Food Bloggers Connect Lebanon: Food Styling and Photography

Such a beautiful day.

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Food blogger and author Bethany Kehdy organized the first Food Bloggers Connect workshop in Lebanon last Saturday September 7th 2013 at a quiet B&B house up the hills of Batroun; Beit Al Batroun. The workshop’s objective was to give training on food styling and photography. Around 15 persons coming from various backgrounds (particularly food-related) took part in the workshop for the objective of working on their skills.

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After a round table introduction of the participants, the day kicked off with our first session. Unfortunately, food stylist Emily Jonzen had leave a day before because of the current situation in Beirut and the surrounding countries. Luckily, Sarka Babicka works as a food stylist along with being a food photographer. Armed with tips, notes and a video that Emily sent as soon as she got to London, Sarka gave us a wonderful session and an exercise on how to style a salad for the camera and how to capture the best image of it considering the props, surroundings, colors and angle.

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Following the styling session, 961 Beer, one of the workshop’s sponsors, gave us a presentation about the beer brewing and the story of this particular beer. It was informative and inspiring for its simplicity and honesty. We got to taste the 6 different types they have produced recently (they have produced more, but they’re unavailable now) and got to know the difference between each and every one. 961 Beer got good reviews from the attendees and lots of them considered it better than the beer they usually drink. Even those who are not avid beer drinkers drank at least a bottle. I didn’t need convincing since I already made the shift to 961 Beer some time ago. Feeding the designer in me, I have bought 961 Beer the moment I saw the bottles on the shelves (yup, I sometimes buy according to package first). Their simple labels and interesting color palette is appealing. I’ve tried and loved it and it became my first choice.

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After having lunch and fighting the urge to do nothing but relax in the peaceful atmosphere, Sarka started the food photography session. Beginning with some tips and pieces of advice, Sarka did a live styling and photography demonstration before giving us time to show her what we learned.

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Throughout the whole day, Bethany was in the kitchen preparing a BIG surprise. She was cooking dinner for all of us. Dinner included recipes from The Jewelled Kitchen, Bethany’s new cookbook with few adaptations to fit the surrounding.

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The menu had chickpea salad with feta and pomegranates, creamy dandelion in Labneh with caramelized onions, corn on the kebab with delicious pistachio infused butter spread on top, smoked tuna with garlicky chermoula sauce and grilled salmon (brought by Meat the Fish) with cranberry and pomegranate stuffing, barbecued chicken seasoned with zaatar and sumac, tender roasted lamb kebabs that melts in your mouth served with hot sauce, and crispy-top Persian rice. I don’t think I’ve had and enjoyed such an amazing meat. The star of the menu was the Labneh dandelion. The big bowl disappeared quickly. All of this was enjoyed with 961 Beer and a wide selection of Lebanese wine from Wines of Lebanon.

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And of course, a meal is never complete without desserts. Sarka and Bethany prepared a Lebanese version of Victoria Sponge Cake. They replaced the cheese filling with labneh, added rose water to the cake to give it a Lebanese flavour, and topped and filled the cake with pomegranates. One more (Lebanese) substitution was made unintentionally, you know, some great things were as a result of mistakes. Regular flour was replaced by semolina due to unlabeled packs but it worked perfectly and made the cake taste even more Lebanese. Therefore, we replaced Victoria from Victoria Sponge Cake by a local queen, Fairuz and called the cake Fairuz Sponge Cake.

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But since all good things have to come to an end, the day ended with us exchanging contacts and one final very generous surprise: We left with a big goodie bag sponsored by 961 Beer, Bakalian flour mills, Wines of Lebanon, Get It Right, Miel Du Levant, Awan Tea, Zejd Organic Olive Oil, and Oliviers & Co. Other sponsors of the event were Meat The Fish and Qi Juices. (I hope I didn’t forget anyone)

It was a really fun day filled with valuable advice, wonderful food lovers and delicious food and beverages. It was a great opportunity too to meet people who shared the passion for food, interact and share experiences.

Good job Bethany, good job for the team. Keep it up, and we’re waiting for the next FBC.

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P.S.: Bethany is launching her book The Jewelled Kitchen this week.

For the rest of the photos visit the set on Flickr:

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