Canada’s First Food Bloggers Conference, Eh?

Food Bloggers of Canada Conference 2013

There I was, in a room full of people I didn’t know, save for my benefactors – the two gals from the Manitoba Canola Growers – with whom I had been traveling. I was sure no one knew me as I sat picking out a few familiar faces from the people seated at other tables. They were only familiar because of social media. Either I’d seen their profile pictures on-line, I had read their work, or I may have even had a Twitter conversation with them. But, that was the extent of it. I looked a few tables over and saw Heather Travis, the friendly voice behind Canadian Beef. I knew her, but would she know who I was? The internet is a huge place, and it’s easy to be overlooked.

Later, when I approached Heather to introduce myself I expected a polite handshake and some awkward small-talk, followed by an uncomfortable silence at which time I would quietly excuse myself and return to my own table.

Since she was seated at a table with other sponsors and some of the conference speakers, I was a bit intimidated as I approached her.

“Excuse me, Heather?” I said, tapping on her shoulder.

She turned to face me. “Yes?”

“Hi, I’m Jeanine Friesen, of The Baking Beauties” I said, offering my hand.

“Jeanine!” she said, jumping up and giving me a hug. “It’s so nice to meet you.”

And that’s when I knew that everything was going to be alright that weekend.

For those of you that have been following me for a while, you may remember me mentioning a “My Cookies are the Best” contest, hosted by Manitoba Canola Growers. The contest was open to all members of Food Bloggers of Canada (FBC). The challenge was to create a cookie recipe that uses canola oil. There were going to be two winners, one from Manitoba, and one from elsewhere in Canada. The prize? An all expense paid trip to Hockley Valley to the first ever Food Bloggers of Canada Conference.

I really wanted to attend this convention. When you’re a single-income family, with two kids, blogging conventions just aren’t a part of the budget. But after winning a trip to Toronto last year through Redpath Sugar, I knew the possibility of winning existed, slight as it might seem. So I entered four recipes to increase my chances.

Crisp Gluten-Free Gingersnap Cookies

Crisp Gluten-Free Gingersnap Cookies

Gluten-free Turtle Cookies

Gluten-free Turtle Cookies

Gluten-free Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Gluten-free Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Chewy Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

The contest closed November 28, 2012 and I had put it in the back of my mind until the morning of December 3rd, 2012 when, without a cup of coffee to yet touch my lips, I read the following email:

Hi Jeanine and CONGRATULATIONS!! You won a trip to FBC2013 with your Gluten-free sugar cookie recipe!

I had to read it two or three times before it finally sank in – I wasn’t dreaming – I was actually going to have an opportunity to attend the FBC 2013 Conference.

 

013 tag

 

I’ve never been to a conference before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. So I read about the line up of speakers, scoped out who all the sponsors were, and checked out my fellow winner’s blog, Maya’s Kitchen. As the two Canola Grower winners, Maya & I were going to be sharing a room at the conference. After determining that there would be plenty to learn, that the swag would be sweet, and that my roommate was indeed not a psycho (don’t judge, you’d do the same thing), I was set.

 

David Leite at FBC2013

Be authentic. Voice your personality. Share your story. – David Leite

 

FBC2013 was the first held by the Food Bloggers of Canada. Similar conventions have been an annual event in the US for the past number years and by what I’ve heard, they are much bigger events. Not that bigger is necessarily better though. One of the great things about this conference was its small size. There were only about 100 people attending, which made it a very comfortable, intimate setting.

The speakers were all down-to-earth and approachable. They didn’t just stick around for their 45 minute session and then leave. They spent the entire weekend eating, chatting, laughing and learning along with us attendees. They were available all weekend. Now, I haven’t been to a conference before, but I don’t think that is the “norm” for conferences. At times I was literally surrounded by the conference speakers. During David Leite’s session, David was five feet in front of  me, Dianne Jacob five feet to the right, and Dana McCauley five feet behind me. I was in the center of all this knowledge and food journalism experience. Amazing.

 

Recipe Development at FBC2013

 

There were so many great topics covered – photography, bookkeeping, working with brands, making money with blogging – and in such an interesting way, that it’s difficult to say which was the most informative. Sessions were directed at the writing aspect of food blogging, as well as the technical aspects of running a website business. One of my favourite sessions was Recipe Development with Mairlyn Smith, Stephanie Eddy, and Adell Shneer. Mairlyn Smith, with her wit & humour, brought a lot of energy to the Sunday morning session – something we all needed after a few late nights.

It’s just so neat to see how others create their recipes. How they tweak, test, and re-test until they are satisfied. I really appreciated each panel members openness when sharing their process with us. It was great to see how similar my own method is to these professionals. However, they’ve given me a few new ideas that I know will help me with the recipes that I develop in the future.

 

FBC2013 Menu

 

The food was fabulous. Hockley Valley did a magnificent job catering the event and, for me, there were also plenty of gluten-free items available. They even had gluten-free muffins available during the coffee breaks.

Many of the sponsors provided us with succulent dishes and plenty of Ontario wine to go with it. I don’t usually drink wine, but figured, where else am I going to have the opportunity to taste such a variety of wines at once? So, I started to accept ‘just a sip’ when the wait-staff came around. Apparently I have been drinking very  harsh wines until now, because many of the ones I tasted were actually pretty good.

Most of what I learned was behind-the-scene-knowledge about blogging. But I hope that some things will make their way to the front page. I also hope that, even though I was gifted this great opportunity, it will be you, my readers, who benefit the most from what I’ve learned.

 

Riding in Style with Manitoba Canola Growers

L-R: Our driver, Jenn, Me, Ellen, and Maya

 

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity provided by the Manitoba Canola Growers. Not only for the Food Bloggers of Canada convention, but the extras they have done to promote me and my blog. Since winning the “My Cookies are the Best” contest, I have had the opportunity to be on CTV Morning Live, got to share my story with the Be Well readers, was interviewed by the Manitoba Co-operator, and most recently received a letter of congratulations from my local Member of Parliament.

The Manitoba Canola Growers have given me some fantastic opportunities to talk to people about a living gluten-free life and to help them realize that it can be a very delicious life. Thank you Ellen and Jenn for making FBC2013 a fabulous weekend.

I tip my hat to Mardi, Melissa, and Ethan, the founders of Food Bloggers of Canada, at doing such a fabulous job organizing this inaugural event for Canadian food bloggers. Thank you!

 

Disclosure: My travel, conference fees, and other expenses were all paid for by Manitoba Canola Growers. The opinions expressed are completely my own.

 

16 Responses to Canada’s First Food Bloggers Conference, Eh?

  1. Trina May 9, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I hope to get to this conference next year! Congrats again on your win, Jeannie!! :)

    • Jeanine Friesen May 9, 2013 at 9:06 am #

      I know you would have loved it, Trina! I hope they do another one, because it was a fantastic experience.

  2. Karine Keldany May 9, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Congrats for winning Jeannie. Wish I could attend the Blogger Conference. I need some PR for my blog. It is such a good opportunity to meet other fellow bloggers. They should have another in the east in Montreal for example. :(

    • Jeanine Friesen May 9, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Thanks, Karine! I’m not sure what their future plans are, right now, I think they are still assessing how this year’s event went. If you ever get a chance though, go, well worth it, in my opinion.

  3. Jenn Dyck May 9, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Hi Jeanine! What a great post. It has been my pleasure getting to know you better and building a partnership and friendship that I know will continue to grow. I look forward to following you blog and career as it blossoms into all that you dream it can be.
    Take care, keep sharing fantastic gluten free recipes and most of all Be Well!
    Jenn

    • Jeanine Friesen May 9, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Thank you very much, Jenn. It has been great getting to know you and Ellen as well. The conference opened my eyes to a lot of things, I look forward to what the future brings!

  4. Melissa@EyesBigger May 9, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    It was great to finally meet you, Jeanine, and I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip. We were so lucky to have some terrific sponsors who gave a lot of bloggers the chance to attend when they otherwise might not have been able to. :)

    • Jeanine Friesen May 9, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      It was great to meet you too, Melissa! You guys really know how to throw a party. ;)

  5. Patricia May 9, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    So glad you had a great time!

    Thanks to Canadian Beef (and Heather, who is a doll!) I am going to a conference in Philadelphia! So great to be able to make a network with great bloggers and brands.

    • Jeanine Friesen May 9, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Congrats on your win, Patricia! I will be following both you and Kathryne as you prepare & head out to EatRightRetreat. I’m sure it’ll be an amazing experience! (and Heather is really awesome, I’m not just saying that). ;)

  6. Michelle @ My Gluten-free Kitchen May 9, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    I am so happy for you that you won this trip and got to attend the conference! It looks and sounds like it was such a neat experience!
    I’m looking to see if I can swing attending the IFBC in Seattle in September. I’m hoping I can make it work. Tell me if you end up thinking you might make it to that one too! It would be so cool if we could both be at the same one together someday!

    • Jeanine Friesen May 13, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      Oh, I wish, Michelle! Looks like the price of the IFBC is cheap, especially if you blog about the experience. Unfortunately, travel costs a lot of money. :( This was a great experience though, I’d do it again! :)

  7. Lyndsay Wells May 10, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    This was just great Jeanine. You ARE one of those bloggers everyone is talking about :-) Keep going!

  8. Marlene May 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Great recap, Jeanine! I don’t know if you recall meeting me at the conference, but I was excited to meet you and we chatted as were leaving the dining area after a breakfast or lunch. I had seen so much about your book and your blog, largely through Twitter, that you were a familiar face to me. Although I don’t require a gluten-free diet myself, I know people who do, and I’ve been so impressed by the baked goods that you produce.

    I went to that conference knowing no one, and having never even met another food blogger before. My experience meeting you was very much like your experience meeting Heather Travis. Through your graciousness, you made the experience that much more comfortable and friendlier for me. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Friesen May 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Ah, Marlene, you are so kind. I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to meet you, and now follow along with your blog as well. So many great things from one “simple” weekend.

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