‘Facilitating’ a blogger soiree …



Looking back on the first Consider The Sauce post and those that soon followed evokes a feeling of simplicity and perhaps even innocence.

It all seemed so simple – got out, have a feed somewhere or do some shopping, take photographs, go home, write about it.


Instant food blog!

We still do a lot of that, of course. Indeed, it remains the very core activity of this site.

But as we approach the end of our third year in operation, much has changed.

It’s been a gloriously enjoyable learning curve, with mis-steps and challenges, and many friends made in the process.

Central to that learning curve is that realising while the website itself remains the key element of what Consider The Sauce is about, there is a lot more to being a (hopefully) successful food blogger and running a successful food blog.

Along the way, I have sometimes attempted to tap into the wealth of experience and wisdom of blogging pioneers.

But as previously noted, more often than not I find doing so a particularly tiresome exercise, no matter how much I would like some or a lot of that good stuff to rub off on me.

The problem seems to be that no matter where a famed blogger starts his or her journey – be it as a specialist in stamp collecting or vintage horse shoes or whatever – once they become successful, what drives them on is the process itself. And that can be mighty boring, no matter how righteous the advice is.

So I am very grateful to Cheryl Lin of the blog BusinessChic for an excellent tip – the book microDOMINATION by PR warrior Trevor Young.

I’m only halfway through it. And, yes, it does have its fair share of self-help-style feelgood stories.

But it’s reverberating with me in many ways.

It’s been a pleasant surprise to discover that several of the initiatives taken – or at least attempted – by Consider The Sauce are very much part of Young’s broader aim of how to become what he calls a “micro maven” and using a blog to create a personal “brand”.

For example:

  • Not passively accepting that friends and fellow bloggers who leave comments on CTS must remain mere electronic cyber buddies, and seeking instead to meet face to face and see what happens from there.
  • Running, in conjunction with Ms Baklover and her Footscray Food Blog, a picnic late last year. The repeat event, coming this spring, will likewise be part and parcel of the broader picture of running a food blog. As will a special event, yet to be announced, that will be part of the picnic.
  • I have also learned that doing an occasional post about topics such as moving house or a bingle with a neighbour’s car is not only perfectly fine but helps give context to the ongoing CTS narrative.
  • A soon-to-be-announced CTS benefit/fundraiser being organised with wonderful and generous support from a local business and the funds raised from which will go to a very fine local organisation.

Another such event in the life of CTS occurred this week with a gathering of bloggers and a non-blogging likely lad at a Port Melbourne restaurant.

With CTS having already written about Third Wave Cafe twice, Greg from that establishment had contacted me.

His problem and challenge was that his business was in the process of transforming and extending itself from a place highly regarded for its lunchtime fare, including Russian specialties and fine coffee, to one offering American-style BBQ at night.

He and his team had invested considerable time and money into the project, and were eager to get the word out and help broaden and correct pre-conceptions in the wider community about what Third Wave Cafe has to offer.

Could I help?

And so, on the basis that Bennie and I enjoyed the food being offered – and boy oh boy, did we ever – Greg and I shook hands on a project that would see me organise a list of food bloggers and then invite them to try out the Third Wave BBQ goodies for themselves on the simple understanding they would write a story about their experiences.

Greg fully understood that neither he nor I would have any say whatsoever in what the invitees subsequently wrote.

And, yes, I would be paid what both Greg and I agreed, easily and quickly, was a fair amount for my efforts.

The list I configured was a mixture of firm and very good friends, bloggers with whom I had had at least some personal contact and others for whom I had high regard.

In all cases, the people involved were of what I considered to be of the highest integrity – no “floggers” or egomaniacs allowed or wanted!

In the end, about half of the invitees responded in a positive fashion, and the table of five – including myself – turned out to be just the right size for a superbly enjoyable evening.

Those who attended were: Nat Stockley, a non-blogger (so far …) widely known for his entertaining and excellent reviews on Urbanspoon; Eve from Conversation With Jenny; Catty from Fresh Bread; and Bryan from Let’s Get Fat Together.

This gang had a quite varied amount of previous experience with this style of food, but everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, which like that of Bennie and myself were a broad sampling of the Third Wave Cafe BBQ line-up.

As the meal wound down, Greg emerged from the kitchen to see how we’d gone and tell us about how his Russian-menu cafe had taken such a bold and surprising leap into new territory.

Rather delightfully, for two of the participants this was a debut occasion to be sharing a table with full-on likeminded souls and in a situation in which EVERYONE involved was using a camera.

There was much telling of tales and swapping of notes; much laughter, too.

On that basis alone, I am happy to judge the night a success.

Of course, I suspect that will mean very little to Greg and his team, for whom this was a straight-out business proposition.

But then again, who knows where such connections may lead? That, too, is part of blogging.

I gave some serious thought to the ethical ramifications of accepting paid work of this type from a restaurant.

And I’m sure there are those for whom taking this step will forever have tainted me in some way.

But I’m entirely comfortable with the whole process.

Greg had a need that I met with honest endeavour. The dinner invitees didn’t seem to think it off or otherwise noteworthy that I was getting paid for pulling it all together.

Or not so they told me, anyway. Indeed and instead, they seemed more than happy to be involved.

However, this event was the result of a confluence of several particular circumstances – so I’d be surprised if similar projects eventuated in the future.

Another topic covered in Trevor Young’s book microDOMINATION is the importance for bloggers of complete transparency at all times – which, of course, is one of the reasons for writing this post!

You can read Catty’s review here and Eve’s review here.


Is SEO the antithesis of journalism and storytelling?


There’s probably few, if any, folks who visit Consider The Sauce who are unaware what SEO is an acronym for.

But just in case … it stands for Search Engine Optimisation.

It’s a term I’d rarely come across before launching this site.

In the two-something years since, I’ve read quite a lot about SEO and related topics.

But I’m not much further ahead in understanding what it is.

Let alone how it works.

The crux of the matter appears to be what are referred to as “key words”, the skilful inclusion of which in a post can increase the regard Google and other search engines hold a post or website/blog.

The internet is awash with “SEO experts” spruiking their services.

There are those who will tell you it’s a science.

There are as many more who will tell you it’s all hooha and voodoo – and that those claiming they’re party to the most significant SEO methods and secrets are full of it.

Early on in the piece, on a discussion thread on a food blogger Facebook page, I opined that SEO must have its place but that as far as I could see it had little to do with me or Consider The Sauce.

A much more experienced blogger than I, then and now, set me right about that.

SEO counts, he maintained, and it was very relevant to me.

Well, of course I want Google to love me and my blog!

But I still have difficulty with idea of inserting “key words” into a story – having never quite made it to the execution stage.

I suspect a significant part of that is that unlike most bloggers and other online operators, I have been a writer and a journalist for almost all my life.

Consequently, for me it’s all about the STORY.

After Bennie and I have hit some likely haven of foodiness and we’re driving home, I’m already writing the story in my mind.

By the time I’ve uploaded the photos and am in the process of resizing and/or cropping them, it’s pretty much a done deal – right down to individual paragraphs and sentences. And even the punctuation.

All that is left is to type it in.

By contrast, the businesses and websites for whom SEO seems most important seem to have mostly commercial purposes.

I’m immensely gratified by the success Consider The Sauce has enjoyed to date, and am certainly wishing for much more.

But I’m not selling anything except myself – in the spirit of “a blog is the new resume”.

For that same reason, I also struggle to mentally connect with a lot that is written and talked about at places such as Problogger and other forums and websites where blogging, SEO and myriad related topics are discussed.

While much of the advice and information is valuable, enlightening and inspiring, I simply can’t relate to “sales”.

It’s difficult to think about such an arcane – to me – subject as SEO when I’m so preoccupied about that all-important lead paragraph, a snappy ending and which photo has the most sparkle and interest to earn its place at the top of the next story.

I’m sure a lot of Consider The Sauce “key words” – for example Melbourne, western suburbs, cheap eats, Footscray, Yarraville and so on – make it into my stories anyway.

But that is an entirely organic outcome of my writing and its focus.

I suspect deliberately using “key words” is something that will elude my grasp for some time yet!

Call me old-school (or worse!), but a lifetime of habit and training ALWAYS has me thinking “story” rather than “post” or “blog”.

And I write stories for people – not search engines.

Food blogger irritants


1. Laminated menus.

2. Overly shiny tables.

3. Photographic displays of dishes with too-bright back-lighting.

4. Forgetting to re-charge camera battery.

5. So hastily and furtively scribbling notes they are indecipherable once home.

6. Sucky, insincere spam.

7. Methodology used to rank bloggers on Urbanspoon. (Irritates this blogger anyway … no doubt those on  top of the heap think it’s great! I’d opt out for sure if that was possible …)

8. Forgetting to write down prices.

9. Reflection in restaurant window of blogger taking photographs.

10. Repeatedly being asked to provide free content for digital start-ups looking to make money.