January 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
In 2012 two things happened that brought me to my knees – literally and figuratively: a life-threatening medical trauma and Dinner Divas. By God’s grace the medical trauma has passed and I am on my way to complete recovery. This post is about Dinner Divas – from my perspective.
Within hours on the first day of the Dinner Diva shoot, I knew that I was in emotional trouble. What started off as an analytical and logical business project, turned personal after I met and did a little pre-production work with the 12 bloggers who would eventually become our first Divas (and a Divo). From my side, it was love and respect and admiration at first sight of the Divas and Divo and all and any misgivings I have ever had about blogging and bloggers evaporated instantly. As a covert softy I was caught totally unawares by seeing them under such pressure on set and so, unprofessionally spent the first four days (as well as the last three days) crying non-stop. The very last day I also spent more than an hour using every nano-cell of willpower to prevent myself from physically attacking somebody after two solid weeks of extreme pent-up frustration and anger and embarrassment caused to my genteel clients and crew and Divas… But, that’s a story for another day …. if ever. Those of you who were involved with the shoot will know what terror and control and unpleasantness I am referring to …
But back to my snot en trane. It continued after shooting ended, in fact, all the way to the last episode’s editing! When I left the edit suite for the last time the 6th of December, having just signed off episode 13, I vowed that Season 2 will be in a different format. We already nailed a different format and what a format it will be! I have bounced it off a couple of my confidantes, and it is poised to be bigger and better than season 1. More about it later – much later … all I can say now I that Season 2 will continue to focus on food blogging as an emotionally satisfying and potentially profitable hobby/passion/career.
My reasons remain the same: food blogging should be financially rewarding to keep it sustainable. A top food blogger once explained to me that to prepare for, and write a post can take between 5 and 7 hours. If. And that means if you can get the right ingredients, if the recipe works, if the light plays along, if your image comes out nicely, if the words flow from your mind, if, if, if … Any blogger will tell you that if anything goes wrong from writing the recipe, shopping for the ingredients, testing/cooking it, styling it and taking the photograph, Photo-shopping the images, writing the post, editing it and then loading it all onto your blog, it can take longer – much longer! Then, because all this does not just happen as a by-the-way, let’s not forget the cost …
So, the television series Dinner Divas is primarily produced with the intention to draw advertising attention to (at least) our better food bloggers’ work while enticing fresh blood to enter this emotionally-rewarding realm. So far at least three bloggers from Season 1 have been approached directly by a large corporation with the view to forge long-term business relationships and apparently the buzz is on between our biggest foodie platform and some serious advertisers. So far not much interest from new blogging blood (as far as I know) which perhaps just goes to show that people seem to know what goes into writing a blog J. And so far several bloggers have had television, radio and print exposure and other PR opportunities that they probably would not have had had they not been on Dinner Divas.
But that aside, I do have a point: a tribute to the hero and heroine food bloggers, the Divas and Divo. They have had the courage to go beyond the expectations and opinions of others. They came on the show knowing the downsides yet came with brevity, armed with their own story and authenticity and sincerity which they communicated in writing, with their food and with their unique vibes and beautiful faces. They inspired viewers to also have the courage to change, to think differently and to face challenges from the examples they’ve set on the show. They’ve not allowed their fears to take decisions for them; they understood that fear translates to risk which often opens the door for fresh opportunities. They revealed their vulnerable selves under relentless lights which revealed their brilliant, abundant, generous spirit, their lovability and their sense of fun. They understand that in the end, we tend to regret more the chances we did not take than the ones we did take. They took the chance and in in the goodness of time, it will enrich their efforts and blogs – one way or another.
Here are my heroines and hero – absolutely no order of preference:
Tami Magnin aka Rumtumtiggs
Tami has a voice that will soothe any radio listener into instant relaxation. She is gentle and sensitive and her food reflects her love for family and togetherness. She is the quintessential community spirit who will mobilise her whole suburb to bake cookies for the underprivileged family in her street. It was really sad to see her go so soon and her tears did not help to stop mine! In fact, it got them going even stronger. You should have seen the shock on the runner’s face when I asked him to get me a box of tissues – unheard of unless I have a cold!
Barry Gerber aka What’s Cooking
Barry came to the show as the solo Divo. I tried to get another male blogger to up the testosterone level a bit, butfailed and happily – as it turned out – our dear Barry flooded the set with his gentle manliness. He is loved and respected by all of us who shared a little time and some space with him. He is sensitive yet big and strong and a confident cook who knows his way around a kitchen and behind a stove. He can cook. Barry is the man who, when he heard my little granddaughter loves the artist his wife manages, brought autographed posters and pictures and collectables of her idol, right to her home.
Kate Liquorish aka undomestiKATEd
We loved Kate’s elegance and her stylishness on set and of course, her incredible beauty was a sight for many sore crew eyes. Her passion for smart food is infectious and she has great food ideas. We need more food bloggers like Kate – people with satisfyingly significant careers while still promoting great food. More bloggers like Kate will attract the young and edgy reader and wannabe home chef to online food ideas, meal solutions and recipes.
Thuli Gogelo aka Mzansi Style Cuisine
Eish, what can one say about the vivacious and beautiful Thuli? Authentic, true to herself, passionate about her roots and its food and keen to share it with her readers may be a good short description of this unique, fabulous food blogger. We also need more food bloggers like Thuli – people from different cultures sharing their food will be a real shot-in-the-arm for the industry.
Candice le Noury aka The Gorgeous Gourmet
Dear, sweet Candice fell out only because she admitted to using other people’s recipes. She is a hard-working food blogger who knows how to market herself and get great deals on the table. She can also cook exceptionally well and her fine touch and eye for detail and style shows on her gorgeous blog. We know that she can develop original recipes and can’t wait to see more and more and more authentic talent from her creative pen.
Kristy Snell aka Foodmonger
Kristy is such a natural in front of the camera which is quite unusual for an attractive girl . But her greatest on-camera asset is her spirit. She can give as good as she gets and the one that crosses her path with unfairness will get a solid mouthful from those luscious red lips, cameras or not. She is a formidable cook, has no ego in front of the camera and we loved, loved her talking to herself all through the cooking sequences. She is (in my opinion) by far our best stylist/food photographer-blogger with a styling mind that thinks right out of the box. I could do a show just with her … move over, Nigella or wannabe Nigellas. Kristy is on her way!
Nina Timm aka My Easy Cooking
South Africa’s sweetheart cyber-chef Nins is not only a clever marketer, a devoted, hard-working, consistent, passionate and talented food blogger, but also a natural presence on camera. She took to the camera as if she’d done it for years and even though she may have been nervous or tense, nobody could tell by her lovely smile and calm, peaceful demeanour. Her new-look improved blog is testimony of her determination to produce the best work, always. And she exudes love – she loves what she does, she loves those that she does it for and loves to be part of the food blogging community. We love you to, darling Nins.
Zirkie Schroeder aka Pink Polka Dot Food
To me, Zirkie is the quintessential head girl. And detail-spotter. She was on my case with every spelling error, hyperlink that was broken and smallest detail that was incorrect while pro-actively marketing and promoting the show. She is passionate about her family and friends and especially motherhood and her food smacks of love: it is cooked with love and served with love. She is a gentle soul brimming with integrity and her food is an extension of her best qualities. No wonder her blog is so loved.
Usha Singh aka Healthy Vegetarian Foods
For me, Usha and Zirkie are very much alike. Usha is also a gentle, loving, giving soul brimming with dignity and integrity and her food is an extension of her very nature. She loves being a mom and cooks with love and attention to detail. She is unashamedly vegetarian and does not apologise for her food nor does she try to convert the world to vegetarianism. She simply cooks and her food does the conversions! We need more bloggers like Usha (and Mitzy Reddy) who are willing to remain true and authentic to their own culture’s cuisine and happily share it with other cultures in blogland.
Janice Tripepi aka Janice Tripepi
Janice is my perfect ideal of a food blogger: passionate, authentic, true, real, great-at-it, superb writer (did I say authentic?), honest, safe (meaning you can actually cook her recipes with confidence that they will work!), dependable, trustworthy, droolworthy …. erm … what more can I add ..? She is the blogger whose recipes my family and I have cooked most and with huge success time and time again. On set she was focussed, organised and efficient – oblivious of the cameras. We need more food bloggers like Janice who has singlehandedly taught me more about Italian cuisine than any television presenter or cookbook author – and that is how to build flavour or in her beloved Italian, Sapori!
Anél Potgieter aka Lifeisazoobiscuit
And so we come to the winner! Anél is a new-generation blogger who is determined to stay authentic and unique. One can spot an Anél-post or Anél-recipe a mile away as it is new, fresh, edgy, twisty and something is invariably out-of-the-box or deconstructed. Yet, her food is not about being different. It’s about being honest, hearty and delicious. Above all, it’s about love, friends, togetherness and joy in sharing. She is a daring cook and loves to use different (with focus on local and seasonal) produce. And she has a quality that is very inspirational and infectious: enthusiasm! She will be a very quirky and popular judge on Season 2.
Sue Green aka Sous Chef
Sue must be the most popular blogger in the foodie community because whatever happened to her on screen evoked the most comments on Twitter and facebook. She was also the most nervous and despite all assurances that she looked and sounded fine, nothing we said could convince her otherwise. She was popular with the judges as her food consistently remained true to her blog’s voice and that is that great food does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
As an old hand at this, I can tell you that it takes guts, grit, grace, nerves of steel, a total absence of ego, absolute determination and a huge sense of humour to perform on television, let alone cook and cook under pressure. That’s why these food bloggers are the top twelve, my personal top twelve. They are the food bloggers who committed, stuck to their commitments regardless of some of their personal circumstances that changed and who afterwards remained humble – and continued to blog with passion and love, completely and unconditionally giving to their readers. These are the food bloggers who changed my viewpoint and opinions and who are and will be personal heroes and icons for many years to come, if not for life. Above all, their loyalty, sincerity and realness will forever leave footprints on my soul.
Viewers too, will remember the Divas and Divo. Our viewership was more than 4 times that of our most well-known cookery series and just 35 000 viewers short of another series that aired during the same period on a weekday evening in a coveted prime time slot! And moreover, we shared the exact same target market as the other so-called ‘blockbusters’ at a fraction of the production costs! It just goes to show that a small budget, if produced with lots of energy and using the right talent (the Divas and Divos) can bring the public to the party by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands – giving that immensely valuable return on investment to the benefactors, our sponsoring brands who made it all possible.
We will release more details of Season 2 once we’ve had a decent post mortem session with the Divas and Divo to brainstorm and to see what can be improved. I have always believed that you cannot grow in your work if you do not listen to others who have a valid and constructive opinion about your work – that’s why we always do post mortems and focus groups. They keep us on our toes.
Oops, I almost forgot: there were judges and a host also. My accolades next time … promise!