So…. This very long overdue blog post should really begin like this: Saturday has come and gone……and we have survived and enjoyed another Food and Wine Bloggers Indaba …. blah blah blah! But then we all know that real life isn’t actually like that do we? It throws us curveballs we never expect, even though we do know that they are out there, lurking, waiting to hit you when you least expect it. And sometimes it takes a bit of time to overcome….or in this case we can add recover as well…..from those sneaky curveballs. Kind of like a year…….a year of recovery from injury for Jeanne and a year of recovery from stress and internet burnout for me. Hands up who knew there was such a thing as internet burnout? Then you know what I am talking about! When it hits, it hits hard and you simply HAVE to take time out to recover! The reality, of course, is that yes, Saturday 22 February 2014 did come and go and we more than survived and enjoyed another cracker of a Food and Wine Blogger Indaba but it was the toughest one yet to survive. For both Jeanne and I but for very different reasons! This was due mainly to the fact that after slogging for months to find a venue, sponsors and speakers, working out workshops, the time slots and roster during late night/early morning online chats between continents as I live in Cape Town and she lives in London I received a message just 2 short weeks before the event informing me that my main ally, my wingman, my business partner, my good friend and blog daughter Jeanne had been injured in a serious skiing accident in the Alps and had been airlifted to hospital in France and was undergoing surgery to repair a badly fractured femur. To say the bottom fell out of my world would be an understatement. Apart from the shock of the news and worrying about Jeanne and how badly injured she was and wishing I was over there with her, I suddenly had to take over all the planning myself. We had an event coming off shortly and there was no way it could be postponed. 130 tickets had been sold and I was in the process of issuing them and there were all these eager and excited delegates tweeting and looking forward to the event. The workshops were also Jeanne’s baby, she was in communication with all the presenters and she herself has always been a large part of the day by presenting in the morning and running workshops herself in the afternoon as well as being official photographer of the event. So I had a potential nightmare on my hands. At the last minute I was trying to get information from her in her ketamine induced state (not easy haha), find out how far she had got with planning the workshops and find people to take her position in the presenting and one of the workshops. I lived on Rescue Remedy and stale study air almost 24/7 those couple of weeks and I was carried by God and my amazing family who stepped in and took over when I couldn’t anymore. And I will be ever grateful to the wonderful Fritz Brand and Carmen Davila for stepping up to the plate at that late date and filling in for Jeanne. And they did amazingly well! My heroes! On to the event. The 4th South African Food and Wine Blogger Indaba was held at The Double Tree by Hilton Upper Eastside Hotel in Woodstock on Saturday 22 February 2014. What a fabulously cool funky space and venue, with an amazing organizing team. I was hugely impressed with all my dealings and meetings with the marketing and conference team from day 1. They certainly went the extra mile to see that we were well accommodated and that the event ran smoothly. We were sponsored a room for the night so that we could be on the spot to pack all the goodie bags the night before and sleep on site and wake up without having to travel the distance from home at a very indecent hour. We enjoyed dinner in their delightful restaurant Liberty before heading upstairs to our very comfortable guest room. When we opened the door to our suite we were greeted by the enticing homely aroma of their signature homebaked chocolate chip cookies – a very inviting and delicious temptation after our hard day. And when we finally looked around the room and started taking in the luxurious comfort of the huge bed, the gorgeous bath in the middle of the room separating it from the shower and toilet and wash basins, after setting up my netbook and logging in to their wi-fi so I could do last minute stuff (I even sold a last minute ticket at that late stage to someone who had just heard about the Indaba and was totally desperate to attend!), there….on my pillow…..was a stunning little box of the most divine chocolate truffles, beautifully wrapped in the most beautifully delicate, gossamer fine tissue papper – a gift from the lovely Jane and Sarah from Saszali Chocolates, one of our sponsors. They very thoughtfully knew that I would need some sweet indulgent comforting that night. I will never forget that kindness and I went to sleep with the sweet taste of the most divine truffles I have ever eaten lingering on my tongue 🙂 I can highly recommend the DoubleTree by Hilton, Upper Eastside Hotel for accommodation for visitors to Cape Town. It is very convenienty situated to the CBD and Waterfront. What I remember of the evening before the Indaba is a hectic few hours of packing hundreds of products into goodie bags with the most helpful team of people…..meeting Angela Bax from Obbligato who not only sponsored the amazing goodie bags but made each and every one of them herself and sponsored the lovely WTF (Where’s The Food) placemats and cupcake wrappers – and then arrived at the venue to help pack them all. What a fabulous person! I remember Brenda Wilkinson from Rio Largo Olive Estate sitting on the FLOOR wrapping up combo packs of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar for each bag after a hard day of marketing and selling. I remember Marlena, employed by our lovely sponsors ClemenGold, there for the duration packing bags and then rushing off to pick up her family and head off somewhere for some event. Jenny Nel from Icing By Design and her husband also popped in to assist for a while, despite the fact that she had been standing on her feet all day working on the most amazing cake that she was sponsoring for the Indaba and also donating her time to run a workshop the next day. Tom Brown from Jackiebird Farm in Montagu walking in with fresh produce and a voucher (for a weekend at their beautiful Harmony cottage on the farm) to auction for our chosen charity. Moments like that stand out in my mind and I am eternally grateful for them. They made it all so worthwhile. The day of the Indaba flew by in a haze for me. I was on call throughout and missed out on most of the talks. But what I do know is that we were trending throughout Cape Town within 15 minutes that morning and very shortly thereafter throughout the country…..thanks to our fantastic official social media manager for the day, Linda Potgieter from The Squashed Tomato who had very kindly sponsored her talent and time for the event. We started as always with registration and grateful thanks are due to my daughter Siobhan and friend Bronwyn who always do a sterling job of making all the name tags and seeing that they are handed out to each delegate at the event The proceedings were opened once again by MC for the day Paul Raphaely of NoMU fame and lately Chief Budgie, Curator and Editor at The Lucky Budgie, in his usual personable, easy, amusing and very welcoming way. Paul is an exceptional speaker and MC and we have been very privileged and honoured to have him give his time, especially on a weekend when it’s usually family time, and his talent as MC for the past two events. The plenary session this time was a bit different in that it was made up of two panel discussions, Working with Brands and Turning your Blog into a Book, and two presentations – Turning your Stats into Strategy by Iaan van Niekerk who kindly posted his presentation here and Neil Pursey (who also presented at the previous event) did a presentation on Simple SEO Tips for Bloggers. Neil also very kindly posted his slideshow online after the event. Marina Pape, then working at Yuppiechef and now living abroad, gave the most stunning presentation on How to be likeable: Social media strategy & community building for food bloggers. She was nervous as it was the first time she had ever presented or done public speaking at an event but she aced it and everyone loved her and her presentation. Lunch was a very welcome break at this stage of the day. A beautiful buffet set out downstairs, catered by the hotel. There was much laughter and chatting and introductions as delegates got down to a bit of socializing over beautiful food.
Photos courtesy of Angela Bax (Obbligato)
Photos courtesy of Sam Beams from Sams Dairy Hermanus
The stunning wines were very generously sponsored by Stellenrust Wines
Photos courtesy of Colleen Grove (moi!)
Post lunch the conference once again divided up into groups and attended the afternoon workshops which included “Kickstarting Your Creativity: A Hands-On Writing Workshop” by the super talented Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious South Africa; Hands-on Food Styling Workshop by Nicola Pretorius of The Pretty Blog; Upgrade your photos without spending a cent (including how to read & recreate a photo, post-processing basics) by the uber talented and beautiful Carmen Davila from Carmen Davila Photography ; A Kitchen Masterclass (Decorating with Fondant: A Hands-On Workshop) by the wildly creative and talented Jennifer Nel of Icing by Design ; Dig for Victory – get started growing your own food – a workshop in the rooftop food garden by Matt Allison of Planting Thoughts now living in Australia; Food Styling: A Hands- On Workshop by Sarah Dall; Advanced Food Photography: A Hands-On Workshop by fab photographer Christine Meintjes of The Pretty Blog; Light up your life: tips & tricks to light up your food photography on a budget again presented by Carmen Davila as above and finally the most amazing Interactive Spice Route Destination culinary journey – food & wine pairing – out of this world experience presented by Spice Route Destination – An exciting pairing of Spice Route wines with artisanal foods from Spice Route producers. My oh my….I can still taste the pairings….what an explosion on the palate.
Photo courtesy of Spice Route Destination
The very lovely and active blogger (and mother of 7+1 kids….s’trooooo) Mother Hood from the blog Se7en wrote a great and comprehensive post here – please read if you would like to know more about the sessions and workshops. Finally the end was in sight and at very short notice due to a problem with the venue we had to quickly set up for the auction in another conference room which caused a bit of a panic at the last minute and wasted a bit of time but it all went off pretty smoothly in the end and an astounding amount of R30,000 was raised for the charity we had chosen for 2014 The SA Guide Dog Association for the Blind. Thank you son-in-law Damon for stepping up to the plate again as an A1 auctioneer! A massive thank you to all the wonderful sponsors who opened up their hearts and donated all the super products and prizes and a massive thank you to all the delegates who opened up their wallets to help raise much needed funding for this wonderful charity. A special thank you to Jenny Nel from Icing By Design for baking an official FBI2014 Cake and donating it to be auctioned. It was bought by the Indaba and donated to one of the frail care homes in my home town Fish Hoek and the oldies living there were so thrilled with it. Here at The SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba we believe in paying it forward and the beautiful growbox donated by Urban Harvest Edible Gardens was also bought by the Indaba and donated to the Pauline Loots Care Group and the elderly ladies cared for by the group have taken great delight in caring for the veggies and harvesting and eating them. It is a source of ongoing vegetables for them. A sort of forever gift. The grand prize of a Sodastream and syrups donated by our main sponsors for the event, Yuppiechef, was won by Kathryn Jacoby and the lovely banquet in a box given as a prize by the beautiful Pesto Princess Palace folk was won by a very happy Kgomotso Molahloe Finally after all that it was time to head on home but first….the goodie bags had to be handed out. Those bags were HEAVY! Once again our fantastic sponsors came through for us with great generosity. Thank you to each and every one of you. There are still a couple of sponsorship posts that need to be written. They will be done! Promise
Other posts to read up on the Indaba can be found here : Yuppiechef Spatula Magazine Yum & More – an interesting read from a foreigners perspective. The really lovely author of this blog, Karin, flew all the way from Germany to attend. I so wish I’d had time to spend with her, getting to know her, while she was here…..you will just have to come back Karin, I know you loved SA! HEIDI’S @ Home – Heidi is physically challenged and in a wheelchair and she was accompanied by her guide dog, the beautiful Olivia who stole the hearts of everyone there that day. It was so great to have them as guests for the auction later that evening in aid of the SA Guide Dogs Association. SAM’S DAIRY authored by the lovely Sam Beams Darren Bester Photography – take a look at his page….he has some stunning photos like this one taken during the afternoon photography workshop with Christine Meintjies
Photos courtesy of Darren Bester
In closing I would like to give special thanks to my son Devin who kept my computer running throughout the months right up to the moment we packed up and left for the venue. Yes, the day before both my keyboard packed up and then the printer in the afternoon….when I was about to print out everything that I needed for the event just before we were leaving. Talk about a major freak out! I thought I was about to die of a heart attack but gentle, sedate Dev, my ROCK, talked me down and came along and sorted everything out in a calm manner that calmed me down. And to my wonderful hubby Donald and Dev’s girlfriend Maxine who, while Devin sorted out the computer, just loaded up the car with absolutely everything that needed to be at the venue and left us to our shenanigans here at home. They and the lovely team of volunteers started sorting out and packing goodie bags in the meantime. We joined them later after all the printing was done and my briefcase packed to go. And I am filled with gratitude still today, a year and a bit later, by the very encouraging words of Paul Galatis from Yuppiechef (our main sponsor and someone who has backed us and believed in us, encouraged us and been involved with us since we first approached him with the idea of starting up a food blogging conference for South Africa in 2009) who said ”the bar has been raised higher than ever before and this is the most successful Indaba to date” That gives me hope and courage to face 2016. I took a leave of absence for 2015 as I have had a total knee replacement and have been reinventing myself and building up my health and stamina and feel able to face almost anything at this stage. Almost! Watch the page for information for 2016.
Colleen and Jeanne xx
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