In the beginning
Back in 2010, after attending a couple of large traditional-format conferences for bloggers, Jeanne Horak-Druiff (Cooksister), Jamie Schler (Life’saFeast), Meeta Khurana-Wolff (What’sforLunchHoney?) and Ilva Beretta (LucullianDelights) felt that there was little more that they could gain in a conference environment. They were hungry for a different sort of learning experience, one that focused fully on the honing of skills and hands-on learning in a more intimate residential setting. Convinced that they could not be the only bloggers wanting to return to the idea of blogging as a craft, rather than as a commercial or branding exercise, they set about designing the kind of weekend food photography and writing workshop that they themselves would like to attend – a formula that encouraged collaborative learning and teamwork. After sold-out workshops in Weimar, Germany and Pistoia, Italy, the team is bringing the Plate to page concept to the UK for the first time this Spring when the third workshop takes place near Taunton, Somerset.
The Plate to Page difference
So what makes Plate to Page workshops different?
- Unlike most traditional conferences aimed at the food blogger where a participant is one of dozens of participants simply sitting in a large, crowded room listening and taking notes, Plate to Page is an intimate, hands-on working weekend for only 10-12 participants made up of intensive discussion, instruction on both the technical and creative aspects of food writing, styling and photography. Instruction is complemented by practical exercises and assignments meant to expand each participant’s limits and ideas.
- The workshops are unique amongst similar residential workshops in that they have a two-pronged focus on both writing and photography techniques and boost participants’ creativity while stressing the synergy between these two disciplines. An understanding and awareness of how these work together can only serve to enhance the quality of participants’ on their own blogs.
- The workshops provide not only a basic foundation for the beginner but offer a pool of experience, information and inspiration for the more advanced professional by drawing on the knowledge and backgrounds of the four instructors, as well as input from more advanced participants. This makes the workshop ideal for newer bloggers looking to learn skills, as well as for the more advanced food blogger looking for an inspiring and invigorating exchange of ideas and experiences, as well as some tips on how to make the transition from blogger to professional freelance writer or photographer.
- All practical exercises are designed not for the instructors to impose their style on others, but to help participants hone their own inherent skills and to reinvigorate participants who are feeling uninspired, unfocused or in a creative rut. Often, inspiration is just waiting to be unleashed and all that is needed is the right environment, guidance and motivation. .
- Having two writing and two photography instructors to a maximum of twelve participants gives Plate to Page the highest instructor-to-participant ratio compared to any other similar workshop. It also means that participants receive the benefit of two contrasting writing and photography styles and approaches which serves to broaden their perspective. Each participant is able to receive personalised feedback on their assignments, from two (often divergent) viewpoints. This one-on-one time with presenters is often the most fulfilling part of the weekend, both for presenters and participants.
- The workshop venues are hand-picked to ensure that they reflect the character of the country in which the workshop is being held – a traditional yet modern German inn, a Tuscan villa and a restored 17th century stone barn. Shared accommodation means that prices can be kept affordable, and participants who arrive as strangers bond quickly, work as a team on assignments and form lasting friendships after the workshops.
What we’ve done – and what’s in store for Somerset
The first Plate to Page workshop in Weimar took place in a small hotel with most participants living communally in a garden apartment. Participants made the most of the Spring weather and spent an entire afternoon in the hotel’s beautiful gardens, styling and shooting food for a picnic, before a relaxed picnic lunch. Participants were also treated to a Breton seafood feast (a great opportunity to practise low-light photography!) and a farewell barbecue, German-style.
The second Plate to Page workshop took place in Pistoia in a spacious, gracious villa among the vineyards. Authentic Italian meals were enjoyed around a large convivial table and participants had plenty of room to sit in the gardens in the late afternoon sun, completing assignments. The weekend included a visit to the villa’s own winery which formed the basis of both a writing and a photography assignment.
For Somerset this May, the team is planning to show participants the Best of British: ancient stone buildings, a trip to the historic market town of Taunton, cooking on an Aga in a stylish country kitchen, and a trip to a traditional English pub.
If you feel you are ready to do more than network at a large and impersonal conference, and would rather spend your time building your skills both in writing and photography in a beautiful English country setting, led by four leading European bloggers, have a look at the PlatetoPage website where details of the Somerset workshop and how to register are available.
Meeta Khurana Wolff
Meeta Khurana-Wolff was born in a family of hoteliers in Bombay, India, and it is from very early days that she became passionate about good food. She studied and worked in Hotel Management and then moved to Weimer in Germany, where she is now married and has a young son. She started her very popular blog, What’s For Lunch, Honey? (www.whatsforlunchhoney.net) to write about all her favourite recipes, and in February 2009 The Times Online UK judges nominated it as being in the World’s 50 Best Food Blogs. She is also an accomplished food and travel photographer, and she helps run international workshops, Plate To Page, to help other food bloggers achieve their goals. Website details: www.meetakwolff.com www.whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com www.platetopage.blogspot.com
Photography Copyright Meeta K Woolf and Jeanne Horak-Druiff of Plate 2 Page (www.plate2page.com)
The seminar tutors (from left to right): Ilva Beretta, Jeanne Horak Druiff, Meeta K Wolff and Jamie Schler. Photograph by Marta Majewska.