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:
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.
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!
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…
Want more camp info? Check out the updates from my fellow campers.
Confections of a Foodie Bride
What’s Gaby Cooking
The Recipe Renovator
Awake at the Whisk
A Communal Table
Adventures of an Amateur Foodie
Savury and Sweet
Family Fresh Cooking
Ladles and Jellyspoons
Undercover Caterer (my awesome roommate!)
If you are so inclined, you can view my FBC 2011 Flickr album here.