Food and Travel Blogger ‘The Red Bistro’ is Joining #FBC14 from Malta!

The island of Malta is probably best known for its rich history and its beautiful vistas – but food and travel blogger Liz (@theredbistro) from The Red Bistro is making sure its known for its great food bloggers as well.

Liz Ayling aka The Red Bistro (blog)

Welcome, Liz!  What are you looking forward to learning and enjoying at FBC this year?

Coming from a small island with very few bloggers, let alone food bloggers, I am really excited about attending an international blogging-networking event. The chance to meet like-minded bloggers, all passionate foodies, and be inspired by fellow attendees’ stories and blogs, as well of course by the celeb speakers nuggets and wisdoms is what I am anticipating from the FBC weekend!

Is blogging your full time job?

I run two blogs, so I do feel as if I am a full-time blogger though my ‘day’ job (self employed) is as a corporate writer turning my hand to almost every form of written word from digital to ads and brochures. My food blog is my deep passion; my other blog is a destination blog about Malta, my adoptive home. The Red Bistro, however, has the potential to move from virtual hobby to an earner (small scale!) this year as I am organising food courses and Red Bistro ‘dines out’ events. As I live on a small Mediterranean island, for the past 20 years, I’ve had to ‘reinvent’ myself and do several ‘jobs’ at once, more than once! I am now at an age when it’s now or never in doing what I love – and that’s food-culture-photography inspired.

What motivated you to blog and how has blogging changed your life?

I probably answered this one above, but yes, The Red Bistro does have plans to go beyond nice pix and regular posts. It’s tough to monetise a food blog and very few of us will become A-list food bloggers of celeb status. Which means we need to dig deep in our sphere or localities (real world environments outside the door) and work out where to go with our blogs. In some ways, living in Malta, a tourist destination, I have quite a bit of leeway to do something with the blog. Food-culture itineraries and events – aimed at islanders and visitors – are on the cards. As is a Red Bistro book based on my blog’s interpretation of Mediterranean food. I’ve been approached by a local publisher but may opt for self -publishing. Not sure yet! A handle on the various routes to publishing is something I am hoping to find out more about at FBC.

What’s your signature dish?

I have lots of favourites from the blog, but I’ll highlight one ice cream that was inspired by Malta – in fact, inspired by my home-village festa! I live right behind an amazing baroque church and each June sees mayhem in the village during festa time. The piazza is full of nougat sellers, and I devised an ice cream with the nougat and a nip of Disaronno, calling it ‘Saints & Sinners’ Ice Cream‘. Food I feel needs a cultural anchor, and I prefer to post recipes with local heart, inspired by what’s immediately around me whether cultural activities or local ingredients.

Red Bistro logo

Which other bloggers do you follow most closely?

I also follow Barbara Toselli of Pane e Burro, write impeccably – she used to duplicate posts in both Italian and English and her writing was a fluid and easy in both. She now just writes in Italian, which luckily I speak. Her photos are the opposite of WKA’s – as she prefers tonnes of light to represent her cucina naturale (healthy cuisine). Barbara is an inspiration for her writing style and as she has managed to get a magazine deal for her work (even though blogging is not her day job!). Finally, I’d mention a lady who is not into food blogging, but covers her personal lifestyle and outlook: Corey Amaro, a US citizen married to a Frenchman and living in Provence, with a blog called ‘tongueincheek‘. She is amazing as has blogged for around 9 years posting every single day! Her posts, whether about flea markets, her mother in the US, a Parisian cafe’ or the old lady she cares for in her village, are a delight, poignant and amazing vignettes from the heart. I have learnt to soldier on, in blogging and in life, from her wisdoms.

What food blogging trends are you enjoying at the minute?

I can definitely see food blogging trends, particularly in respect of photography, which is where I am trying to improve. The trend for au naturelle backgrounds on flaking, aged wood, with messy, dive-in-and-eat feel to the food, is clearly a trend that’s been around since WKA hit the scene and before, and seems likely to last a long time yet. While I love this look, I am desperately trying to define my own ‘style’. It’s nigh impossible to have a unique approach as we are a huge community of food bloggers. But, I think if we examine and learn from the celeb blogs and hunt down and follow some of the smaller, quieter blogs, we can start to understand where we might fit in. I am a great believer in taking a style cue from what’s outside your door – the culture of food that’s around you. That down to earth, go local, approach can enable us to view our own set of blogging tools in a different light. No need to wish we were in Aus or California or Tuscany, with amazing light, backgrounds etc. Learn from others, and then utilise your own assets similarly! Passion is the key word. Amazingly, I am now appreciating the food outside my door far more now I am a food blogger!

How does the sheer volume of food programmes on television hinder or aid your quest to develop and sustain a food blog?

Even though we’re food bloggers, I’d hazard a guess we all own zillions of hard-copy cookery books. There’s something about print still that makes the mouth water. I live online so time spent with paper cook books is time off! I do follow and love a lot of celebrity chefs but the one book that I have found of greatest help in my quest to truly understand Mediterranean cuisine is from a very unsexy source! It’s a book with no photos at all of food, but it’s an incredible bible of recipes from across the entire Mediterranean; The Mediterranean Diet by Nancy Harmon-Jones. She lived and traveled throughout the region for around 20 years and was dedicated to compiling ur-alt recipes in a no-nonsense compendium. Her writing is quiet and humble but so evocative. Amazingly she includes nuances of the same dish so you have regional variations of say a hummus, each with its explanation. In these blog-photo driven days, and of the TV-prog to book celeb circuit, I have to say, I still admire Nancy’s book for its depth and her obvious passion for food. She is of the Elizabeth David ilk; true masters to learn from.

FBC14-FoodBloggerConnect-Register-TodayWhat other influences and interests make for a great food blog – travel, fashion, tech or lifestyle?

I can’t think of food without its cultural mores, background and the lifestyle attached to its origins. My blog is very much an Anglo view and version of Mediterranean cuisine, but as my family is part Maltese part English, I love the mismash! The cacophony of styles of food; which means the blog would be very hard to pigeon-hole in cookery book departments on an Amazon or in a Waterstones (should it ever get there!). I consciously include lifestyle shots to anchor the celebration of food. I know some reviews on Amazon of books that clearly include personal and cultural lifestyle, whether in photos or text, are criticised by those who just want good working recipes. But cookbooks like Jerusalem, or Saha’ are my preferred style as they are cultural celebrations of food.

Do you have a favourite kitchen tool/appliance?

My favourite gadget is my cherry and olive pipper! Sadly, the olives from my own tree as so small that I can’t use it as the whole fruit is pushed through. However, bought olives from the local deli are larger! Obviously, this is a useful gadget for olive lovers only! On my wishlist is a bright red KitchenAid mixer (another icon of colour in my red inspired kitchen – hence my blog’s name). I turned 50 last autumn and I have promised myself one in this landmark year! Now or never!

Hopefully the weather in London won’t be too much of a disappointment and we can’t wait to meet you!



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