Debbie Rogers moved to the UAE seven years ago to work on the launch of the Dubai Metro – but since then, her career has taken an altogether different track. The British expat, 49, was working as an HR director for the outsourcing firm Serco – but when her two-year Dubai secondment came to an end, she had a taste for something new – launching a blog called Coffee, Cakes & Running, as well as working for FoodeMag DXB, an online magazine written by paid bloggers. Ms Rogers, 49, now spends her days writing about restaurants, talking to advertisers for the bi-monthly magazine, and interviewing chefs. Here Ms Rogers describes her typical day and – despite the lower wages – why she has no regrets about making her career change.
I wake up and make coffee – it’s a five-minute ritual, and I can’t start without it. As a Brit, I should probably say it is tea but I’ve got some really strong memories of coffee. I spent some of my first-ever pay packet in a coffee house. Every day I used to walk past, smelling this roasted coffee; it was something my mum would have never spent money on. I don’t often eat breakfast.
Primarily I work from home, although we’ve just set up some working space as well. I’m reading blog posts to see if I can spot people who might want to write for the magazine, or seeing what the trends are. I’m also talking to advertisers … It’s very much a commercial magazine, with the usual advertorial and advertising space.
It’s time for more coffee. The next three hours of the day really do depend on what cycle we are in with the magazine. It could be that I’m just literally sat down writing. When writing about food, you can’t say everything is “yummy” – which is my real pet hate – unless you’re five, and grabbing a cookie.
We’re invited to tastings, previews and reviews all the time. It could be that we spend three or four hours with the chef and they’re in the kitchen cooking some of their favourite dishes, and then sitting down having lunch with us, telling us why they’ve chosen that dish, and what memories they have associated with it. Once I took the Michelin-starred Pierre Gagnaire for a tour of Deira markets to buy fish and vegetables, which he then cooked for me in Reflets, his Dubai restaurant. While I loved my corporate life – I loved the benefits that came with it, flying business class all the time, driving a big posh Mercedes – I don’t get any of those trappings, certainly, but I get to do some amazing things. Who’s taken Pierre Gagnaire to the fruit and veg market? You can’t buy that.
After lunch I try to go for a walk to the park, or I go to the gym. It makes me feel good when I exercise. And obviously I do it to balance out the intake of food versus the expenditure of energy. Most foodies will tell you they struggle with their weight – it’s a challenge.
I’m back home, developing a new website for Coffee, Cakes & Running, sat playing with code. I’ve worked on outsourced websites with developers on other projects. And I find that, to be honest, it’s almost as efficient for me to learn it and do it myself.
I visit Enigma Restaurant at Palazzo Versace, which first opened in Dubai in January. It is so different. There is no menu, every dish is just served to your table: it’s like a 10-course set menu. You’ll never see the menu – it’s not printed. On restaurant visits I’m not thinking ‘What am I going to write?’ when I’m eating. But obviously I’m snapping photos, I’m thinking about the service. I love some of the established restaurants in Dubai – some of the golden oldies – as much as I love the fine dining: you’ve got Ravi’s, Bu Qtair and more.
I’m home for a final review of social media. Initially I could not understand why strangers would talk to each other without ever meeting. But Dubai is quite a small place, so I just started meeting people through Twitter – we’d have “tweetups”, physical meetings. Slowly I’ve started seeing how using social media can drive traffic to my blog, and certainly to the magazine. It’s a really engaging way of doing it – and it’s free.
I go to bed. I need my sleep: I used to be able to function well on less, but now I need a good seven-and-a-half or eight hours.
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