Thursday, May 31, 2012



I glance nervously, discreetly around the room and to tell you the honest truth it terrifies me. Expectant eyes boring into mine, waiting. Or, worse, blank stares, no expectations at all, or anticipation hidden and buried so deep one must dig down to find it. What are they waiting for? What must I offer them? How to guide and inspire? And is inspiration even achievable? The silence hangs heavy in the air and my doubts rise like a sour taste in my mouth, bubbling up to the surface and spilling over into my confidence.

I scan the faces gathered together in some chilly, impersonal space, huddled shoulder to shoulder around a table never quite big enough for all of the paraphernalia: the cameras, laptops, ipads, chargers, projector and even the old-fashioned accoutrements, the notebooks, pens and pencils; bottles of water or mugs of tea threaten to tumble onto the table and soak into paper. I shift in my seat, boot up my own laptop and reshuffle my notes – always notes so as not to wander off into unknown, unintelligible territory as I am wont to do – and, taking a deep breath, plunge one more time into the mysterious wilds of yet another From Plate to Page.

 photo courtesy of Ilva Beretta


Words read aloud divulge the multicultural bent of this workshop, voices, words sung in an Indian rhythm, spoken in a British lilt, bursting forth in a German accent; Swiss, Egyptian, Swedish, we came from far and wide, a truly international gathering; French, German, Spanish, English chattering fill the void around us as we let down our guards, self-doubt and shyness melting into laughter and energy. Cameras click as the food appears, fingers flick and rush across keyboards pounding out descriptions, telling stories, souls spilling onto blank pages. Each assignment is greeted with a mixture of doubt and enthusiasm; attacked head on albeit with a dash of hesitation. And this group was like no other; in place of a dozen well-seasoned food bloggers, we found that this workshop extended far beyond familiar territory: here were a wedding photographer, a garden designer dabbling in interior design, a PR creative consultant, a craft blogger, a cooking instructor as well as at least one who had begun a blog yet still hadn’t quite figured out the focus. Several newbie and more experienced food bloggers made up the balance, and here we were, brought together by a common passion for food and the desire to learn, to better writing and photography skills. And once they got started, this once impersonal conference room was bursting with activity, barely large enough to contain all of the creative energy.

 photo courtesy of Ilva Beretta

 Styling & Photography!

My nervousness and doubts wash away in this sea of excitement, conviction and eagerness. Yet another roomful of participants from all over the world comes together more than ready and willing to jump into the workshop feet first and give it all they’ve got! Let the fun begin!

photo courtesy of Ilva Beretta

Somerset was the ideal setting for Plate to Page; lush green countryside, cows lowing in the distance while roosters waddled contentedly across the courtyard cockadoodledooing to our immense amusement and pleasure. The perfect backdrop for creative inspiration and peaceful, thoughtful concentration, right out of an English novel (okay, minus the hen party – bachelorettes –lodged next door and their appearance in skin-tight, low-cut stewardess uniforms apparently on their way to celebrate at the local pub). The rambling old English Manor House, Meare Court, offered scattered bedrooms and an attic dormitory reminiscent of an old English boarding school. The spacious kitchen offered rustic elegance with room to cook, clean and shoot, an ancient, cream-colored Aga’s imposing presence like the Queen amid her court. Glasses clinking, corks popping, the laughter was infectious as the Bisol Prosecco and Orchard Pig cider was passed around all weekend, from morning to night, enlivening mealtimes and photo sessions, nourishing our imaginations and bonhomie.

The English rain played tag with the sunshine as we visited a fabulous Smokery – more to come – and a typical gastro pub fed our craving for a true British experience. The participants worked from morning to night, lessons, discussions, critique and feedback as well as special assignments pushed and pulled at their brains, every activity, adventure and excursion the basis for yet more exercises and assignments, pleasure and amusement all a part of the work. Piles of tender, nutty, chocolate-coated nougat, fragrant white-as-snow goat cheese or platters of deep, dark, decadent brownies played double duty: luscious snack and object of desire for many a still life and a battery of cameras.

 photos courtesy of Wendy Thomas

What is From Plate to Page? Yes, you know that it is a hands-on, practical workshop for food writing, styling and photography and we have given it our all to make it the most effective and original of its kind. Yes, P2P is three days in which your skills and ideas are pushed and pulled, teased and challenged, in which you learn to look at yourself more objectively, learn to break down your own expectations and think out of the box, to trust your own instincts in order to find your way back to a place of comfort and creativity, a place of confidence and imagination. P2P is four instructors and 12 participants and a house full of inspiration, hard work and even more work!

 photo courtesy of Ilva Beretta

But it is so much more than that. P2P is conviviality: mealtimes around rough-hewn wooden tables, eating elbow to elbow, platters of incredible food passed around from hand to hand; it is laughter: staying up late chatting, glasses of wine in hand, sharing confidences and advice, giggles and ABBA floating up the staircase and out into the starlit sky; it means friendship: bonds made with who, just hours or days earlier, were total strangers, friendships that last long after the workshop ends and we have all gone our separate ways. P2P is waking before dawn to be the first in the shower yet hearing the distant clatter of crockery only to realize that others are already up and about, emptying the dishwasher, making pots of coffee and spreading jam on toast, gathered like one close happy family in the warm kitchen anxious to start the day. P2P is a row of eyes wide with shock and amazement as the very first exercise is explained that Friday afternoon and eyes filled with delight and eager for more once the results of those first exercises are read aloud to clapping and laughter and expressions of appreciation! Plate to Page is the satisfaction of a weekend of hard work and the gratification of a job well done and the great pleasure felt in both inspiring others and being inspired. Plate to Page is a series of Aha! and Eureka! moments, the smug satisfaction of arriving at a place once thought impossible, of achieving things once imagined unattainable.

And as with Plate to Page Weimar and Plate to Page Tuscany, the weekend comes to a close much too quickly. Along with my three fellow instructors, I hold all of the keys, am the one expected to teach and inspire, motivate and offer knowledge and advice, yet I am always surprised – although I should no longer be by now – at how very much I carry home with me. I return to my family much more motivated and excited to get back to my own writing. Our students never cease to inspire me to better my own skills, my brain flooded with new ideas. And I wish that each Plate to Page workshop lasted just a few days longer.
The next exciting, inspirational From Plate to Page food writing, styling & photography workshop is already in the works! If you haven't yet had the chance to attend, it is never too early to register! Add your name to the list and be the first informed! Visit the Plate to Page website and read about past workshops, stay up to date on all news and read our guest posts by the best food writers, stylists and photographers in the business!

photo courtesy of Juliane Haller

Thanks to my extremely talented colleagues Jeanne, Ilva and Meeta (especially my own writing partner Jeanne). Thanks to our P2P Somerset participants Nitin, Alexandra, Barbara, Juliane, Ruth, Francoise, Jo, Djanira, Spandana, Rim and Wendy! One helluva team!

 photo courtesy of Meeta K. Wolff

And thanks to our incredible sponsors who not only allowed us to offer each participant a fabulous goodie bag but who also supplied us with food and drink for our workshop weekend, meals and snacks as well as objects for our exercises (which then were duly eaten): Donald Russel (legs of lamb, curries and fish pies), Bisol Prosecco, Orchard Pig cider, Edge of Belgravia (limited edition numbered ceramic knives), Taste of Home (cookbooks and aprons), Gourmelli Gourmet Foods, Sunchowder’s Emporia gourmet jams, Halen Môn smoked sea salt, Sally Williams nougat, Blue Basil Gourmet Brownies, The Garlic Farm (smoked garlic, fresh asparagus, relishes), Laithwaites Domaine of the Bee Wine, Capricorn Somerset Goats Cheese, Raw Love Life raw chocolates, Food Matters (Nielsen-Massey extracts, Riso Gallo rice & risotto), F & W Media (Brette Sember’s Muffin Tin Cookbook), and Kelly Moore camera bags. For more information and links to our fabulous, generous, delicious sponsors, please visit our Plate to Page Sponsor Page. More about our sponsors soon...


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

It must have been a wonderful experience! So many great people and a dreamlike place. Thanks for sharing your impressions and pictures with us.



Robin | what-about-the-food said...

The P2P team has created something truly unique in their workshops. Bravo on another fine edition!

Juliane [Schöner Tag noch!] said...

Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts from the instructor perspective with us! I absolutely love your post and the pictures you chose, it all brings the Somerset spirit back once more.

xoxo, Juliane

La Table De Nana said...

This looks like a ball:)

Tu es si belle aussi:)

Everyone looks great!

Rambling Tart said...

What a perfectly gorgeous setting to learn, grow and inspire. :-) I'm so glad you guys had such a great time and had such an interesting hodge-podge of people to make things unique. :-)

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Oh I so loved reading this. Maybe it's my age (!) but you make me so sentimental. It's true - we bond within those few days and become a homogenous group withing a span of only a few hours. I go away with so much and when I read the recaps I feel proud and happy that between you, Ilva, Jeanne and me we have created something this good. Each time we meet such an awesome groups of dynamic people - it's the best part of P2P really!

wendy@chezchloe said...

Brilliant post Jamie. The way you share your perspective alone displays the courage and knowledge you have to give to all those you encounter. If you can sprinkle just a little of that gift around, the world will be a better place!
I love how the P2P posts are coming a little at a time- it's like little presents coming in the mail for weeks after your birthday.
xo wendy

Jamie said...

@La Table de Nana: (blush) Merci, ma belle. And yes, it was a blast!

@Wendy@ChezChloe: Ah, it is like getting presents one at a time. With each post about P2P we get to live the whole experience once again, so it is better they come one at a time so we can make it last for a long time!

@Robin: Thanks, darling! And you are living proof that friendships remain and grow stronger and inspiration is shared long, long after a P2P workshop is over.

@Meeta: I am very proud with what we have created and thrilled with each great group that attends. 16 energetic, generous people all working together, sharing and inspiring make this work so beautifully!

Barbara said...

Superb writing, Jamie, you evoke an emotional atmosphere which transports me right back to Meare Court and makes me yearn for another writing exercise!

To inspire and be inspired and push our talents and skills to new levels - what more can we ask for?

I hope one of the next workshops will be in Switzerland, I would love to follow Hayley and cook dinner for you and share that special P2P energy for some hours again!

Thank you, Jamie!

shruti | a spoonful of yumm said...

loved reading this well written :) looks like fun all the way

Jeanne said...

aaah, such a great post! You really have evoked the spirit of Plate to Page - and I laughed when I realised that quite independently, we had both chosen to start our post off with the nervous anticipation that precedes each workshop! I wish I could hug each and every instructor and participant again and thank them for making this such a brilliant weekend!

Amanda said...

Oh, I was so jealous of you all and wanted to be there so badly, but you've made me feel a little better thanks Jamie! You've shared it so very well.

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Looks like a fantastic experience once again. I want to be in the West Country right now.

Sanjeeta kk said...

What an energetic bunch of foodies I see here..wish I could be a part of this wonderful group someday!

Deeba PAB said...

SO MUCH FUN!! What a fab event and enviable! Love the way the events go....maybe the next one should be in Goa? You will really love it there {JP too}. Talk to you soon! xo

Cake Duchess said...

Beautiful recap, Jamie. What a bucolic location to hold such a lovely workshop. Creativity and good company...I hope to one day attend a P2P with all of you:)xx

Sarah said...

Loved reading about your experience at the P2P workshop and how it all came together. Great job! Somerset looks right out of a Jane Austen book.

Winnie said...

Love seeing the photos and reading your words about the workshop Jamie. I dream of attending P2P someday!

Junglefrog said...

I got goosebumps reading your post Jamie... It brings back so many fond memories too..:) And I LOVE that picture of the four of you laughing. Brilliant!

Lisa said...

I really hope I can attend one P2P soon. ANYWHERE in Europe would be fine ;) You all look great! So happy - nothing look good friends, good fun, and good food, mixed in with learning.

Eggs on the Roof said...

Conviviality and laughter... what could possibly be better? What an amazing experience for everyone. You've created something very special and I'm sure no-one will ever forget it.

Mairi @ Toast said...

One day! That is one day hopefully a trip to the northern hemisphere will coincide with a P2P or you will make it to the Southern Hemisphere!!! Hope springs eternal after all! It sounds like such a wonderful few days!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...