Blue Hill at Stone Barns

What is the word for it?: Kismet

This winter, I spent a week sewing white muslin curtains and listening to Chef Dan Barber’s book, The Third Plate, on audio cd. I was so entranced by the ideas in the book, that I brought the cd with me on extra trips to the fabric store, and on the short drive to pick my daughter up from school. For a few weeks, I became obsessed. I told everyone about the book, and the ideas in it. I was interviewed for a podcast on food photography, and I talked about the book. I bought seeds from Row 7 Seeds, a company Chef Dan Barber co-founded. I considered going to an expensive dinner event, hosted by Chef Barber, to meet people who would talk about food and farming, and the future of these things. I bought copies of the book to give away, and thought about taking one of the winter farm tours at Stone Barns.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
The Blue Hill at Stone Barns kitchen team gathers before service.

And then I got a call from an editor at the Washington Post Magazine. “We are doing a feature review on Blue Hill at Stone Barns for the magazine’s Luxury edition. Are you available to do the photography?”

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Chef Dan Barber
Chef Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns

The day did not disappoint. Chef Barber couldn’t have been nicer. He plated food for the shots. He graciously allowed me to take multiple portrait set ups. I was invited to photograph anything: the kitchen, dining room, farm, greenhouses, chefs grilling, bakers baking, the front-of-house pre-service meeting, and a little secret courtyard garden where lucky diners are sometimes escorted. The day reminded me of all the things I love about being a food photographer.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns dining room
a four season greenhouse
Crop Production Manager Jason Grauer in the four-season, soil-based greenhouse at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

I had brought my husband, Chris, with me. Years ago, we used to enjoy drive-traveling together, chatting, and meeting interesting people. Recently, we are just so busy with life to take a day to work together. We have a daughter now, and hours on the road are more of a grind than relaxing. But, I told him this was a treat: It is not every day you get an invitation to have a fly-on-the-wall experience at one of the top restaurants in the world. He agreed, and I enjoyed glancing at his face as he watched the back-of-house kitchen scene. It is like being inside of an episode of Chef’s Table, but it is live. Heat and movement are everywhere.

Chef Barber presented us with an arrangement of foods to photograph – things I have never seen before, although some I had read about in his book. Everything related to what we had just seen in the greenhouses and on the farm.

preservation cart blue hill at stone barns
The Preservation Cart at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The display changes daily and often through service. Shown here: Eight Row Flint Corn, cured embryonic eggs, charcuterie, dehydrated squash puree, fermented black garlic, pickled strawberries, milkweed pods done like capers, habanada peppers.
noble jade at blue hill
Noble Jade marrow, picked from the greenhouse
food at blue hill at stone barns
Chicory that wanted to be a rose
cured eggs
Cured eggs
popcorn blue hill at stone barns
Popcorn on the cob

I am not allowed to receive gifts, or eat for free, when I work for the big national newspapers. Although, we had half an hour to spare at one point, and Chris and I sat in a corner of the bar, as the first diners arrived. We drank water, and when two small yellow drinks appeared before us, we sipped them. Fermented tumeric soda. Delicious.

cocktails at blue hill stone barns
The Vegetable Field, a cocktail made of fermented parsnip, mezcal, tallow, and peppercorn.
The Herb Garden, a non-alcoholic cocktail made with thyme and badger flame beets.
Chef Dan Barber
Chef Dan Barber with members of the kitchen team, creating courses for diners, during service.
Chef Dan Barber
Chef Dan Barber portrait
Chef Dan Barber

The review was published in the Washington Post Magazine last month. I took more photos than they could print. And it was a bigger experience than I could relate in one image on Instagram. Now that it is nearly summer, my attention has shifted to other things. The curtains are up in my kitchen photo studio, and I have been busy photographing food in there. But, when I pause and reflect on the seemingly random timing of things, I am amazed.

This summer, we will be visiting my family on the west coast of Canada. I can’t wait to see if my brother planted some of the Row 7 seeds I sent him.

Restaurant Photography

I have been photographing restaurants the past couple of weeks. The NYC EDITION, on Madison Avenue, is an Ian Schrager designed concept, in partnership with the Marriott. I spent three days behind-the-scenes at a VIP event, photographing food & decor. As a New Yorker, I know I’m not supposed to be thrilled by celebrity sightings, but I can’t help myself. It is a little bit thrilling to ride elevators with actors. (Although I did not let them know it.) It was also the week of the Met Gala, so the building was teeming with known personalities.

NYC Edition Hotel dessert

NYC Edition Hotel wait staff

hotel waitstaff

Up in the Hudson Valley, I spent a day with a chef in the construction site that will be a West Coast themed restaurant, Redwood. The owner sent me a beautiful mood board, and a note saying her granite counter-tops were not yet installed, and also the locally hand-crafted ceramics she hoped to have ready for our shoot were delayed. So, I packed a sheet of marble into the trunk of my car, and a few beautiful hand-made plates by another local potter with a similar style, and off I went.

eggs benedict Jennifer May food photography

peach melba

tuna poke food restaurant photography

shishito peppers Jennifer May photo

In Rhinebeck, I visited the newly renovated dining room at Terrapin. We had a fun day, shooting a bunch of food for their website… a flaming meringue cake, entrées, and apps. The new dining room is filled with gorgeous tables built from reclaimed barn wood, by a local company, Wabi Sabi Wood. I would say I can’t wait to go back, but did go back, two days later, for Mother’s Day. We sat at the bar, drank beer, and felt right at home.

flaming cake at terrapin

steak at terrapin

restaurant photography Jennifer May


Rahm Fama’s Meat & Potatoes Cookbook

It’s been a long wait, but we are close now… I shot this book for chef Rahm Fama about two years ago. It will be published this July 1, by Clarkson Potter, and may much eating of meat, potatoes, and amazing side dishes commence.

This book is different than a lot of cookbooks out there. It is heavy on the food & recipes, and light on the dishware, meaning…. most of the book was shot almost from above, using just a few different plates, on a few different tables. The food is truly the star. I will post example shots after the pub date.

Rahm Fama Meat & Potatoes cookbook

James Beard Award Win!

James Beard Award New Midwestern Table coverThe James Beard Awards were held last night and I am thrilled to announce Amy Thielen‘s New Midwestern Table won in the category of American Cooking! I am so glad she chose me to photograph her book.

Big thanks to our fantasic stylists Kendra McKnight and  Alison Hoekstra.

Amy is a fantastic writer, and now also a television host of her own show. Congratulations, Amy! Well deserved.

Below are a few of my favorite shots from our book.

James Beard award for Midwestern Table

The New Midwestern Table

A few shots from Amy Thielen’s New Midwestern Table (Clarkson Potter, 2013). Since we did the photography for her book, Amy is now a host on The Food Network. Her show is called Heartland Table, and it is terrific. In the first episode – dedicated to butter – she shows the cooking of her grilled new potato and onion dish (photo below). Everything she cooks looks so delicious.

The New Midwestern Table Cookbook

This is a book I have been outrageously excited about sharing. For this book, I visited the Midwest three times, and I toured Minnesota and the surrounding states with author Amy Thielen through three different seasons. The book is officially available in a few days, and I will upload some of my favorite images soon!

The New Midwestern Table cookbook cover photographed by Jennifer May

Michael Symon’s 5 in 5

A sneak preview of the second book I photographed for Chef Michael Symon – 5 in 5:  5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. The book will be published in early September, by Clarkson Potter. Fast & tasty food… This is my kind of cooking.

Michael Symon's 5 in 5 book cover

Guy Gourmet Cookbook

Here is a sneak peek of a cookbook I shot for Rodale in the fall. Quite a shoot: we photographed these recipes in Manhattan days after Hurricane Sandy. The city was still recovering… but the shoot went on. Look for the book in May.

mens health, rodale, jennifer may, cookbook, food photographer

Michael Symon’s Carnivore Cookbook

Michael Symon’s latest book, Carnivore, hits the shelves on October 16th. I’m excited about this book. We shot it last fall, when I was 6 months pregnant, including a trip to Michael’s home in Cleveland, OH. Here are a few shots from the book, and I have already cooked two recipes from my advance copy, and everything is as tasty now as I remember it being on set.

Chef Michael Symon, Carnivore cookbook, Jennifer May photographerChef Michael Symon, Carnivore cookbook, Jennifer May photographerChef Michael Symon, Carnivore cookbook, Jennifer May food photographerChef Michael Symon, Carnivore cookbook, Jennifer May food photographer, Cleveland

Susan Feniger’s Street Cookbook

Susan Feniger’s Street food cookbook was recently published (by Clarkson Potter), and here are a few shots from the book. I was three weeks pregnant when I shot this book in Los Angeles and had to tell the team what was up, because they kept making the most delicious and extravagant cocktails every night after shooting. Their puzzled faces when I said no on the first couple of nights were priceless.

Chef Susan Feniger, Street Cookbook, photographed by Jennifer MayChef Susan Feniger, Street Cookbook, photographed by Jennifer MayChef Susan Feniger, Street Cookbook, photographed by Jennifer MayChef Susan Feniger, Street Cookbook, photographed by Jennifer May

Rahm Fama Cookbook Shoot

On set in Woodstock, NY this week, shooting Chef Rahm Fama’s upcoming cookbook for Clarkson Potter. Let me just say, we are cooking and shooting and eating a lot of meat and vegetable sides, and it is tasty. Rahm is the best. I’m so lucky to get to work with high energy, excited, positive folks.

Rahm Fama and the cutest little stuffed quail.

Handsome man, handsome steak

Rahm, my man, and in his arms the reason my blog is out of date. Clearly, she likes a steak as much as her mama.

Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Cookbook

A sneak peek at the cover of Iron Chef Michael Symon’s upcoming cookbook, Carnivore (Clarkson Potter, October 2012). I shot this with Michael in NYC and in his hometown, Cleveland, over the fall. So many delicious meat and vegetable side recipes, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Chef Michael Symon, Carnivore cookbook, Jennifer May food photographer

James Beard Award Nomination!

This little book that could just keeps rising. We now have a James Beard Award Nomination for The Art of Living According to Joe Beef.

Joe Beef cookbook, photographed by Jennifer May, James Beard Award Nomination
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts. Written by Frederic Morin, David McMillan & Meredith Erickson. Foreword by David Chang. Photographs by Jennifer May.

Susan Feniger’s Street Food Cookbook

The cookbook I photographed for Chef Susan Feniger is available for pre-order from bookstores (its official publication date is August, 2012, from Clarkson Potter). Susan is one of the most joyful and generous people I have ever met, and thinking back on the week I spent with her and the team, at her home in Los Angeles, makes me smile.

Here is a sneak peek at the cover, and note the book’s subtitle: Irresistibly Crispy, Creamy, Crunchy, Spicy, Sticky, Sweet Recipes. So true!

A Trophy for the Joe Beef cookbook!

And the Joe Beef Cookbook is the winner of the 2012 Food52 Tournament of Cookbooks. In the final round, it won against Momofuku’s Milk book, as judged by Alice Waters.

In the second round, some lovely words by the judges on the photos: “The photographs of the restaurant, its garden, and its cast of characters are lovely and real, and as we read the book, we spent lots of time looking at them and seeing how quietly they tell the outrageous story. Photographer Jennifer May captures it all. She understands the sensuality and beauty of food and never flinches as she shoots some pretty over-the-top dishes just as they come to her.” – Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton

Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May