Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference 2012, Wellington

Last week I attended the second New Zealand Food Bloggers Association Conference (in Wellington) and it was .... AWESOME!

(And I am sure that all the bloggers who where there with me will agree with me)

I need to add that this is only our second conference, and yet AllieShirleen and all the other helpers managed to put together something so organized and professional (and of course delicious!) that I just want to thank them again and again!! 

To all the bloggers, I loved catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, and the 'vibes' I got from everyone were all about wanting to share, to learn, and to become better food bloggers. 

To our sponsors, and there is a long list at the end of this post (please let me know if I forgot to include anyone), I would like to say that your support has been so much appreciated, I cannot quite believe how many cool companies, producers and individuals have sponsored us, and the quality that we saw (and tasted!). 

To my readers, sorry if I am taking a break from the Vegan Japanese dinner menu, I will resume after this post, but I really want to write this first. And even if you are overseas and not a Kiwi, well, I am sure that you will think that a bloggers conference like this one is real world class! So make yourself comfortable because we did soooooo many things!

I arrived on Thursday afternoon at the Intercontinental Wellington, super happy with the beautiful view from my room, and with the indoor swimming pool (because it was warm and I like warm water). After a swim I returned to the room to see a lovely sunset, and then I got ready to meet more bloggers for dinner!

Ten of us were hosted by Portlander for dinner, and the staff was very patient with me when I explained that I was a vegetarian (Portlander is a steak house) and if I could just have the side vegetables (fortunately there was a long list of these on the menu). My starter was bruschetta with buffala mozzarella, and then I had a rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic, grilled mushrooms, and potato gratin (and this I can assure you was plenty for me!). I am not used to photograph steaks and meat, but I tried with Sue's plate, just to give you an idea of what is served there (to non- vegetarians, that is!). Only six girls stayed on for dessert, and then we all 'rolled' happily to our beds!

Early start on Friday morning: 8am for registration (fortunately it was in my hotel, as I am not a morning person) and then at 8:30 talented Spanish Pastry Chef Juan Balsani showed us how he makes an amazing chocolate dessert: Nayarit Chocolate Balloon. The ballon is made with liquid nitrogen (yes I have the recipe but I am not sure where to find the liquid nitrogen...) and it is filled with Sambirano Chocolate Mousse (maybe this I could make...) then decorated it with Jaina (white chocolate) caramelised spaguetti (don't ask me about the spelling, I have no idea!) and drizzled everything with a chocolate pink pepper sauce. And yes, he made all this in 30 minutes! Juan is really talented and I hope to visit him soon at Kermadec in Auckland (I'll skip the fish and go straight to the dessert!).

Spanish Pastry Chef Juan Balsani and his Nayarit Chocolate Balloon

At 9am the New Zealand Chocolate Festival was officially opened by the Mayor of Wellington, and we started our tasting tour!

Of course it is very tiring 
tasting chocolate and 
taking photos, 
so I sneaked away 
for a (chocolate) 
hand massage ...

Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough
10:25, our shuttles came to collect us to take us to the new smart premises of Le Cordon Bleu, where  we were welcomed by the director Cath Hopkin, and looked at the amazing goodie bags under our seats. After that we had charming speaker Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough talking about his blogging experience (which lead to the making of his olive oil, and we all got a bottle of that too). After Jared it was time for Alison Brook, Head of Publishing for HarperCollins NZ, talking about how food bloggers could get published.

Lunch was offered by various restaurants in Wellington, we were all sorted into groups of four and got  taxied to our selected venues. My group went to Monsoon Poon where I had spicy vegetable noodles. 

My lunch companions, Claire, Pip and Heather at Monsoon Poon

After lunch were were shuttled back to Le Cordon Bleu for more interesting talks: Lucy Corry's was entitled Is it Blogging or Writing (loved the talk Lucy, and love my cats too, but yes, in over 4 years of blogging I think they have featured only twice, and once it was because they like to eat chickpeas!) (And yes, I love !!!! too :-)). After Lucy we had Sarah Meikle, GM Marketing for Wellington Tourism. Sarah talked about Social Media, and made us all feel like Wellington loooooove bloggers! And then we had afternoon tea with some beautiful and delicate baking by the chefs of Le Cordon Bleu.

My mini-master class at the conference

The rest of the afternoon was for mini-master classes, I really wanted to go to Viviane's Food Photography, or Emma's Skype talk, but I had to prepare for my sugar rose class. It was just then that I realized that I was actually going to take a class at Le Cordon Bleu, using the kitchen of an authentic French pastry chef, and I though Wowowowow! (Scroll down to see the 'authentic' French pastry chef).

It was great to teach adults how to make sugar roses, usually this class is for kids and many eat the fondant even before starting. But maybe my style was a bit... motherly and bossy? Anyway, everybody made several roses, Heather even said that is is good not to have to buy sugar roses anymore (yes, they can be expensive). Lots of photo were taken, and it was also a good day-closing class as everybody started to chat and unwind.  Thank you all for taking part, and thank you to Le Cordon Bleu.


Dinner was a Pop Up Food & Wine Matching and the secret location (pop up dinners' locations are  secret until the last minute). Before dinner we had a cocktails mini-master class with Justing McKenzie from Liquid Winks and then we ate and ate and ate... 

I couldn't photograph all the courses that we had and mine were different from the others (I think that there were two diners who ordered vegetarian and one gluten free) and I was busy chatting, but I am sure that other bloggers (with better cameras) took more photos. 

Pop Dining Chef Ben Barton made the veggie options too,
here is the pasta for me, with lentils and mushrooms.

Day two

Ginger, cola and grapefruit, just add soda...

Day two: back to Le Cordon Bleu for some more workshops, starting at 8:30am with a chocolate tasting held by Jo Coffey of L'Affaire au Chocolat. After Jo we had Rachel Taulelei of Yellow Brick Road, who offered us an engaging talk about sustainable fishing and seafood. The announcement of the Holy Moly competition winners followed, and then it was time for some more baking from Le Cordon Bleu, and these super yummy yogurts and drinks for morning tea.

And this was just the beginning!

At 10:50am we were back into the classroom for more tasting, Six Barrel Soda with Josef Slater first, and then a State of the Vines talk with Chris Archer (look at his bottled happiness below, very innovative!).

'Serious' chocolate tasting and some Ritzling with a slice of lime


Lunch was Asian bliss! The ladies from Little Penang came in to talk about Penang Cuisine, and to give us a couple of demos before feeding us with the most delicious spice treats!

The highlight for me (a part from eating a vegetarian Penang lunch) was to learn to mold moon cakes. I have a couple of these wooden paddles at home (from Singapore) and I didn't know how to use them. Well, now I do, I will have to try soon...

I molded this one!

After lunch we went back into the kitchen to learn how to make dumplings with the Queen of Dumplings  herself, Vicky Ha. This was a super yummy workshop, we all made our own dumplings (even some sweet vegan ones) and had a chance to show off our aprons. Well, I did for sure, I had a special one that got quite a few comments (but it was for the NZFBA conference only, of course, I don't think that I could ever wear it again). We all ate our dumplings and I had a lovely chat with Vicky, good affinity I think, between Chinese and Italians when we talk about filled pasta/dumplings!


French Pastry

This is mine :-)

After eating our dumplings some of us went to a cheese making class with Allison, and the others to a French pastry class with Sebastien Lambert, Patisserie Head Tutor at Le Cordon Bleu. And what a magnificent class it was!

Clockwise from top left: combining sugar and butter, adding the ground almonds, adding the egg, stretching the pastry on the marble bench.

Clockwise from top left: rolling (and we got so many tips here!), how to place the pastry into the pasty pan, arrange the borers and... voilà!

Then it was our turn, and I think that we did pretty well! Also, it was so exciting to use the new school facilities, we were really lucky to be the first ones there, and Sebastien is an excellent tutor!

Coffee and Tea to finish

Our last Breakout sessions were tea and coffee tasting with food matching, I went to the coffee tasting with Steve Barrett from  Peoples Coffee and assisted to what I would call a 'coffee ceremony'.

And even if I missed out on the tea tasting by t leaf T, they also gave us some lovely tea in our goodie bags and I tried my first one as soon as I got home. Really lovely tea, I could drink it all day long!

Talking about goodie bags, guess what? Not only we received our conference goodie bag on arrival (plus other goodies during the two days we were there) but we also got another goodie bag before leaving, this time from the New Zealand Chocolate Festival. Well, foodies loooove goodie bags, but who doesn't??

What a conference... I have written a lot but I will probably need to edit, I feel like I would like to say even more, but for now... well, just thank you all, and I look forward to the next NZFBA conference in 2013! Where should we have it???

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©  (and if I am in them some other blogger took them... ) 

NZFBA Conference 2012 - Sponsors

NZFBA Conference 2012
We would like to offer a special thanks to the following sponsors.  You have made our conference for 2012 possible!

Primary Sponsors

NZFBA Conference 2012    NZFBA Conference 2012     NFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - Speakers
NZFBA Conference 2012  NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - Mini MasterClasses, Tutorials and Tastings

NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

Supporter - 24 August Lunch

NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - 24 August Lunch
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012      NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors & Supporters - 24 August Dinner
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

NZFBA Conference 2012  NZFBA Conference 2012   
NZFBA Conference 2012         
(Plus Portlander for dinner on Thursday night!)

Sponsor - 25 August Lunch

NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - Conference Goodie Bag Products
NZFBA Conference 2012        NZFBA Conference 2012   

   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012    

(Plus New Zealand Chocolate Festival for a second goodie bag!)

          Sponsors - Prizes
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012    

    Supporter - Accommodation             Sponsor - Printing & Resources
NZFBA Conference 2012                   

Conference Team

NZFBA Conference 2012     Conference Logo designed by Andrea Wong of So D'lish

NZFBA Conference 2012    

Conference Manager, Shirleen Oh of Sugar & Spice...And All Things Nice

NZFBA Conference 2012                                 
              NZ Food Bloggers Association Founder, Allison Pirrie-Mawer of 

NZFBA Conference 2012  Conference Runner, Beth Brash of Eat & Greet


  1. It was a wonderful two days. I'm looking forward finally to writing up my own reflections now I've got my work priorities out of the way. Was so lovely to see you again.

    1. Lovely to see you again too Julie, let me know when your piece is ready (if I don't see it before) as unfortunately I have a lot of work on too and I have very little time for blogging :-(

  2. What a lovely blog post! I'm so impressed you fit that all into one post, I've spread mine out over three! Haha!
    Was so nice to meet you and I thoroughly enjoyed your fondant roses class!

    1. It is a long post, but I wanted to keep everything in one page... and maybe write some more later :-).

  3. This looks SO fun! Glad I get to live vicariously through you ;P

    1. I missed you Sasa, you are always the first to laugh at my puns and jokes, I would have made you proud :-).

  4. Sicuramente una bella esperienza,ho visto cose stupende dalla tua macchina fotografica, con la traduzione non ho capito se eravate invitate o era a pagamento, ma da voi c'è un'associazione di blogger? comunque cose nuove da vedere che ti hanno arricchito e dato idee per piatti da rifare, ciao carissima

  5. Tam, abbiamo tenuto il costo bassissimo facendo quasi tutto da noi o con sponsor che ci hanno offerto prodotti ma anche tempo per venire a parlare con noi o insegnarci cose o fare degustazioni. Alcuni di noi hanno tenuto mini corsi gratis (inclusa io, per questo c'e' il mio logo fra gli sponsor) e quindi il costo della conferenza era solo sui 50 euro per i due giorni (ovviamente non per me visto che ero uno dei tutori), piu' circa 20 euro per chi voleva la cena di venerdì (incluso vino e tutto). Ovviamente chi non vive a Wellington doveva andare li', ma i voli non sono eccessivi, e per l'albergo, io sono stata in quello migliore perche' ci ha offerto un prezzo speciale (meno di meta' del prezzo normale) per la conferenza, e poi la prima sera a cena hanno invitato alcuni di noi, e anche a pranzo i vari ristoranti ci hanno invitato, e Le Cordon Bleu ci ha offerto lo spazio perché stava per aprire e quindi non aveva ancora studenti (siamo stati i primi), il festival del cioccolato ci ha fatto entrare gratis e offerto una classe e dei prodotti, insomma... tutti hanno messo qualcosa, bloggers, cuochi, ristoratori, produttori... veramente bello! L'associazione dei blogger e' gratuita, l'ha creata una blogger, ha solo fatto un sito e tutti ci abbiamo messo il nostro blog, tutto li'! Niente di speciale. Speciale invece e' riuscire a fare delle conferenze come queste! :-)

  6. Oh wow! What a weekend huh? Looks like SO much fun was had by all. Hope to be there in person one day soon xx

    1. Missed you Emma, maybe next year?

    2. Possibly, although I did say that about this year so we'll just have to see. I'd so love to though xx

  7. Ma che splendida esperienza Ale! E che foto, che piatti, che bella gente :-) Bravissimi tutti e complimenti!!!

  8. What a great roundup, Alessandra! It was so great to see everyone and meet new bloggy peeps too :))

    And if you're going to Kermadec to have some dessert, tap me on the shoulder, I might just be persuaded to join you! ;)

  9. Yes that would be great Andrea, have you been there already?


  10. Great post, nice to meet so many likeminded folks who were similarly enthused by all that wonderful food.

  11. Was very happy to catch up with you in person again at the conference Ale. Maybe I shouldn't leave it till next conference and make a trip up to Akl for more catch ups! Thank you for your session on Sugar Flowers - grazie mille Ale! :-)x

  12. Wow. What a great description of the entire conference. I had seriously considered trying to go to the whole thing, and you make me wish I had! And thanks for your nice words!

    1. Next time Jared, and I am sure that you will have fun, plus, we need more boys!!

  13. WoW! che organizzazione, sono stupefatto!! mi fai aumentare la voglia di trasferirmi in NZ..

  14. Semplicemente bellissimo! Sei riuscita a trasmettere davvero i colori e la gioia di questi incontri...per il profumo usiamo la fantasia!
    Io mi offro volontaria per fare la modella per essere dipinta, mi piacerebbe troppo, deve essere divertente. In cambio chiedo piccoli assaggi e un bagno in piscina :-)

  15. Spirulina, sai che quello era solo l'inizio, ci avrebbero messo altre 4 ore! Io non ce la farei, forse quando ero piu' giovane, ma altrimenti sai che noia! Spero che la paghino bene, e sicuramente ha mangiato tanta cioccolata. :-)

  16. What a fantastic weekend it was! Great wrap up Alessandra.

  17. Wow that looks like a fantastic time, Alessandra! I would love to be there in person some day!

  18. Maybe next year Lucy! It is for all food bloggers!

  19. Great round up Alessandra! Was a brilliant weekend :)

  20. Great round up Alessandra, it's nice to see pictures of sessions I missed! Thanks for posting all the sponsor logos too. See you soon!

  21. Alessandra, magnifico! Ti scrivero' nei prossimi giorni in privato. Per adesso ti auguro uno splendido week end. Un abbraccio. Pat

  22. Alessandra, you've done a great round up. I had to spread mine over two posts, at the risk of boring people to death with one really long one - I fear I may have been a little verbose. It's great reading everyone's round-ups - helps me to relive the whole wonderful weekend all over again.

    It was so lovely to see you again - hope I don't have to wait another year for that to happen - hope to have a trip to Auckland sometime before then and catch up with a few food bloggers. Fingers crossed.

    Sue xo

  23. Hi Alessandra

    I really enjoyed reading about your fabulous conference - congratulations!

  24. che esperienza fantastica, complimenti! Un abbraccio SILVIA


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