10 Lessons From Food Blog Camp 2011

food blog camp grand velas cancunSometimes you have to drop off the radar, invest in yourself, and find inspiration to go deeper in your work and life. Maybe that means taking a class, reading a book,  studying with a mentor, or attending a conference where you can be surrounded by all sorts of great teachings and insights. Food Blog Camp, a small gathering of some of the food blogging community’s most inspiring leaders, is all of those things in one gorgeous, entertaining, and tropical locale.

Todd and Diane, David Lebovitz, Elise Bauer, Matt Armendariz

For the third year in a row, attendees of the Food Blog Camp are given immediate access to some of the food blogging world’s most talented stars–Matt Armendariz (Matt Bites), Elise Bauer (Simply Recipes), Jaden Hair (Steamy Kitchen), David Lebovitz (David Lebovitz), Adam Pearson (Adam C. Pearson) and Diane Cu and Todd Porter (White on Rice).

Grand Velas Food Blog Camp

This year’s Food Blog Camp event was held in the luxurious Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort in Cancun, Mexico. Infinity pools, gorgeous vistas, heaping bowls full of guacamole, an endless supply of fresh juices, jungle wildlife, and luxury suites (so large I could have moved my entire apartment inside), created an otherworldly feeling that transported imaginations to uncharted places and happy tastebuds. As in past years, the location of the event was key in giving attendees a break in routine so that they could make room for innovative thinking.

Gaby Dalkin (What's Gaby Cooking)

If you are longing for inspiration to bring your blog or website to the next level, I suggest you follow a few of the following lessons and insights from the Food Blog Camp panelists.

1) Make your blog addictive.

What is it about your blog (or the blog that you’re working towards building) that will make people really want to come back? Do your readers come back for great and reliable recipes? Compelling stories? Valuable advice on products?

food blog camp attendees cancun
Lucy Lean (Ladles and Jelly Spoons), Michael Procopio (Food For the Thoughtless) and Matt Armendariz (Mattbites)

2) Don’t just talk to yourself. Engage your readers.

It’s true that the most important thing you have to offer is your unique perspective on the mundane, but there’s more to it than that when you’re creating content for your site. You have to engage your readers and get them involved in your content.

3) Define who you are. Find your niche.

“What is your genius?” Elise Bauer asked. “What will distinguish us?” Once you figure out what your niche is, stick to it. “Creativity flourishes with constraints,” says Elise. She suggests you get really clear on who your audience is.

Grand Velas Cancun Chef

4) Pursue what makes you happy and brings you joy.

“It’s not about being a celebrity. It’s about living a beautiful life,” says Elise. It’s okay to have a simple blog and tell a story. Or you could have a business plan that includes selling products and a lifestyle brand. It’s all about what makes you happy.

5) Know your Intention.

You could be doing everything right on your site (great design, good SEO, solid recipes), but if you don’t have heart, it will not be successful. Know who you are writing for and what kind of content you want to share.

6) Never apologize for your lack of posting.

Post on a regular basis, but if you can’t, it’s not necessary to go on and on about it. Keep your content strong. Don’t waste people’s time with excuses.

Gaby (What's Gaby Cooking) at the Beach

7) When it comes to the business of your blog, pay people for what they’re worth.

When you want to update the look of your site or you need to learn an important skill, don’t cut corners. Skimping might end up costing you more money. Pay what you can afford and choose your teachers and support team wisely.

8) Use Twitter for more than just a self-promotion tool.

Twitter is a powerful tool to entertain, give back, and promote you and people that inspire you. Think about sharing someone else’s content rather than just your own.

9) Try to avoid using “lazy” food words in your posts:

  • Drool, Yummy, Delicious, Amazing, Tasty are just too easy. Try to find your way into other words or using different descriptions.

10) Think editorially (like a food magazine) when creating content for your site.

Think ahead of big holidays and seasonal trends before they happen. Shoot food that’s in season (even if you don’t have a recipe in mind), especially for food items that have a brief window of availability at the market. Think about holidays in advance (Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day) before they come, so that you can get ahead of the event and be prepared for the day.

Now that there are so many (food) blogging and technology conferences to choose from, it’s important to choose the right conference for you. Perhaps a local conference and/or a photography class makes sense for learning how to be a better blogger. Maybe saving your pennies for an intimate getaway to learn from the best of the best is the greatest investment of time and money.  Regardless, if you want to bring the quality of your website up, you must be committed to learning, stretching yourself, and getting clear on your goals.

A Very big THANK YOU is in order:

Thank you to the very generous people at Kerrygold, Elise Bauer and the nice people at Grand Velas for their support of the food blogger camp and offering scholarships to people like me who needed a little financial help in getting to this gorgeous, luxury destination. Without your help I would not have been able to be an attendee. Thank you a million times over.

Related Links

Flickr–Food Blogger Camp Photos

What’s Gaby Cooking: Food Blog Camp-Cancun

David Lebovitz: Food Blogger Camp 2011

Family Fresh Cooking: Food Blog Camp 2011

A Communal Table: What I learned… Food Blogger Camp

Mommy Cooks: Food Blog Camp 2011

Confections of a Foodie Bride: Food Blog Camp: Seeing the Light

Savuryandsweet: Hola from Riviera Maya

The Recipe Renovator: Food Blogger Camp: Molecular Gastronomy Demonstration

The Urban Baker: Community Across the Globe


  1. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Very helpful recap, thank you. I’ve got to work on many, especially #10. Oh, and nothing irks me more than having to read through a paragraph of apologies and excuses before getting to the meat of the post (#6).

  2. kelly

    I enjoyed that — it’s always great to hear about the blogging oriented workshops people attend. Helps to live vicariously :) Nice write up!

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  4. Lucy Lean

    Thanks for writing up my notes for me! Loved loved loved spending time with you and getting to know you a little better – your writing is always inspiring. x

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  6. Stephanie Weaver

    Thanks for the incredible highlights list here. Great stuff for all of us to remember. I enjoyed our brief chat yesterday as well. Glad you got home safely. Thanks for the link!

  7. Sarah

    Hi Brooke! It was great meeting you this week. I wish I could have chatted with everyone more, but the days flew by. I made it back to Vermont and am missing the warm Mexican weather myself. Great post/recap of Food Blog Camp! I’m trying to get better at using less “lazy” words. Must stop saying and writing “yum!”

  8. marla {family fresh cooking}

    Brooke, as always you provide such wonderful insight on events & all of these life changing moments we get to participate in. Amazing post & thanks for keeping such great notes – my wandering mind often gets the better of me :) Loved “Living on a Prayer” with you & look forward to many more fun times together! XO

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  10. Dianne Jacob

    Terrific list, Brooke, and well-synthesized. I have great memories of hanging with you last year, and it sounds like this year was at least as much fun, and a terrific learning experience.

    No. 2 and No. 4 might fight each other. I’m always amazed by how many people write whatever they want, because that’s what makes them happy. Doing so is not necessarily a good way to engage people.

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  13. Kiki

    Thank you so very much for the pearls of blogging wisdom. You got it all very right and marked important points of interest…. The ‘never apologize’ sentence found me nodding…. I don’t even have a blog (for a lack of time) but have a photo site and I do a lot of apologizing.
    I would have LOVED to hold some of those glasses in my own hand and do some lazying at the beach – great, great stuff!

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  15. Michael Procopio


    I respectfully disagree. I write to please myself first because, if I’m not pleased, then how can I guarantee anyone else will be?

    It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

  16. Cathy/ShowFoodChef

    Brooke, great recap that was clear even to us (jealous) peeps who were not there. Honestly, even your font choice is good (could I be a bigger nerd fan of yours.) Hope to see you more in 2011. Hugs.

  17. k.t.

    Hi! I just started my site and loved your comment! Want my site to be a great “go-to” site, but others probably do the recipe thing better. What are examples of bloggers who retain their voice while engaging? thanks!

  18. rebecca

    thank you so so much for sharing what you learnt I was reading posts from all attendees for this post, appreciate it hope to join you all one of these years


  19. Janel

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I love the one about being prepared for the holidays – usually I post recipes after they happen. Not any more!

  20. sippitysup

    I sooooo wish I could have gone to this. I am so jealous I can’t even read this right now! I’ll come back to it in a few days. But I am thrilled you had a great (and obviously gorgeous) time. GREG

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  24. Boulder Locavore

    Thanks for sharing such great tidbits. I’ve read a number of the posts from participants and yours is the one that really passes along some meaty tips. Looked to be loads of fun and a wonderful opportunity with the skilled instructors.

  25. Sally

    Brooke, Loved reading your synthesis of camp and meeting you for the first time, too. I truly enjoyed your new year’s resolution post (I’ve honed mine down to one this year!) and look forward to reading your posts all year long.

  26. Damaris @Kitchen Corners

    Thanks for being so nice to me even at 5:00am in the Dallas airport. I could tell right away that you are in tune with what’s going on around you. I appreciate that a lot.

    I am excited for what this blog will bring. Let me know if you still want some advice on re-design, mainly because I love looking at design ideas.

    Reading this post made me realize I have to hear things over and over again before it sinks in.

    Lets keep in touch.

  27. Jun Belen

    Happy New Year, Brooke! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about camp… wish I was there! The camp was brimming with talent and thanks for wrapping them up in a useful list!

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  33. Sasha @ global table

    Great tips. I totally agree about constraints helping creativity. I need boundaries – helps me focus. Wish I could have joined you all.

  34. Veronica

    The tips are just what I was hoping to get…thanks for the inspiring insight. I will have to start saving money this year to go to next years camp…Gracias Amigo,

  35. skip to malou

    I came here through Gabby’s tweet and Im glad I did. Thank you for coming up with this list. It gave me some motivation and inspiration to better my food blog. I’ve been blogging for more than a year now and I feel like I need to learn more… do you know of any mentors that would help?

    • Food Woolf

      Malou, Glad to hear my list helped. I suggest you attend as many food blogging/writing/photography events as you can. Network. Get out there. You’ll know your mentor when you see them. I think the true sign of a mentor is someone that inspires you and connects with you on some kind of personal level. They see something in you that they see in themselves. A mentorship is a two way street, so you have to be open to, if you pardon the expression, “kissing a lot of toads”. Not everyone will be the right (or most expected) mentor. Hope this helps! Brooke

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  37. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)

    I have been stalking everyone’s blog who went on this trip and am reading all the posts I can on it..and plan to attend in 2012! I would love to meet you if you’re going back!

    Marla is a great friend, I am going to a photography workshop with Todd & Diane, and I am trying to just soak, soak, soak in everything I can. This post was WONDERFUL! Thank you!

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