© Julia House
Twelve participants who had never met. Eleven nationalities. Four instructors. Three days of pretty intense writing and photographing, and living in close quarters with one another. Sixteen people who arrived as strangers but left as friends; with heads humming with inspiration and ideas, and hearts full of affection. That pretty much sums up the the first Plate to Page food writing and photography workshop which took place in Weimar, Germany 20-22 May 2011. Here are a few impressions of the weekend, in words and pictures.
Although some participants had arrived early, the event officially kicked off on Friday afternoon at the Kipperquelle Hotel where a welcome lunch had been arranged. One by one the four instructors Jeanne, Meeta, Ilva and Jamie welcomed the participants from around the globe:
Julia from Canada;
Ishay from South Africa;
Simone from The Netherlands;
Jasmine from Italy;
Astrid from Austria;
Arthi from the UK; and
Mona and David from Ireland (who had won their places on the workshop in a competition run by our wonderful sponsor Bord Bia in conjunction with the Irish Food Blogger Association).
It took about 30 seconds before everybody hauled out their rather large cameras and started taking pictures of everything - trees, flowers, food - but mostly of each other (as bloggers do!). The aroma of bratwurst on the grill soon had us at the lunch table though: chatting, eating and getting to know each other. The serious work of the day kicked off after lunch with a discussion on the difference between good vs. bad food writing and photography, as well as presentations from all four presenters. This was followed by an hour of very intense practical writing and photography in small groups of six participants with two instructors each, designed to remind participants what their natural style is and to kick-start their creativity.
After a brief presentation on low-light photography techniques in restaurants, we headed out for our inaugural dinner at the Bistro Français. Oysters two ways were followed by a feast of crab claws and sea snails; scallops with broad beans; a honeyed goat cheese salad; salt marsh lamb with green beans and new potatoes; and a dessert of flan (Far Breton) and crêpes filled with salted butter caramel. The room was alive with the tinkling of glasses as we toasted, the clatter of cutlery as we persuaded the stubborn crab claws to yield their bounty of sweet meat, and of course the clickety-click of shutters as we snapped everything that stood still for more than 3 seconds.
Saturday morning bright and early, we were back at the Kipperquelle and raring to go with the distribution of the goodie bags. As participants joked, the workshop may have been all WORK and no SHOP, but who needs to shop when you have a stylish goodie bag packed with Butler's Irish Fudge, Lakeshore Mustard with Guinness, Ballymaloe Country Relish, Hotel Chocolat savoury chocolate goodies, an Ergo Chef knife, an OXO Good Grips strawberry huller and peeler, and Sweet Pete's salted butter caramels? Soon it was back to work and the morning flew by once again, taken up by a photography presentation and a writing workshop that saw the participants playing word association games to kick-start their post inspirations.
Lunchtime saw participants heading out into the sunshine to put into practice what they had learnt and style food for a picnic shoot, using the gorgeous vintage props sponsored by Paula Walters, and edible treats brought by each of us from our home countries. We spent a good hour in the dappled sunlight under the trees, arranging food, photographing food, rearranging food (on our knees in the gravel at some points!) - food blogger heaven - consuming amounts of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel sparkling wine provided by our sponsor Wines of South Africa. And finally, rest assured that we DID sit down and feast on our picnic food!
After a couple of hours for participants to write up the morning's experiences in a blog post with two photos, we returned to the lecture room so that every pair could present their work and then school was over for the day. People were quickly divided into teams to work on starters, main course and dessert for the evening's meal, giving us a chance to try out our Ergo Chef Knives and Good Grips strawberry hullers (thanks OXO!). Dinner, eaten al fresco at a long table, was a delicious asparagus frittata with salad, followed by various types of Flammkuchen, and finally we rounded of off the evening with some much-photographed Eton Mess, all washed down by Springfield's spectacular Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc and Beyerskloof Bouwland Pinotage.
By Sunday morning, everyone was still pretty bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, despite the hectic schedule. The morning's writing exercises were all about choosing your words carefully and putting the reader in your shoes; while Meeta and Ilva unlocked the secrets of Lightroom, Photoshop, and working effectively with Lowel Ego lights. From there we moved onto some tips for selling your work and getting published, which took us neatly to lunchtime. We had been lucky enough to receive two enormous Irish grass-fed Hereford beef fillets from the lovely people at Bord Bia, and this was to be their moment of glory but not before they had been given a makeover and a photo shoot, of course. A multitude of large sharp knives, lots of wine (Kleine Zalze bush vine Chenin Blanc and spectacular Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz this time) notwithstanding, we all eventually sat down to a sumptuous lunch of honeyed goat cheese & pine nut salad; mustard-crusted beef fillets; and baked pears with zabbaione and fresh berries with our limbs and friendships intact.
© Junglefrog Images
After lunch, calm descended on the land as participants wandered off in pairs to complete a magazine article with pictures documenting the lunch, and presented their pieces to us all while we munched on super-decadent kouginette pastries from Georges Larnicol. Once everybody had presented and discussed their articles and photos, it was time for a quick wrap-up and then it was all over. I don't know about the participants, but the presenters were left positively buzzing - it's that feeling of having a lot of adrenaline and nowhere for it to go. Clearly, we needed to decompress and I can think of few better places than Gasthaus Taubach where we went for a farewell barbecue dinner. This was also the where we did the lucky draw that saw two lucky winners walk away with Lowel Ego lights kindly sponsored by Prokit - congratulations Astrid and Jasmine! It was a perfect ending to a creative, energising, hectic, stimulating, laughter-filled, challenging and unforgettable weekend.
© Junglefrog images
If you would like to read more about participants' and presenters' impressions of the weekend, below is a list of posts that have been written about the workshop weekend in Weimar.
Arthi – Ending on a High NoteArthi – Reliving the Plate2Page Experience
Astrid – Who Would Have Thought…?
Ilva – Plate to Page Weimar 2011 – The Review
Jamie – From Plate to Page
Jasmine – Plate to Page Workshop
Meeta – We Met in Weimar
Meeta - Putting the WORK back into Workshop
Móna – Life Changing, It Was
Móna – Life Changing it Was, Part 2
Móna – Life Changing it Was, Part 3
Móna – All in a Days Work
Simone – Plate to Page – Experience of a Lifetime
Simone – Metaphors, Similes, and What it’s All About
Jenn - Plate to Page Workshop
Plate to Page workshops will take place at least twice per year, in various locations. The next Plate to Page workshop is scheduled for 28-30 October 2011 in Tuscany and is already fully booked. Please keep an eye on our website, Facebook page and Twitter account for news, updates and to be the first to know about new workshop dates.
Photo: Jenn Oliver
Photo: Jeanne Horak DruiffWe would like to thank our incredible sponsors, without whom this workshop would not have run so smoothly as it did. Thank you for taking a chance on us and sponsoring Plate to Page: our main sponsor Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board), Wines of South Africa, Hotel Chocolat, Prokit UK, Maison Georges Larnicol, OXO, Ergo Chef Knives, Sweet Pete’s and the lovely Paula Walters. Their generosity allowed us to provide high class gifts to our participants, but they also helped make this fantastic weekend possible!