The first Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town yesterday evening, was sold out, and a great success, judging by the positive feedback received from the aspirant as well as regular food and wine bloggers that attended.
The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club “pairs” a wine blogger and a food blogger per Club meeting, which are held monthly, and each speaker outlines his/her blog and provides blogging tips and guidelines. The Wine Blogger brings some wine for the bloggers to taste, while Chef Liam Tomlin prepares snacks to showcase his Cookery School, and reputation as a star chef in Sydney, prior to coming to Cape Town and setting up his Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School. Liam prepared Tartar of Tuna with avocado and ponzu sauce, as well as Potato Raclette and pickled vegetables.
Anel Grobler from SpitorSwallow Blog was the first speaker, and impressed with her statistics relating to trends about blogging. She quoted a recent survey in PR Week, which found that 20 % of bloggers do so to earn money out of it, and that 52 % of bloggers see themselves as “journalists” (surprisingly the Public Relations industry has not yet discovered the power of bloggers in promoting their clients’ brands!). Anel and her partner Jan Laubscher are on Twitter continuously, saying it is an “easy way to get the word out”. On Twitter @SpitorSwallow has 3900 followers and on Facebook they have 1 900 fans, a phenomenal achievement. She indicated that from a total of 6 South African wine estates being on Twitter in 2009, there are now 209! Anel has played an important role in encouraging wine estates to embrace social media marketing. She indicated that they see immediate click through once they put a Tweet on Twitter. She recommended that new bloggers focus on a niche. A provocative name like SpitorSwallow attracts interest, and through word-of-mouth their Facebook and Twitter pages have received a huge following. Almost 700 “wineflies” have evaluated the close to 600 wine estates they have listed. Anel recommended that companies blog and twitter themselves, and not leave this to a PR company, as the client is passionate about his/her brand. With a blog it is important that the bounce rate be low (i.e. readers leaving the page). The length of time spent on a page is also important, to ensure that readers read what one has written for as long as possible. A quick survey around the room indicated that WordPress is the most popular blog template used.
Michael Olivier is an icon in both food and wine circles, and many of the Bloggers’ Club attendees came to meet him, having his recipe or wine books (‘Michael Olivier – a Restaurateur Remembers’, ‘Crush! 100 Wines to drink now’ , and ‘The People’s Guide – navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley’, the latter with Neil Pendock). His all-round experience in receiving his training at the Cordon Bleue Cookery School in London, working at the Lanzerac Hotel and Boschendal, having owned three restaurants (Paddagang in Tulbagh, The Burgundy in Hermanus and Parks in Constantia), having consulted on the wine side to Pick ‘n Pay, and presenting a weekly wine programme on Classic FM in Gauteng and a daily informal winetasting on Fine Music Radio in Cape Town makes him very well-connected and extremely knowledgeable. Sending out a regular newsletter, which became a website, Michael has reinvented himself and will be launching ‘Crush’, South Africa’s first digital online food and wine magazine, he announced at the meeting. It will go to a database of 1,7 million on 3 June.
The feedback received from the Food and Wine Bloggers that attended the meeting last night was that they enjoyed the relaxed and informal opportunity to network, to meet their mentors, seeing old friends and making new ones, the quality of the speakers, the snacks, the wine, the positive energy in the room, and the ability to learn from everyone that attended.
The next Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will be held on Thursday 1 July, from 6 – 8 pm, and Pete Goffe-Wood of Wild Woods restaurant and Kitchen Cowboys Blog will be “paired” with Pieter Ferriera of Graham Beck and Bubbles on Wine Blog. Pieter will bring Graham Beck wines and bubblies to taste, and these will be paired with Liam Tomlin’s food. The cost to attend is R 150 per person, and bookings can be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting dates and speakers are as follows:
Thursday 1 July: Pete Goffe-Wood of Wild Woods and Kitchen Cowboys Blog, and Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck and Bubbles on Wine Blog
Wednesday 28 July: The Foodie of The Foodie Blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte Wines Blog
Wednesday 18 August: Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir
Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog
Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog
Wednesday 24 November: Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com