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Photography: Heather Gill

A Chef, A Photographer. A Storyteller.

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A Comforting Italian Trifle

Photography: Stuart Ovenden

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Welcome to From Plate to Page

Are you:

  • a food blogger who has been blogging for a while and feels stuck in a creative rut?

  • happy with your writing but feel your photography needs work - or vice versa?

  • tired of attending traditional format conferences where you are one of dozens of bloggers simply listening and taking notes ?

If so, then From Plate to Page is what you need!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Plate to Page: the Tuscany Tales

What does family mean to you?

Perhaps it is the classic nuclear family idea of mom dad and 2.4 kids.  Perhaps it is a huge Christmas card list of every person that you can track down who shares your surname and your DNA.  Or perhaps it is a collection of people that share your interests and attitudes; who understand what you are trying to say even as you still struggle to verbalise it; and with whom you feel safe in the knowledge that they will nurture and encourage you in all that you do, rather than mock or criticise you. If the true definition is the third one, then I think it is fair to say we recently spent a weekend with family at the second Plate to Page food writing & photography workshop in Tuscany.  Sixteen people arrived as strangers but left as family.  Here are a few impressions of the weekend, in words and pictures. 

To read what people are saying about the Tuscany workshop click over to our Workshop Reviews page. 


After fearing grey damp weather, the first day set the tone of the weather for the whole workshop when it dawned clear and sunny. Our home for the weekend was to be Il Salicone, an Italian villa et among the vines, cypresses and golden autumn colours of Tuscany.  After the instructors  (MeetaJamieJeanne and Ilva) had fully explored the villa and gardens like excited kids, discovering hidden bedrooms, frescoes, chandeliers and friendly Tuscan felines, they went about welcoming the 12 workshop participants from all over the world:
Denise from the Netherlands
Marta and Kate from Belgium  
JudithRobin and Lynn from the USA
Elizabeth from Canada
Olivia from Malta 
Hayley and Valentina from the UK
Heidi from Norway
Alex from Italy

The first order of business was getting to know each other via a 5 minute presentation by each participant that revealed the diverse and surprisingly emotional reasons why we blog. For lunch, we gathered in the villa's old kitchen around a long table for out first Tuscan meal of fussili Arrabiata.  Already, barriers were breaking down and bonds were beginning to form.  Soon we were back in our chandeliered classroom to discuss good and bad food photography before splitting into smaller groups of six for some pretty intense writing and photography exercises.  Soon, all you could hear was the scratching of pens on paper and the tapping of fingers on keyboards - and the snapping of camera shutters! 

Shortly before dinner that night, the Plate to Page goodie bags were handed round, filled this time with goodies such as a home baking book and stylish apron from Taste of Home; a fantastic pack of four spices (black salt, tasmanian pepper, chipotle chile and saffron salt) from Smaromi; a deliciously pink block of Himalayan salt from Gourmelli (other bags also contained chocolates, mustards or vegetarian caviar from them)various kitchen tools from the Oxo Good Grips range; Jams from Sunchowder's Emporiaa gorgeous knife and apron from ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELSa jar of sweet piquanté peppers from Peppadewquick risotto kits from Riso Gallomatcha powder from Matcha Factory; an adorable travel-size bottle of Tabasco; flavoured extracts (either vanilla or orange) from Nielsen-Massey And although they weren't in the goodie bags, there were numerous bottles of Bisol prosecco consumed throughout the weekend to keep proceedings flowing smoothly.  Dinner consisted of platters groaning with Italian antipasti, followed by steaming bowls of chicken cacciatore and a cheese board to follow (washed down with numerous bottles of Bisol Jeio prosecco!), before a last post-dinner presentation on photography closed the day.


Saturday got off to a brisk start with another set of writing exercises encouraging participants to find their creativity and to think carefully about the language they use.  Having convered the verbal part of the morning, it was the turn of the photographers to take charge and we all decamped to our gorgeous photography "studio" - tons of natural light... and frescoes.  Ilva and Meeta both worked on creating a mood and helped participants not only with their camera settings but also provided food for thought in terms of fresh angles and compositions. Intriguing vegetarian caviar from sponsors Gourmelli, fresh-flavoured jams from Sunchowder's Emporia and addictive sweet piquanté peppers from Peppadew made the perfect photographic models. 

Lunchtime provided us with the perfect opportunity to stroll down the road to Il Salicone's own winery, through the golden vineyards.  Once we were seated contentedly in the sun at two tables in the garden, Nicoletta and her team proceeded to serve us with a feast: platters of intensely flavoured nutty prosciutto; cheese with local honey, golden frittatas. We were so busy snapping away to get the perfect shot of drizzling honey and glistening olive oil that we scarcely noticed the arrival of a loaf of bread the size of a your average pillow and a cheerful orange tureen of ribollita - but we certainly wasted not time photographing them once we had noted their presence!  For dessert, we had beautiful crostata and cantucci to be dipped into the robust, fruity glasses of Il Salicone's Sangiovese wine.  After a tour of the cellar by Nicoletta, we headed back to the villa where participants had a couple of hours on their own to work on a project. Late afternoon was spent listening to and giving feedback on the participants excellent work in teams on a written piece complemented by appropriate photographs before heading to the kitchen to prepare a dinner of risotto using the carnaroli rice our sponsors Riso Gallo had generously provided, dressed in out smart Zwilling J. A. HENCKELS aprons from our goodie bags. Dinner was once again a convival affair with rather a lot of excellent Bisol Crede prosecco and talking around the table till late into the night. 


Sunday was yet another perfect sunny Autumn day and after breakfast, participants once more gathered at the table for some of the most challenging exercises: writing to a really tight word count.  Following that, the photography team took over again for presentations on workflow, post-processing, and the challenges of magazine photography.  Having explained the final assignment to everybody, we headed downstairs where the lovely Paola and her team had already started covering the table in lunch - excellent charcuterie and crostini featuring the colourful vegetarian caviar from Caviart (sponsored by Gourmelli). This was followed by pizza, groaning under its toppings of buffalo mozzarella, capers and olives.  Participants spent the afternoon paired off and working on their assignment, finding quiet, sunny corners of the garden to photograph and write in a perfect setting.  For the last time, we gathered in the lecture room and as each pair shared their final assignment:  a magazine article with photos.  The weekend's work certainly ended on a high note, for participants as well as speakers.  Conversation around the dinner table that night was more relaxed and the Bisol Cartizze (an absolutely superb example of prosecco full of complex apple and pear flavours) flowed freely.  A first course of fried polenta topped with baccala in a tomato sauce and Peppadews; and pasta fritta filled with ham and cheese (absolutely, 100% addictive!). This was followed by ribs, spiced and cooked Tuscan style.  And the grand finale was a selection of little jam tarts filled with our sponsor Sunchowder's Emporia's outstanding jams.  

The next morning after breakfast there was a flurry of hugs and goodbyes and "see you on Twitter" as people caught taxis and packed cars to leave. We had come from far-flung corners of the globe, a collection of four instructors and twelve particpants who had never met.  Bags had been packed, presentations had been prepared and camera batteries had been charged.  We had greeted each other cautiously and then thrown ourselves headlong into the weekend. Heads were scratched, pencils were chewed and assignments were completed; props were moved, light was reflected and camera settings were pondered. Meals were prepared and eaten around a long table, alive with the sound of conversation and laughter.  Wine was drunk, songs were sung and friendships were forged.  And then just like that it was all over and we all went our separate ways, with only the photos and our tweets to prove we had ever been there. But the lessons learnt and friendships forged will stay with us all forever.

Photo courtesy of Marta

Friday, 4 November 2011

Goodbye Plate to Page Tuscany, hello Plate to Page Somerset!

So Plate top Page Tuscany is done and dusted. Sixteen people from around the globe descended on a villa in Tuscany for three electrifying days and created a private world of words and pictures and creative energy. The beautiful surroundings, the beautiful weather and the copious amounts of excellent Bisol prosecco had, it seemed, conspired to weave a particularly Tuscan kind of magic.  We arrived as strangers but left as friends.  In fact, as presenters, our only regret was that we could not share this wonderful Tuscan weekend with more of you.

But fear not!  If you missed out on attending both Plate to Page Weimar and Plate to Page Tuscany, hope is at hand.  Despite having been manically busy for the past few weeks finalising details and sponsors for Plate to Page Tuscany, we have not lost sight of the future and have recently managed to secure a wonderful venue for our next Plate to Page workshop in Spring 2011.  And where is this going to be, you might ask? Drum roll please... Ladies and gentlemen, the first Plate to Page of 2012 will be held in Somerset, England

Nestled in the heart of this beautiful county, near Taunton, is Somerset Spa, a manor house and two historic barns that have been loving restored to provide stylish traditional accommodation for a memorable weekend break.  We will be staying in Meare Court, a seventeenth century Grade II listed manor house. Many original features remain, including a rustic elm mediaeval   screen on the third floor and a beautiful Georgian panelled room. There six individually decorated bedrooms as well as original flagstone floors, exposed beams and a huge open fireplaces. Oh yes, and for our exclusive use there is a private hot-tub in a gazebo in the garden  :o)  The extensive 80-acre grounds and surrounding countryside provide the perfect setting to walk, think, or be inspired. 

The house is only an hour from Bristol International airport and two hours by train from London's Paddington station.  The Somerset countryside is full of places worth a visit, like the Cheddar Gorge caves and the Roman city of Bath. Nearby Taunton Country Market on a Satruday morning is foodie heaven, with locally made cakes, pies, cookies, jams, marmalades, chutneys and seasonal produce always available. The area is also dotted with artisanal brewers, cider-makers and smokehouses - and don't forget that this is Cheddar cheese country!  Bring a big suitcase :)

We are still taking care of some final details before we open up registrations for Plate to Page Somerset, but to be sure not to miss the announcement that registratrations have begun, make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed or our Facebook fan page, or follow us on Twitter

We hope to welcome you to Somerset in 2012!