Tag Archives: food blogger

Eat Out Awards 2019 full of drama and surprises, new awards, La Colombe overtakes The Test Kitchen for the first time as new number one restaurant in South Africa!

I cannot remember when an Eat Out Awards event was so exciting in its Top 10 countdown, with so many surprise restaurants on this year’s list, reflecting how more daring the Eat Out judging team has become, no longer playing it safe, which is highly commended. Since Chef Margot Janse took over in heading the Eat Out Awards judging panel in 2018, she has been ruthless in her restaurant recognition, which we already noticed when Eat Out announced its Top 30 nomination shortlist for this year, in some of the top restaurants it excluded! Continue reading →

Food blogger in ‘Death Cup’ murder mystery by Irna van Zyl modelled on WhaleTales Blog!

Last week I found a reference to my name in a review written about author Irna van Zyl’s second book, called ‘Death Cup: Murder is on the menu’, a play on words with a mushroom by the same name, naming me as the model for one of the main characters in the book, as the writer of the ‘infamous food blog’. As I had been told this verbally on another occasion too, I had to go to Exclusive Books to buy a copy of the book. There is no mistaking the blog of the ‘food blogger’ as being my WhaleTales Blog! Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 28: Finale sees Kamini Pather controversially crowned winner by a ‘fraction’!

MasterChef 2 28 Kamini and LeandriThere should have been no winner of MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 28 and the Finale of this reality TV cooking show last night, with both contestants making unforgivable mistakes in what was meant to be the pinnacle of the cooking competition!  As a winner had to be chosen, the judges announced Kamini Pather as the winner, beating Leandri van der Wat  by a ‘fraction’ of 6 out of 100 points.

The episode commenced with a very quick overview of the previous 27 episodes, highlighting Kamini’s near perfect past in being ‘top of the class’ (was this a predictor already?), and Leandri’s growth and top praise she received from Chef Prue Leith in particular.  The two Finalists arrived at the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg on a very rainy day, and were surprised to find all fourteen the other MasterChef SA Finalists there, as well as their families.  Kamini’s mother Anthea and brother Neelan were present, as well as Leandri’s (and Seline’s) father Neil, aunt (her ‘second mother‘ Leandri said) and sister Nadine.  Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that it was the biggest Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season2 episode 1: A blend of Familiar Faces, Fresh Faces!

Last night the first episode of MasterChef SA Season 2 was flighted, to what seemed liked a smaller audience, if the Twitter reaction (or lack of) is anything to judge it by.  The first episode built a bridge between MasterChef Season 1 last year and the new Season 2, with some familiar faces, and many new hopefuls, some successful in making the bootcamp of 50 contestant amateur cooks, and many not. There are some interesting characters one can expect to go through to Nederburg, given the amount of airtime they received last night.

To demonstrate how far some of the MasterChef Season 1 Finalists have come since their participation in the show, there was a quick overview of some of the more successful Finalists: Deena Naidoo now has a part-ownership in Aayra at Montecasino, part of his so-called R8 million prize package from Tsogo Sun. Sue-Ann Allen, the runner-up, is described as the ‘head chef’ at the Market on the Wharf at the V&A Waterfront in The Times. Lungile Nhlanhla is Drum‘s junior food editor.  Ilse Fourie has a cooking show ‘Ilse Kook‘ on KykNET. Berdina Schurink has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Pretoria. Manisha Naidu and Jade de Waal have participated in cook books.  Some Finalists missing from the Season 1 recap were Sarel Loots, who was a contestant on Kokkedoor, dessert specialist Thys Hattingh who now is Project Manager at the Compass Group, Guy Clark, who has an amazing chef’s job in Mumbai, and Brandon Law, who is Chef Deena’s right hand at Aayra.  It was wonderful to see judges Andrew Atkinson, Benny Masekwameng, and Pete Goffe-Wood again, feeling like old friends, and barely having changed in the year since we first got to know them in Season 1.

To a MasterChef SA newcomer viewer the action may have been too fast, and therefore confusing.  No background information was provided about the start of the process, namely the audition to have one’s cold dish tasted, brought along from home.  The episode started with the hot auditions, in which some of the 100 contestants received lots of airtime, while the others that received little coverage in the episode or were not even mentioned by name were predictably the ones that fell out.  Each participant had 45 minutes to prepare their dish, and 5 minutes to impress the judges whilst plating their dish, and the standard of the dishes presented to the judges generally was high at this very early stage.

Given the amount of time spent on them in the first episode, one can speculate that the following will be seen in the group of 16 contestants at Nederburg (today’s episode will focus on the rest of the hot audition):

*   By far the most airtime was devoted to the first contestant featured, being Zahir Mohamed, who owns Baked Bistro in Bakoven.  He already had a dream to open his own restaurant, and shared that he would open his own bistro after participating in MasterChef SA.  His father is the chef cooking for Manchester United and its fans in the UK. He would ‘cook my heart out’ on MasterChef, and wanted to make them happy, he promised the judges.  He was the first of many contestants to cry, the pressure bringing on the tears, and he explained that he had given up his job (at Brandhouse marketing Heineken) to participate in the reality TV show (as Sue-Ann Allen had in season 1). Zahir made a home-smoked rack of lamb with roasted garlic and a port jus, which Chef Andrew rejected for not having a smoked taste and the spices not coming to the fore. Chefs Benny and Pete disagreed with him, tasting the smokiness, and praising the sweetness in the beetroot and a rack of lamb prepared properly. Twitter: @BakedBistro @Foodie4CapeTown

*   Mohamed (also known as Ozzy) Osman is a student from Johannesburg whose English pronunciation was dreadful.  His pan-fried lemon sole served with a phyllo pastry basket filled with spinach was a hit amongst the judges. Chef Pete promised him 10 years in boarding school if his fish was raw inside, having introduced that his love for cooking stemmed from the dreadful food he had to eat at boarding school. He shared that he comes from a family of dedicated cooks. Chef Pete probably understated his praise of the sole as being ‘pretty well done’. Twitter: @Oh_so_Ozzy

*   Sisters Leandri and Seline van der Wat from Mahikeng (previously Mafikeng) both received their white aprons, but were kept on tenterhooks by the judges, calling them in one after the other.  They were the most gorgeous sisters, both in appearance, and also in attitude, each wishing the other one success in the show.  They lost their mother at an early age, and have enjoyed cooking together.  Selina made a Doublet of prawns served with Rooibos and thyme salt. Leandri prepared a Smoked snoek ravioli.Twitter:  @This_is_Leandri  @SelineVW

*   Neil Lowe was an interesting character, looking studious with his specs, and clearly trying to impress the judges with his terminology of ‘sous vide’, and ‘Modernist cuisine‘, by far the most sophisticated sounding home chef.  If anything, the judges were more critical of him showing off his food science terminology, and said that the proof lay in his understanding of food. His Mauritian sea bass prepared with a lemongrass and coconut velouté received the judges’ praise that earned him a white apron. Twitter: @NeilLowe

*   Kamini Pather is a food blogger from Cape Town that we know from our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings, and appears to work at The Test Kitchen now. She spoke about wishing to use MasterChef SA as a launchpad to prepare a food portal for the Southern Hemisphere.  Her Indian lamb shoulder served with a smear of cauliflower pureé and mustard vinaigrette was highly praised by Chef Andrew, who loved its flavours coming together, and the taste of its spices.  She received her white apron. Twitter: @KaminiPather

*  The character that created the biggest impact was Sanet from Boksburg, with partly purple hair and a BIG personality, hugging Chef Andrew heartily when she received her white apron for her Port and Porcini risotto and chicken. When asked if she had dyed her hair for the programme, she said that purple is her colour, and that of her birthstone, her colour of luck.  She was not shy to praise herself in being kind and lovable!  She also cried, filled with emotion at having got so far.

Advertisements featured included those for sponsors Nederburg, Tsogo Sun, Woolworths (with beautiful food shots), new sponsor VW (with a tenuous food link), and Robertsons (many ads, but only one with Chef Reuben Riffel).  Other advertisers included Nespresso, Standard Bank, Spree.co.za, Dr Oetker Pizza Ristorante, and (oddly) Plascon paint.

For an overview of what is lying ahead for Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here.   We want to clarify that M-Net has a strict procedure for interviewing contestants, all writers having to obtain permission from their PR Manager Ingrid Engelbrecht upfront.  The condition is that all writers have to submit their story to Ms Engelbrecht for approval and sometimes minimal editing before being allowed to publish it. We have agreed to follow this rule, so that we have the opportunity to write stories about the contestants during the course of season 2.  This appears to be an unusual procedure relative to other food reality TV shows, especially as we signed a confidentiality agreement before attending the Media Day.  This rule only applies to contestant interviews, and in no way affects writing a summary of each episode such as this one.

So how did the viewers judge the first episode?  The men were noticeably negative, using 4-letter words to describe how much they disliked the program.  Contestants Kamini and the two Van der Wat sisters received positive comments from them however.  Some power outages raised the question about repeat broadcasts. Some complaints were received about the loud music in the broadcast, overpowering the judges’ feedback. It is still early days for Season 2 of MasterChef SA!

POSTSCRIPT 12/6: Deena Naidoo, winner of MasterChef Season 1, Tweeted the following compliment about this blogpost today: As always a Great summary of Episode1 MasterChefSA season2 . You don’t miss much’.

MasterChef SA Season 2. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 19h30 – 20h30.  www.masterchefsa.dstv.co Twitter: @MasterChef_SA

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Neil Stemmet’s ‘sout + peper’ is a journey of food, its future lying in the past!

I have written about Neil Stemmet, who is a restaurant curator, pop-up restaurant designer, and ‘sout + peper’ food blogger, but I have never seen his own written word.  I love the passion that he has put into his first just-published book ‘sout + peper erfeniskos’, of which the first run of 3000 has just been sold out, and how his personality comes through in his book.  It is a wonderful history of South African cooking, food culture, and food brands, and is more of a ‘storieboek’ than it is a recipe book.

Stemmet writes in his introduction that it is food writer Renate Coetzee’s book ‘Spys en Drank’ that inspired him when he first started cooking in his ‘kontrei-restaurant’ Le Must in Upington.  His book is a compilation of South African family recipes handed down to him by ‘tantes, my ouma, my ma’, and include those he discovered though his own research.  Stemmet defines ‘erfeniskos’ (heritage food) as food dating between the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 and the ‘Seventies, an era pre-MSG, pre-TV dinners, and a time before ‘boerekos’ having become over-complicated. ‘Erfeniskos’ is also food that needs the minimum of spices, and all Neil has in his pantry is salt, white pepper, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed, coriander, lemon juice, bay leaves, and sugar, which share the shelves with his basic ‘spens’ items of eggs, honey, Marmite, flour, and Worcester Sauce.  Stemmet also calls it ‘kuierkos en seënkos’, always shared with others and always blessed before eaten.

His ouma’s cooking inspired him, with its smells and kitchen sounds, like a concert hall, he writes.  Stemmet grew up in Robertson, and waxes lyrical about ouma’s home-made bread, farm butter, peach jam, and ‘moerkoffie’. He writes how it was ‘grênd’ to eat KOO (from the factory in Ashton close by) peas, and fruit with custard and cream on Sundays.

The photographs of brands and packs of days gone by evoke many happy memories: Robertson’s white pepper in a box, Carmién organic Rooibos tea, Royal baking powder, Tastic rice, Cartwrights curry powder, Mrs Ball’s chutney, Colman’s traditional hot English mustard powder in a tin, KOO fruit cocktail in syrup, SASKO cake flour, and Khoisan hand-harvested sea salt.

Recipes for traditional Afrikaans foods such as skilpadjies, rusks, Hertzoggies, and Smutskoekies, as well as staples such as chicken pie, bobotie in different styles, curry, oxtail, cakes and tarts, preserved fruit, lamb stew, marmalade, fruit punches, roast lamb, and many more are contained in the 300 page book.

Neil Stemmet, ‘sout + peper : erfeniskos‘. LAPA Uitgewers.  The book is to be translated into English for the next print run.  Tel 082 373 3837.  www.soutenpeper.com Twitter: @NeilStemmet

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club: ‘pairing’ The Creative Pot with the winegoggle

The 7th Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place on Wednesday 24 November, from 6 – 8 pm, at The Grand Daddy Hotel, and will pair Marisa Hendricks from The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert from the Wine Goggle Blog. 

Marisa Hendricks  is an accountant by day, and a food blogger by night.  She lives in Brackenfell and works in Stellenbosch.  She started her The Creative Pot blog in 2006 but only seriously starting posting in the first half of 2009.   She joined Twitter at the end of last year, and says that she is loving every minute of it.  “It’s really exciting to see the effect that social media has”, she says.   Marisa started experimenting in the kitchen from a young age, trying new recipes, ingredients and techniques.  She also likes to explore foreign cultures via the foods that they eat.  She sees blogging as a creative outlet, and is developing her photographic skills, something she saw as a “necessary evil” initially.  The Creative Pot Blog stands for “Explore – Innovate – Eat”.

Emile Joubert  is a controversial blogger, and may be written about more than he writes!  His Twitter avatar features him as topless!  He says that he started his winegoggle blog “for a laugh”.  He studied journalism and worked at Die Burger as arts and entertainment editor.  Moving onto Public Relations, he joined PR consultancy De Kock & Kerkoff, promoting cement, diesel engines, ostrich fathers and unit trusts, he writes.  He wanted the wine accounts, but these were in the ‘hands of pretty and smart girls”.   This resulted in him starting his own PR consultancy Media Vision, specialising in wine, hospitality and tourism PR, as well as financial services.  He has continued writing, for Die Burger, Insig and Media24.   The winegoggle Blog describes itself as “Wine, food and fun through rosé-tinted spectacles”. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Emile Joubert will introduce the wines served.  Snacks will be served.  The cost of attendance is R100.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Venue: The Grand Daddy Hotel.   38 Long Street, Cape Town.

The programme for the 2011meetings for future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings will be announced in January.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comTwitter: @WhaleCottage

Social Media: The Whale War and Freedom of Speech

Whale Cottage and I have been the subject of a most vicious defamatory and destructive Twitter campaign in the past week, with unsubstantiated untruthful allegations made, aimed at damaging the reputation of our company and of myself.   The Twitter campaign fabricated information for the benefit of causing a sensation.  Initially the account was set up as an impersonation of myself, by appearing to be my personal Twitter account.  Twitter closed the account down temporarily last Friday, until the perpetrator changed the Biography on the Twitter page.  Not only was it malicious in content and libelous, but it was also threatening in its aggressive tone.

I have written this blogpost with the purpose of acknowledging that we are aware of the campaign, that we know who drove it, and that we believe in what we do and what we stand for.   We do not want to signal through silence that the abusive campaign contained any truth, other than the colour of my jacket that I wore at the OYO lunch on Friday, referred to in one of the Tweets, bringing the perpetrator and his companion into the foodie blogging community!

So how did this campaign arise?  About 2 weeks ago I wrote a review about Crush!3, as I have also done about the first two issues of the Crush! digital food and wine magazines, of which Michael Olivier is the editor.  A number of food bloggers and our readers posted comments on the Blog, the majority being in agreement with our point of view.  We have regularly requested input from Olivier in response to our reviews, but have received none.  In fact, his reaction has been to block us on Twitter, to not respond at all to communication, and to not acknowledge my presence at a recent industry function, even though we have been acquainted for many years.   On Saturday 16 October, the Crush! team of editor Olivier, and contributors Sophia Lindop, Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) and David Cope (of The Foodie blog) , who also owns the PR company called Established & Partners, with Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School as sole client, it would appear, and Caveau/HQ/Gourmet Burger, Rudera Wines, Cape Classics and Hippo Hotel as ex-clients) had dinner at Lindop’s house to celebrate Crush!3.  On Twitter one was informed about the dinner through the attendees’ Tweets.  A Tweet by Fenner “Having a whale of a time with the @Crush_Online team” first caught my eye that evening,  which was reTweeted by Cope (but since removed), and echoed by the Crush! designers on the @Crush_Online Twitter account “also having a whale of a time. Flap Flap”, a few minutes later.  

An hour later a full-scale campaign began, with a total of 99 disparaging Tweets sent over the period of a week, one more demeaning than another.   A number of clues allowed us to link the campaign to Cope, information which we have handed to the police.   An abusive collection of e-mails was received from Cope as well, and there were clear parallels in what he wrote by e-mail and in the Tweets of the abusive Twitter account.  When we alluded on our blog to the Crush! team, and Cope in particular, being responsible for this childish campaign, there was no response from Olivier to deny it, and thereby he has condoned it.  We invited him to comment on our exposure in this blog post, and were surprised to receive a response from him for the first time since Crush! was published (we are delighted that Olivier acknowledges our input, but surprised to read that he values it, given his reaction to it, as detailed above): “I am not aware of any campaign, by any member of the Crush team, to defame you or Whale Cottage.  We would not embark on a defamation campaign when we are trying to build an online community willing to engage with us in an open, honest and constructive manner.   At Crush we value all constructive feedback and the fact that you have taken the time to read Crush and to make suggestions.  Crush magazine is in its third edition and determined to establish itself in a new market.  Needless to say, the Crush team would not like its brand linked to campaigns that aim to defame. I would therefore appreciate it, if you could forward any material that uses the Crush brand without our permission”.

Our Whale Cottage Blog has been controversial (no surprise that we were nominated and voted a Top 10 finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category in the recent 2010 SA Blog Awards).  We have exposed the dishonest claim by Carne restaurant that all its meat is organic (claim since removed from their website); we have awarded Sour Service Awards every Friday, never popular amongst its recipients; we have exposed the conflict of interest in the running of tourism matters in Hermanus; we have been critical of many restaurants that we have reviewed; and we have been critical of Crush!, but have acknowledged that it is improving.  This does not always make us popular amongst those businesses that we have written about.   We are proud of this Blog, and present the truth as we experience and see it.  We are not afraid to tackle any topic. Our reward is the 40000 unique readers reading our Blog every month, and our more than 1300 Twitter followers.

I have asked myself whether one changes tack in the face of such an abusive and emotionally violent and terrorising Twitter campaign.  Some people I spoke to used the PR adage that all publicity is good publicity.  Others said that social media memory is short, and that Cope would run out of things to fabricate, which is what happened.    But the overwhelming response was that I should change nothing about this Blog, and that I should continue with what we do.  This is wonderful support.   Some very special readers and followers were brave enough to react to the campaign publicly, and I am most grateful to all of them.  We are also grateful to our Twitter followers who saw the petty campaign for what it was, and unfollowed or blocked the abusive Twitter account. 

One of the characteristics of social media is that the boundaries of what one can say are blurred, with no clear guidelines of what is acceptable, and what is not.   There is no consistency in the different social media platforms and their codes of conduct.  Freedom of speech seems to be the overwhelming principle of this new method of communication, often at the expense of the truth.

Freedom of speech brings with it responsibilities, and cannot ignore the law, which dictates that one cannot disparage and defame others.  Good journalistic practice – yes, Bloggers, Facebookers and Twitterers are “New Age” journalists – is that information presented must be checked for accuracy, and that one cannot make statements about others unless they are proven.  The word “alleged” should precede any label one would give the action of any other person one is writing about, unless they have been convicted of the action they have been accused of.

This raises the question as to what the limits are for social media users, and what responsibility sits with Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.

Blogging seems to have few restrictions, as there are numerous blogging platforms.  Many bloggers use WordPress, but the company does not specify a Code of Conduct.  The servers hosting the blogs may have a code of conduct, but these are not normally visible to the blogger, especially if one works via a webmaster.

Facebook’s Code of Conduct is lengthy, and appears to be the most protective against disparagement and defamation.  It is also very reactive to complaints in taking action immediately, not a surprise when one sees ‘The Social Network’ movie about the establishment of Facebook.  It states the following in respect of protecting one’s rights, the closest it gets to addressing what one may or not say:

“1.     Protecting Other People’s Rights

We respect other people’s rights, and expect you to do the same.     

1.     You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.

2.     We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement.

3.     We will provide you with tools to help you protect your intellectual property rights. To learn more, visit our How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement page.

4.     If we remove your content for infringing someone else’s copyright, and you believe we removed it by mistake, we will provide you with an opportunity to appeal.

5.     If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.

6.     You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall and 32665), or any confusingly similar marks, without our written permission.

7.     If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

8.     You will not post anyone’s identification documents or sensitive financial information on Facebook.

9.     You will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent.”

Twitter has a Code of Conduct too, but seems very loath to take action against Twitter abuse, believing in freedom of speech, and Twitterers’ rights to expression.  It does not disallow disparagement, a major weakness of its Code.  It also does not demand honesty in Twittering, which means that anyone can say anything about anyone else on Twitter, without it necessarily being truthful.  It abdicates its legal liability in any dispute between Twitterers, yet does call for local country laws to be respected: 

·         Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others

·         Trademark: We reserve the right to reclaim user names on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those user names. Accounts using business names and/or logos to mislead others will be permanently suspended.

·         Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.

·         Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.

·         Copyright: We will respond to clear and complete notices of alleged copyright infringement. Our copyright procedures are set forth in the Terms of Service.

·         Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or for promotion of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.

·         Verified accounts: You may not use the Verified Account badge unless it is provided by Twitter. Accounts using the badge as part of profile pictures, background images, or in a way that falsely implies verification will be suspended” 

      The abusive campaign has created food for thought for many Bloggers and Twitterers, many wondering how they would react if they were targeted by such a 140-character onslaught on a daily basis.   There are no clear rules.  There also is no precedent in South African law as to any Blog post, Tweet or Facebook entry having been the cause of a defamation claim to date. In the USA, a young Twitter user last year sent a disparaging comment about an apartment rental agency to her 20 followers, and she was sued for $50 000 by the agency.

We welcome your point of view on Freedom of Speech in Social Media Marketing.

POSTSCRIPT 27/10:   The abusive campaign recommenced this morning, the first Tweet denying David Cope’s involvement, a little too obvious!   Another Tweet refers to a lunch I have booked at Tokara this weekend, a violation of my privacy relative to the restaurant, meaning that this information has been leaked by a staff member of the restaurant.

POSTSCRIPT 12/11:   We have established that food blogger Clare Mc Keon/McLoughlin from Spill Blog is passing on information to David Cope for the abusive Twitter campaign.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter @WhaleCottage

Blogging is “vanity publishing”, Food & Wine Bloggers told

Free-lance writer and second-most read South African food blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, writing the Scrumptious South Africa blog, described food bloggers as “desperate for attention” at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting last night, and their genre of writing can be called “vanity publishing”, she said.  The bloggers present felt that this description probably applies to bloggers across the board! 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was started earlier this year, and “pairs” a different food blogger and a wine blogger every month.   The wines of the Wine Blogger are tasted, and Warwick/Vilafonte’s Mike Ratcliffe brought along his Warwick Professor Black, the unique Warwick Blue Lady without vintage, and Vilafonte Series M 2006 (the highest rated Merlot blend according to Wine Spectator), for the bloggers to taste.  Food was served by Cafe Max.  Meetings are informal, and questions are answered during the two-hour meeting, encouraging fledgling bloggers to obtain input and tips from more experienced bloggers.

Jane-Anne said that through social media, “opinion has been democratised”, creating a serious threat for traditional media, with their short lead times in publishing restaurant reviews, or food information, compared to traditional magazine and newspaper publishing, and this is leading to tension between the two media types.  She started her blog three years ago, and it reflects her love for cooking and for developing recipes.   While one may not get financial reward out of a blog, especially if one does not accept advertising, which is Jane-Anne’s policy (nor does she accept freebies), she feels that she is adding value to her readers, and she herself receives emotional, intellectual and entertainment satisfaction from writing her blog.  She advised that food blogs must focus on accuracy in terms of ingredients and method of preparation, but also in terms of spelling and grammar. 

Online integrity is vital, and one must trust one’s palate in expressing what one experiences, even if it is not the popular view, one blogger said.  One should track one’s performance, and Jane-Anne advised that referring to, and tagging, names of chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay leads to increased web traffic.  She also advised that one “should find one’s voice” through the blog, and allow one’s readers to “get to know you”, and one’s personality should come through, whatever one’s communication style might be.  While content is king, a “yummy and descriptive” headline is vital in attracting readers into the content, and photographs should be of a “reasonable quality”.   Jane-Anne feels that it is sad to see so many young people’s idea of food and cooking being shaped by chefs and cookery book writers such as Ramsay, Lawson and Oliver, without them having exposure to a more classic cooking culture.  With her Scrumptious blog, Jane-Anne hopes to broaden their cooking knowledge.  

Mike Ratcliffe is probably the most experienced social media marketing wine marketer, and impressed with the different tools he referred to and uses: Blogging, Twitter, FourSquare, Twideo, Google Maps Latitude, and Nice to Meet You.   He has opted out of Facebook, due to the lack of control.   He writes a Vilafonte and a Warwick blog, being the Managing Partner of the former brand, and the Managing Director of the latter brand.  Vilafonte grapes are grown near Sante Wellness, between Paarl and Franschhoek, and the wines are made in a state-of-the-art venue at Bosman’s Crossing in Stellenbosch, while the Warwick wines are made the traditional way by Mike’s mother Norma on their farm.   Her 25th vintage celebration will take the Warwick wines around the world with 40 dinners, at which 10 vintages of their wines will be tasted.   Mike is an irregular blogger, as he travels a lot, and finds he has more time to blog when he travels.  He “leans to controversy” in what he writes, he says, yet he will not pick a fight, and will step back in a fight.  He complimented www.wines.co.za for their platform on which he is encouraged to write, creating huge exposure to their 40000 unique readers per month.    

Mike advised bloggers to be responsible in their blogging, as one influences views.  One must check one’s information sources, and not use a blog as a platform for retaliation.  If one disappoints one’s readers, they will no longer follow the blogger.  A blog is successful when one is passionate about one’s topic, and about writing.   Twitter is on a growth trend, he feels, and positional tweeting (crowdsourcing) will be introduced soon.  Mike uses traditional marketing communication media too, such as advertising and PR, and the 2000 members of the Warwick Wine Club are an important testing and tasting ground for new wines developed.   He claims that his marketing is spontaneous and dynamic, but one gets the impression that Mike Ratcliffe knows exactly what he is doing in marketing his brands, and is acknowledged by his peers in this respect.   He was praised by a fellow blogger as a professional.  

The next Food and Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting is on Wednesday 18 August, and will “pair” Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir in Franschhoek.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com