The Accidental Media Card Holder

By Lyndie Arkell

Since finding myself semi-retired, reading junk mail and newsletters has become way more of a pastime than it really should be. When I received an email from Le Cordon Bleu about “Eat Your Words”, a food-writing course sponsored by Le Cordon Bleu at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, my interest was piqued. I thought, I’d like to understand the thinking behind the many wine and food articles that I’m usually compelled to read in magazines in waiting rooms and aircrafts.

The course was being held at a fancy inner-city hotel on the first weekend of the festival. Perfect, I thought!

What I didn’t know was that I was actually expected to write something myself! Argggggggh. Panic. Anxiety! Hot flushes! 

To add to my internal meltdown, we were advised our articles would be published! I just hoped people would only be able to find it on some obscure, non-searchable part of the web.

So, after being given a media pass to look official, my six fellow and far-more-knowledgeable classmates and I were sent off to the River Graze at Southbank to find something interesting to write about.

I had a few rules from the morning session –      

*Keep it focused (that means keep off the wine)                                                          

*Keep it interesting (sample as many food trucks as possible)

*Keep to the facts (first, find some facts)

Frustratingly, I had no clue about the subject matter, but the light-bulb moment came when I looked at the crowd: What were they doing here?

I had never interviewed anyone before but the swanky media pass around my neck gave me courage so I approached a foursome consisting of a couple of Gen Y’s, a baby and a grandma. Careful not to interrogate them, but mindful of still getting to the interesting nitty-gritty, I asked, “So what are you doing here?” Looking at my media pass and with only the slightest hint of an eye roll-back, Grandma Beryl replied “Ummmm, I think we are minding our own business.” 

After a bit of prodding and some more focused (no wine) direct questioning, Michelle, the young mother of baby Charlie, and John, the dad, admitted it was their turn to take Grandma out for the day. (Grumpy grandma if you ask me..) They all said they were having a wonderful time just enjoying the crowds, the wine sampling and the weather. But they had never been to a food festival before, so I realized if I wanted this article to have more depth I would need to interview more people.  

I found a couple of well-heeled Toorak-types. “Hi”, I said, ”I am writing for the Le Cordon Bleu School (which was partly true – I left out the part that I had paid them, not the other way round) and I wonder if you would answer a few questions?”

Well, Carol and John from Glen Iris were MARvellous darrrrlings. They had been to every Food and Wine Festival IN THE WORLD. Melbourne’s festival is the BEST EVER, though. Oh yes, more seating, more wine tasting, better weather, bigger crowds, the river is glorious and the food just sumptuous. Carol and John, I suspected, really, really liked their wine tasting, but in fairness had been to Paris, New York, Spain and jeez just about everywhere, so their opinion that this was the best festival seemed to be grounded.

After finishing my last interview, I started to head back to the boardroom to think about writing a story that would be published online, trying to rein in the nerves! 

Maybe I will taste just a little of the fabulous wine on the way back…

This story was produced as a part of "Eat Your Words by Le Cordon Bleu," an immersive workshop on food and wine writing for new writers.