressive view on PR, being very selective with the ones she accepts and her insistence on maintaining full editorial control over her voice and message. Phil on the other hand is opposed to anything PR related for his blog and seemed to suggest that any involvement with PR, no matter the situation or the care taken, will ultimately bias your opinion in the PR’s favour. Despite butting heads on numerous occasions, the discussion was mostly civil and there were even some things they agreed on. For instance, accepting any PR product or event just because you can, without consideration of how it fit in with your blog and brand, wasn’t looked upon favourably by either party.
You can read more on their views on their respective blog posts - Eat Drink Blog 2013 – reflections on blogging, ethics and corruption and I ate the sponsored food: Why disclosure isn’t enough.
While I’ll spare you a comprehensive view on the matter, just bear in mind that in the same way that accepting a PR offer doesn’t always mean you’re biased and unethical, the reverse position of never accepting anything PR-related also does not mean you automatically have the moral high ground of being ethical or objective either. Not even remotely. Each situation should be assessed on its own merits.
If anything that my years in blogging has taught me, readers on the whole are smart enough to spot bullshit when they see it. Dig a little, question assertions and assumptions and you’ll easily spot the inconsistencies, cognitive bias, intellectual dishonesty and where people’s views and arguments fall through on either side of the divide. I mean this in general regarding the PR/non-PR debate on ethics and bias, not specifically regarding either speaker’s views or posts.
When it comes to food, you know that food bloggers have that stuff sorted. The conference organising committee had done a great job getting together a good group of sponsors to take care of our food, beverage and photographic needs throughout the day. We were never left wanting at any stage during the conference.
For instance, breakfast consisted of an assortment of sweet and savoury cakes, pastries and tarts, and much the same during the conference breaks.
Lunch was a special affair with an extensive and generous buffet to outdo all other buffets I’ve seen for quite some time. The feast ranged from various charcuterie with even a jamon-carving station(!!), antipasto, savoury tarts, fabulous scotch eggs, salads and so on. It was a smorgasbord of sumptuous savouries and sweets that surreptitiously serviced a spectrum of dietary requirements. So much so that it initially was not apparent that special needs were being catered for at all. It was just good food, period.
If you have a love for cheese, this was THE lunch for you. Seven different cheeses from Stilton to Manchego, Ash Brie to Cave-aged cheddar were served in large wheels and consumed with gusto. Lactose intolerance be damned!
There wasn’t much in the way of desserts but the few they did have were nice and appropriately modest in their portion given the bounty of sweets and pastries we would have access to throughout the day. These vanilla panna cotta desserts, topped with coffee and Frangelico syrup and served with a choc chip cookie were a great way to round off a satisfying lunch.
Dinner was a pop-up of sorts, with a variety of market stalls, food trucks and a couple of bars showing off some of Perth’s finest in casual food and beverages. If you ever find yourself in Perth, I highly recommend seeking out Delice Ice’s wonderful assortment of artisan ice blocks and Marcelita’s Empanadas. The pork and lime ones are utterly sublime.
It was a long and wonderful conference day of informative talks, networking with fellow food bloggers and copious amounts of good food.
However, that was just Day One. Day Two was another matter entirely.
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