I am in the midst of shooting a baking cookbook for Erin McDowell. Erin is a food stylist I work with often. We collaborate on other people’s cookbooks, and she styles food for me when I shoot campaigns for Broccoli Rabe. She cuts no corners! We are currently camped out in a rented house in Woodstock, NY, and by the end of ten days, we will have photographed almost every recipe in her book. Hashtags are #thefearlessbaker and #campcookbook if you want to follow along on Instagram. We are on day 4, and already we have an entire gallery of beautiful images. Here are a couple of outtakes.
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.
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.
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.
Last night, the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook took home the Food52 Piglet Award for 2016. It’s a huge honor to all involved. The judging happens through a bracket system, in which pairs of books compete against each other. Eventually, only two are left. Andrew Zimmern, of Bizarre Foods, made the final ruling. Yotam Ottoleghni helped it through an earlier round. Reading Ottoleghni’s review just about made my year. (Anybody who glances at this blog will know I am a huge fan of his recipes.)
The book was written by Jessamyn Rodriquez and Julia Turshen, and it tells the story of a bakery that is also a non-profit social enterprise. The women who apply to train at the Hot Bread Kitchen come from all over the world. They are taught artisan baking and business skills, to help them become successful culinary professionals.
The bakers also share knowledge of specialty breads from their home countries. Things like Persian Nan-e Barbari, Moroccan Msmen, and Ethiopian Injera are baked and sold by the bakery. Between all of this hands-on knowledge, and the writing expertise of Rodriquez and Turshen, it’s no wonder reviewers and judges have been describing the book as a transformative baking tool.
I spent two weeks photographing the bakery, bread, and the mostly-women bakers for this book. I worked with food stylist Erin McDowell, and prop stylist Barb Fritz. It took me about a year to work off the bread-pounds I gained from all of my snacking. And now I just want to bake more. One thing I know for sure: there is nothing so delicious as a buttery, flaky Msmen, hot from the griddle.
This morning I woke to the sound of chirping birds outside my window. The chirps made me think of spring. Spring made me think of summer. Summer made me think of picnics, grilling, and camping. And then I thought of this shoot I did recently for the Applestone Meat Company, showcasing their meats in all of those settings. This was all from beneath a heavy quilt in my bed, mostly with my eyes closed. The reality of the day is that the trees are bare, and the roads are icy. But the birds are returning, and it was a beautiful waking dream.
Three cookbooks I photographed over the past year have October 2015 release dates. They are all published by Clarkson Potter, and I love each of them for different reasons. Very soon, the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook launches. This is an amazing non-profit bakery in Harlem that teaches low-income, foreign-born women the craft of artisan bread baking. These women learn a profession, business skills, and English. It was inspiring to spend the time I did with them. And I always chuckle when I think about waiting for the train above the bakery to rumble by, when my camera was set for slow exposures, in fading light.
Earlier this month, Michael Symon‘s 5 in 5: Seasonal was published. This is the third book I have photographed for Chef Symon, and working with him is always a high point of my year. Chef Symon loves what he does, and he has a great team around him. It is a true pleasure and a joy to collaborate with him, and I’m eagerly awaiting getting my hands on this book. His fast, flavorful recipes are just the thing for my daily schedule.
Another of my favorite authors is publishing her second cookbook this month. Alana Chernila and I have worked together on both of her books, and it has been such a pleasure meeting at her home in the Berkshires through the seasons. We photograph her children, her family, her friends, and her in the kitchen. Whenever I spend time with Alana, I can’t wait to get home and cook for the people I love.
Just before the July 4th long weekend, I did a couple of photo shoots at the Metropolitan Opera. One shoot was to update their restaurant’s website with new menu items. I am posting two dishes that speak to me. The salad on the left is the reason why I own a mandolin slicer. I love those thin circles of radish, beet and cucumber. This salad inspires me, and I will be riffing on it in future salads. The dish on the right is a spring pea risotto with red-veined sorrel and fiddle-heads. Photographing these dishes beneath the 30-foot Chagall painting was definitely memorable.
A family member ran the Boston Marathon, and we prepared a feast for him the next day. We had smoked brisket, potatoes au gratin, kale salad, and pickled beets. We encourage our toddler to help in the kitchen as often as possible, and here she is patting down the spice rub.
This past week I shot a campaign for Andy Boy’s broccoli rabe. That’s right, an advertising campaign for a vegetable. It’s one of my favorite green vegetables, they are one of the best clients a food photographer could have, and we work hard and have a good time. I came home with bunches of the beautiful stuff, and set to work making broccoli rabe pesto, right from their recipe page. I was going to bring some to our first lakeside cookout of the season, but we ate the batch I made (although there is lots more in the freezer). It’s one step more complicated than traditional basil pesto, because you parboil the rabe, but then you reserve that green water and boil your pasta in it, and I love that.
Back at home, the week was filled with starting spring seeds – rabe seeds! a gift from Barb Fritz, a prop stylist I work with a lot – and flowers for the pollinators. Then we grilled, and found a tadpole at the lake.
This week I was with the Applestone Meat Company, photographing raw meat with spring vegetables. Working with Joshua Applestone (founder of Fleisher’s Pasture-Raised Meats) is like going back to my roots. I photographed the very first magazine article ever written about Fleisher’s, then their media kit, then their cookbook. And now I’m working with the Applestones on their new venture. Josh & Jessica are like family, and as much as I adore each and every one of my clients, this one is special. They are doing good work in the world, supporting the business of, and access to, humanely-raised meat. It’s a cause I believe in.
Last year, in a top secret studio setting, I photographed the winner of MasterChef Season 5, Courtney Lapresi. Her cookbook, Everyday Fancy, will be published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in May 2015. Courtney was such fun to photograph. She truly shines and the camera loves her. I can’t wait to see the rest of the book, for now, here is the cover.
I am excited to announce the publication of Against the Grain: extraordinary gluten-free recipes made from real, all-natural ingredients. The book was written by Nancy Cain and is published by Clarkson Potter. I will be adding interior shots to my main website soon, but for now, here is the cover… a gluten-free breakfast pizza. Even a gluten-lover like me loved this!
Maya Kaimal produces the most delicious jarred and prepared Indian foods. Simmer cubes of chicken in her Tikka Masala or Madras Curry, add some chopped shallot and maybe some cashew nuts, and you have a fast, healthy, and yummy dinner.
Maya wanted to do a step-by-step to show all of the ingredients that go into her prepared sauces, so she, Jessica Bard, and I photographed her making Coconut Goan, from scratch, using those components. The mustard seeds & curry leaves popped, the onions caramelized, and the spices infused the tomato and coconut. I was so inspired to watch the process that I found myself cooking her recipes all week.
A portrait I did of Zak Pelaccio of Fish & Game Restaurant in Hudson, NY, for the New York Times. The story – about several chefs’ fantasy Thanksgiving Dinners – is here.
This October I photographed the second half of the Broccoli Rabe social media campaign. Check their website for recipes. Truly, broccoli rabe has changed my regular dinner routine at home. Something I now cook regularly: parboiled broccoli rabe, sausage, parm, orecchiette pasta. So, so good.
For the better part of October, I have been working on shooting a cookbook for The Hot Bread Kitchen. This not-for-profit bakery trains low-income, foreign-born women in the culinary art of artisan baking. Many of the breads these women bake are hard-to find regional specialties: buttery, flaky Moroccan m’smen; sesame topped Persian nan-e qandi; Armenian lavash crackers; and all kinds of challah. I could eat their heritage corn tortillas every day. I watched two women bake batch after batch from soaked whole corn kernels, and the flavor is unparallelled. The Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook will be published by Clarkson Potter in 2015. For now, you can sample their breads at these markets.
This summer I photographed a social media campaign for a vegetable. What an exciting project! We photographed all kinds of recipes for Andy Boy’s Broccoli Rabe. From ingredients, to process shots, to complete recipes, we photographed: pesto, citrus salad, pizza and a stir fry. Stay tuned, part two of the social media campaign is coming up. And meanwhile, eat your beautiful, healthful, bitter greens!
This summer I photographed about 30 sandwiches and some impressive meat hunks for the online launch of Arby’s We Have the Meats campaign. The shoot lasted a week, with a broadcast shoot happening simultaneously. I was lucky to work with a killer production team from Wonderful Machine and with some of the brilliant minds at the Fallon agency.
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.
I just wrapped a 6-day cookbook shoot in Westchester for Nicole Hunn and Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. This cookbook will bring back the classic snacks gluten-free people miss out on: think Twinkies, Twizzlers, and Hostess Cupcakes. Gluten-free or not, these were delicious treats, and I tasted almost every one of them.
Our team consisted of Nicole & Erin McDowell in the kitchen and me on the camera & computer. Nicole’s children and husband were on the scene, the dogs were eventually banished to the prop room (dining room), and the cat hung out until she tried to climb my lighting tools to get to a vase of freshly picked lilies-of-the-valley.
Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos of the shoot.