Food Blogger Camp: Fishing, Trapeze, Tattoos and Michael and Donna Ruhlman

It’s that time again, another post from the amazing Food Blogger Camp at Club Med Ixtapa.  I mentioned before that I received a scholarship to the camp from one of the speakers, I never would have been able to afford it otherwise.  I know there were a lot of food bloggers who would have loved to attend but couldn’t afford it either, so I want to share as much of my experiences with you as I can.

In this post I want to share some of the amazing activities available to us, as well as the wonderful session with Donna and Michael Ruhlman.  If you don’t know who Michael Ruhlman is, he’s the one on the left in the photo above, along with Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson.  I have to confess that I didn’t really know who Michael and Donna were before the camp.  In fact on the beach I tried to as politely and kindly as I could ask Michael why everyone was so in awe of him and excited to talk to him.  Adam then translated that to “Who the *@#& are you?”

Fortunately Michael was very gracious and seemed to find my question amusing.  He explained in very humble terms that he’s pretty much the king of food writing and chef connections (my words not his!).  I’m pretty thankful that I didn’t realize what a culinary superstar he was until after we’d talked because otherwise I might have been intimidated by him like some people seemed to be.  Or not, I tend to make friends with everyone.

I had an incredible time with Donna, who is one of the nicest women I’ve ever met.  Her talent with a camera is obvious, but we also learned that she’s a fierce wave rider with a boogie board!  I think she was definitely one of the women who enjoyed the ocean as much as I did.  I’ll post some of the tips I learned at the end, but first some highlights of the fun activities.

Dianasaur Dishes on the Trapeze from Diana Johnson on Vimeo.

One of our favorite activities at Club Med was the trapeze.  I’m terrified of heights, and the worst part is stepping from the ladder to the platform over open space without being harnessed.  My knees were knocking together so loudly the instructor could hear them!  But once I jump off the platform and fly through the air, my focusing takes over and it becomes surprisingly easy to do the tricks.  Don’t believe me?  Watch the video above!

Jaden’s kids were also one of the greatest highlights of the week.  Andrew became my video game buddy, I think between Jaden’s iPhone and his DS we played 6 different games together.  One night at dinner the boys began tattooing every single person in sight.  It was so much fun!  We were very proud of our ink from the SteamyKitchen Kids.  (Oh, and to keep the raging tattoo haters off my back, they were temporary!)

As far as the fishing goes, the top photo said it all, we caught nothing.  I have some video from the fishing trip but think I’ll just include it in an overview video later.  We only got three little mackerels that had to be thrown back.  Obviously we picked the wrong day to fish.

The next day, this boy (I think he was 9!) caught this thing of beauty.  Not only that, but between 3 fishing trips on that next day, SIX giant fish were caught.  I must admit I was slightly disappointed.  Ah well, at least we saw tons of dolphins.

Thanks to Brooke of Foodwoolf for the photos of Michael and Donna during their session.  My camera had quite a bit of trouble with the low light in there.  Here are some of my favorite tips from their talk (these are my notes I took as they spoke, so punctuation may not be perfect!):

-Bloggers need to rewrite more.

-We all need to ask, what stranger will be interested in this? Why will someone who doesn’t know me read this? The definition of what matters to other people has been changing through blogs, but it’s still important.

-If you’re going to be a writer, write the same time of day, about the same amount of words, for the same amount of time. Writing is hard and takes work. We can train our minds to give us the goods. You can train your brain to do a lot of the work for you while you’re off doing other things. If you train your unconscious to work for you, it will produce material.

-Food is something we all care about, it gives us nourishment, it connects us. That’s why food blogs are important.

-Be more interested in other people than yourself. Even if you’re writing about yourself it should be outward directed. It should resonate with others and tell them something about themselves.

-There are lots of different types of food blogs. Recipe blogs, opinion blogs, criticism blogs, diary blogs. But if you’re gonna be critical, don’t be anonymous. Be honest, be open. Say if you got a free meal, say if someone provided something for you.

-Voice is the most important part of any blog. If you’re new to writing, write on paper first. Read it out loud. Maybe send it to a friend. Work on getting better as a writer. Don’t be satisfied with the first thing that comes off your fingertips, we can write way too much.

- Photography style used to be more editorial, now people want to see someone’s kitchen. It needs to look real, not like editorial food photography. It’s a fine balance, someone making your recipe should be able to make it look like your photos. Never edit anything more than a 10, sharpen, saturation, anything. If you can’t get it with the camera, don’t mess with it!

-Question: How do you organize all those photos? Donna: Label everything! Edit it immediately to the different sizes you need and label it.

-Question: Donna, interested about your transition to writing for food. Donna: Photo-journalistic is the trend right now, all about getting the feel. Michael Simon’s book, publishers very stuck in the old age, saying there’s blurry parts! Had to fight for photos. Publisher says, it has to be a finished plate with the sauce on top, look perfect. But people want to see the action, visual, how to shots. David Chang’s cookbook gorgeous!!! All available light, just got the feel of who the guy is and what it would be like to actually be in his restaurant and eat his food. That’s what I’m going for.


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6 Responses to “Food Blogger Camp: Fishing, Trapeze, Tattoos and Michael and Donna Ruhlman”

  1. Fran
    January 22, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    Nice wrap-up. Thanks for writing up the details of the Ruhlman talks the information is so valuable to those of us that are consumed with food blogging (or any other kind of blogging, for that matter).

  2. Katerina
    January 22, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Another great post! I love that you were honest that you didn’t know who Ruhlman was. tee hee, cause I totally would be nervous.

  3. Brook
    January 23, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    Your blogs about Ixtapa are amazing Diana! Wonderful photos, smart content and some pretty funny stuff too. I am so glad I met you at Food Blogger Camp. We need to get together now that we’re back to reality (and found out that we live not-so-far apart!) P.S. Wish I could have been there when Adam asked Michael “who he was” in his own special way of asking. LOL.

    • diana
      January 23, 2010 at 11:43 am #

      Yes, we definitely need to get together!

  4. Beth
    January 24, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Thank you so much for posting such in-depth information for all of us who couldn’t be there! Looks like it was an amazing experience, and I’m really hoping to be able to attend next year’s camp.

  5. Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food.
    January 24, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Great notes, Diana! And I couldn’t not notice, you pick the best outfits! I’d like to go shopping with you sometimes. You look like a movie star in the yellow dress and hat!!!!

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