Food Blog Camp 2011: The Whole Enchilada

I got home late last night from 5 days in Mexico at the Grand Velas Maya Riviera, where I attended my first Food Blog Camp.  When I signed up for this event a few months ago I hoped that I would have fun, make friends, learn a lot, and come away with renewed enthusiasm and new ideas for my blog.

As luck would have it, all of these happened plus more.  It was a wonderful experience, and I am so glad that I went!

I will try to keep my recap to a readable length, but I make no promises…

I arrived in Cancun, Mexico Wednesday afternoon and met my scheduled shuttle.  I ended up being the only one in the van, so I got to chat with the driver and practice some of my broken Spanish on the way to the resort.  Most of my fellow “campers” arrived later in the day, so I spent the next few hours wandering around the gorgeous property at the Grand Velas and taking photos.  The sun felt wonderful…

That evening we had a welcome cocktail hour, then broke into groups for dinner with one of the event leaders.  I got lost looking for my restaurant (of course I did) and was the last one to arrive, so I ended up at the head of the table opposite David Lebovitz for a dinner at Cocina de Autor, the resort’s signature restaurant.  Pretty memorable way to start things off!

Over the next few days, I attended sessions covering the business of blogging, site design, photography, food styling, and finding your blog voice.  I also got to observe and photograph cooking demonstrations by the resort’s chefs, set up and photograph my own still life examples using different manipulations of natural light, and watch a master food stylist at work with a plate of pancakes.

During and in between those, I also met many of my terrific fellow campers and got to share stories with them about life, food, and blogging.  They were so warm, inspiring, and encouraging. It was lovely to meet them all, and it was a treat to not always be the only one whipping out my camera to take pictures of my food before eating it! I am looking forward to lots of continued correspondence. 

Our Camp “Counselors” had plenty of advice to give:

Lecciones

From Jaden Hair (Steamy Kitchen)
Be generous, care about each other, and know your worth. 

From Todd Porter and Dianne Cu (White on Rice Couple)
When photographing food, know where the light is coming from and don’t be afraid to move around until you get the right shot.

From David Lebovitz
Talk about what interests you, and then make it interesting to others.  There is nothing memorable about pot roast unless you make it memorable!  Also, please stop using words like yummy and drool. Be more creative!

From Elise Bauer (Simply Recipes)
Community is the secret sauce of successful blogging.  Our friendship and support for each other is what distinguishes us and makes us a stronger unit.  Be nice to others and they will want to be nice to you.

From Matt Armendariz (Matt Bites) and Adam Pearson
Find ways to add movement to the food you are photgraphing.  Photographs are your communication, so make them powerful.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Satisfy yourself first.

Comida Comida

All of my evening photos were taken in very low lighting and just aren’t as nice as my daytime meals, so I am skipping them…here are some sunny examples!

Arroz con leche (rice and milk) with dried fruit, granola, and nuts.

Mini pancake with raspberry sauce (I had exactly one with every breakfast…)

Quesadillas with fresh salsa and guacamole.

Poolside Nachos and a Singapure Sling.  That’s how they spelled it…I called it a “Singapore Slinger” like John’s Papa does when telling stories about WWII. Papa takes the cake.

Chocolate layer cake.  I don’t know exactly what was in this, but the creamy layers between the chocolate cake made it nice and light.  See?  Sometimes I do like chocolate desserts!

My brain is still buzzing with everything I learned at Camp, but I can tell you that there will be some big changes coming.  The first thing Elise asked us to do was write down 5 things that bring us joy, and looking for joy is what I said I was focusing on in 2011.  You have to incorporate the joy and keep it right in front with a spotlight on it.    

This blog and all of you bring me a lot of joy, and I am already excited about developing the ideas I came up with in Mexico. I hope you will stick around for the journey! 

Here’s to lots of empty plates in 2011!

Muchas Gracias

Special, heartfelt thanks to Kate Moeller for all of her behind the scenes work putting FBC together (and for her tequila expertise)…to Elise, David, Jaden, Matt, Adam, Todd, and Diane for their expertise and generosity with their time and advice…and to the Grand Velas for showing a girl a little luxury!

To Kerrygold for sponsoring FBC and for providing us with golden, creamy butter to photograph…and eat!  Right, Maggie?

Thank you to the ladies I was fortunate enough to bond with – I can’t wait to start following along and seeing where you are headed next! You made the trip such an absolute pleasure for me!

And finally, thank you to Banana Boat SPF 50.  I did not get a sunburn in Mexico, and I still cannot believe it…

Amigos
Want more camp info? Check out the updates from my fellow campers. 

David Lebovitz
Confections of a Foodie Bride
What’s Gaby Cooking
Sally Cameron
The Recipe Renovator
Daily Nibbles
Food Woolf
Kitchen Conundrum
Awake at the Whisk
Mommie Cooks
A Communal Table
Adventures of an Amateur Foodie
Savury and Sweet
Frantastic Food
Family Fresh Cooking
Kitchen Corners
Ladles and Jellyspoons
Undercover Caterer (my awesome roommate!)

Más Fotos

If you are so inclined, you can view my FBC 2011 Flickr album here.

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17 Comments on “Food Blog Camp 2011: The Whole Enchilada”

  1. January 11, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    What an awesome experience, I’m so envious!

    • Aimee
      January 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      maybe next year, LL? that would be fun!!

  2. Fatima
    January 11, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    I am so glad you went and that you enjoyed yourself, it seems incredibly amazing! I have a killer arroz con leche recipe!!! I will finish reading your post soon!

  3. January 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    That was an awesome time and I’m so glad I met you. We’ll have to hang out again soon! In the meantime, stay as warm as possible and we’ll find ourselves an infinity pool somewhere to reunite.

  4. Jessica
    January 12, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Aimee, the pictures are amazing! So glad you had a good time!

  5. January 12, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Why did you get to eat a good dessert and I didn’t? Where was I? I can’t complain, though, because everything else was perfect including the company.

  6. January 13, 2011 at 4:05 am #

    Aimee, I love your pic of the purple bougainvillea–it reminds me of the tissue paper flowers that my kids would bring home from kindergarten. Pretty!

    You were an awesome roomie too–I told Guido the bubble bath story tonight. I so wish now we’d gotten a picture!
    xoxo
    -s

  7. January 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Thank you for coming! I had a great time and glad you enjoyed ‘camp’ too : )

  8. January 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    I thought it was a Singapore Slinga?! I’m so confused. And how come you didn’t show all three of the desserts on your plate? And why, oh why, am I writing this on a computer instead of spouting it through bursts of laughter poolside?! MISS YOU!–and look forward to reading more. :)

  9. January 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I need to go back — STAT! I didn’t order any room service or poolside snacks. WHAT was I thinking?! I need a Singapure Slinger now too. :)

    • Aimee
      January 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      I agree!! It just wasn’t long enough! Already looking forward to our next gathering, when we can correct these errors!

  10. January 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Aimee, I loved reading your account of this and am so happy you found a community of friends! I have a few regrets now that I am home from Mexico: I didn’t take enough advantage of room service, I missed the tequila tasting (huh?) and I didn’t barely saw you after the first evening. The third can be remedied easily enough–let’s try to get together soon!

    • Aimee
      January 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

      Sally – I know! I never got room service other than one breakfast. What a waste! I also missed the tequila tasting – I think that was when I gave in to the call of the pool chaise lounge chair. :)

      It was terrific to meet you (yay Boston!) – I will be following along, and I’d love to get together sometime! There aren’t enough of us up here!

  11. January 24, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    AMAZING Aimee!!! I had no idea you went to this! Sounds amazing- and your photos are killer! I love it! We have to start doing food blog things together!!!

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