Eat Drink Blog is an annual conference organized by Australian food bloggers for Australian food bloggers. And the organizers were crazy enough to invite me to be their keynote speaker. I agreed because of the free food. The sponsors kept us so well fed like pigs at an abattoir, eating every 2 hours!
I said to the audience, “My talk is boring. Please have lots of Merlo coffee.” Man, I’m so good at product placement.
Mine was a boring speech. I washed the dirty laundry of Singapore’s food blogging scene. There are 3 general categories of bloggers, I argued: Bloggers’ Blogger (or trailblazer), People’s Blogger (who is relatable), and PRs’ Darling. To be popular in Singapore, the most important characteristic a blogger should possess isn’t, surprisingly, being relatable; it’s to become a PRs’ darling. Implicit in my thesis is that the PR industry is the puppeteer, influencing trends in Singapore.
Then Claire Davie of Melbourne Gastronome, who is a lawyer, talked about the moral and legal guidelines of invited tastings and advertorials. I paraphase her, “With great freebies come great responsibilities. You must always make clear to your readers unequivocally if your post is invited or sponsored.” Google ranks your page lower if your blog is full of tastings and advertorials, and I suppose that’s why many Singaporean bloggers aren’t upfront about free food they receive. In Australia, such a behavior is illegal. In Singapore, it may be legal, but it isn’t ethical and responsible to readers. I wish those Singaporean bloggers could have heard Davie’s talk.
Emma & Tom’s juices hydrated us.
After lunch, Tracy Gray of Eat See Meet, Angela Hirst, and I shared about what inspired us to write. Hirst and Gray were amazingly articulate and intelligent, making me a wallpaper on the panel. Hey at least I’m pretty ok? Hirst talked about her journey from food blogging to opening Wandering Cooks, where EDB was held: to be inspired, have a Zen space of your own. She has her gardening, but I suppose she meant it metaphorically too: a deeper, inner peace within yourself. Gray advocated that a blog is just a blog, don’t let it consume you. Living is more important. Sometimes you just have to put down that damn iphone6 and start eating, and living.
Wholesomeness fed us for lunch…
So did Stella May Fine Foods.
The chefs’ panel, by 4 Brisbane’s top chefs, was fascinating for me, seeing things from the kitchen’s point of view. They reminded me of Chef the movie: they hurt when they read negative reviews. The very first time they had a negative review, they all thought their restaurants were going to shut down. Tony Percuoco of Tartufo said that bloggers have more power than they think when writing a negative or positive review. However, I’m sure he wasn’t talking about me. The restaurants I reviewed badly are thriving, but my favorite restaurant in 2013 is gone.
The chefs and we laughed over noob bloggers, who couldn’t differentiate between personal dislike and bad food, but we once were noobs. A chef jumped to their defence, “When you’ve eaten enough, and experienced enough, then it’s inevitable you will have an informed opinion.” Food critics were once noobs too before they got good with time. In fact, Josh Okorn, chef at Sofitel Brisbane, preferred bloggers to food critics because bloggers are more in touch with public opinions.
We played a game, ranking ourselves according to the years we had blogged. Surprisingly, I was rather senior!
Lick Ice Cream kept us cool.
Brenda Fawdon, owner and chef at Mondo Organics, gave a talk on “Ethical Food,” and cooked two different sandwiches: one made from organic and sustainable ingredients; and the other entirely from store-bought processed products. Can you guess which is which?
To be honest, the sandwich from store-bought products looked pretty good too.
My favorite part, including my own presentation, was by far Christina Soong‘s talk. Her blog, The Hungry Australian, had recently won the prestigious Best Australian Food Blog. She had countless quotables in her talk on “Blogging for Profit.” My favorite was “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no” because that’s something I’ve been telling my passive Singaporean friends after a 4-year stint in New York. New Yorkers grab life by the balls. Nobody is gonna hand you success on a silver platter. If you want it, go get it. If not, don’t complain.
Although her talk was about ways to make money for bloggers, the essence was really staying true to yourself, like what Tracy Gray championed for earlier. After all, all food bloggers started blogging because of a desire to share our love of food, not for profit. It’s your blog, it’s your space. Do what you like on it. If money pours in, more power to you. If it doesn’t, at least you have something to be proud of.
Much gratitude to the organizing committee with such good taste to invite me: Aga Kozmic (A Matter of Taste), Anthony Clark (Food Me Up Scotty), Heather Scott (For the Love of Food), Corrie Zemski (Brisbane Devoured), Fiona Ryan (Tiffin – Bite Sized Food Adventure), Jessalyn Chan (Feed Me Now), and especially Kelly Wong (Eating My Way Through Life), who found Scoot Airline, and Pullman Hotel to sponsor my stay.
And thanks to the free food, drinks, and products. I’ve mentioned some establishments in this post. These are the rest of the sponsors: Flour & Chocolate, Chester Street Bakery & Bar, Passiontree Velvet, The Australian Mushroom Growers Association, Sirromet Wines, 127 Bar & Bistro, The Kitty at The Treasury, Dream Farm, Dolce Gusto, Roza’s Gourmet Sauces, Go Natural, Queen Fine Food (baking products), Carcamos Caramel Apples, Sofi Spritz, De Bortoli Wines, Mantle & Moon Coffee, Lucid Media, The Print Bar, and Uber app that gave me a free ride. Phew, hope I didn’t miss any. It’s the least I could do after all the trouble the organizing committee had gone through.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
Categories: 1. Cuisine