The Food52 Piglet Award

Food52 Piglet Award logoLast 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.

Hot Bread Kitchen dough

Challah process NYC Food Photographer

stollen piglet 2016 winner

monkey bread piglet 2016

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.

Hot Bread Kitchen portrait

Tacos toppings

Injera Ethiopian

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.

bakery at Hot Bread Kitchen
The retail space & cafe at Harlem’s Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery
Hot Bread Kitchen location
The Hot Bread Kitchen bakery & retail space is located under a busy commuter train in Harlem.

Food52 Piglet Award

Cookbooks 2015

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.

Hot Bread Kitchen cookbooks 2015
Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

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.

Michael Symon 5 in 5 Seasonal cookbooks 2015
Michael Symon 5 in 5: Seasonal cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

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.

Alana Chernila Homemade Kitchen cookbooks 2015
Alana Chernila Homemade Kitchen cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

Against the Grain Gluten Free cookbook

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!

Against the Grain cookbook cover

Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

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.

Hot bread kitchen tortillas

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

More from the Midwest

I am sorting photos from my archive to update my website. This afternoon I am revisiting images from my trips to Minnesota, for Amy Thielen’s New Midwestern Table (Clarkson Potter, 2013). Such a beautiful place. I will make a new posting when my website has a flush of new photos.

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

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.

People’s Pops Cookbook

Introducing a popsicle cookbook I photographed for the Brooklyn-based company People’s Pops. The book is published by Ten Speed Press, and is out this June. We ran around Brooklyn and NYC doing the shots for this book…we photographed people eating the popular popicles at their shop in the Chelsea Market, and from their stand on the High Line. I still dream of the plum popsicle and I will be making up a batch soon.

People's Pops cookbook, photo by Jennifer MayPeople's Pops cookbook, popsicles, photo by Jennifer MayPeople's Pops cookbook, popsicles, photo by Jennifer MayPeople's Pops cookbook, popsicles, photo by Jennifer May

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!

Shooting a Midwestern Cookbook, Part 3

I love location-based photo shoots, and location-based cookbooks are the best. Not only do we shoot a whole lot of delicious food, but we travel around to meet local people, see local sites, tell picture stories, and capture the essence of a place. I spent this past week with Amy Thielen in Minnesota, on the third and final shoot for her upcoming cookbook (Clarkson Potter). This trip was all about winter.

We went ice fishing on a frozen lake with a local guy, visited a survivalist-style bunker stocked with hundreds of jars of home-preserved foodstuffs, hosted a garage party with a bonfire in the snow, and joined the crew of a local logging mill for their monthly soup day.

Amy Thielen, Midwestern cookbook, jennifer may
Here I am riding on the back of a quad on a frozen lake in Minnesota, returning from ice fishing
Guest quarters feature a heated & lit out house. A fun adventure at midnight in winter.

 

Michael Symon’s Cleveland

I spent my birthday doing two of my favorite things: Photographing a cookbook on location, and eating great food. The cookbook part involved following Chef Michael Symon around the West Side Market in Cleveland – we met his favorite meat vendors and took the elevator down to the cutting chambers. The next day, for lunch, there was Michael’s classic beef cheek pierogies at Lola Bistro, an array of charcuterie, and house-cured bacon and house-smoked turkey sandwiches. Still, one of my most vivid memories of Cleveland was seen through the car window as a man walked his pit bull through the rough side of town, carrying a big stick. The need for the stick was clear – as two other pit bulls charged, barked, and lunged from the other side of the road. Lucky for the four lanes of traffic between them, and the man and his dog passed without incident…that time.

Cleveland's Historic West Side Market
The open kitchen at Michael Symon's Lola Bistro in Cleveland
Leaving Cleveland just after sunrise

Meetings, Pied-a-Terre & a Rep

Yesterday was one of those busy & fun days. It started with a drive to NYC to meet with a photo editor at a major national magazine who had called me the day before and asked me to come see her. It was an out-of-the-blue request and you know that when you get one of those, you drop everything and go. So I gathered a bunch of unpublished photos from upcoming cookbooks and tailor-made a portfolio on my iPad to show her. Turns out, she had called me on the strength of the photos in one of the book galleys that had landed on her desk. The meeting took a turn for the amazing when she responded to my portfolio with, “Yes! That is exactly what we are looking for.” I mean, only in dreams, right?

Here is a sneak preview of those unpublished photos, from Alana Chernila’s upcoming book, The Homemade Pantry:

The day continued with a trip to Williamsburg, to visit our new pied-a-terre. We rented it sight unseen, based on high recommendations, price and location, and as low as my expectations were, they were met 100-fold. There are a few bars in walking distance, an organic produce store, and a couple of cafes… it’s a new and exciting stomping ground for multi-day work trips in NYC, which are becoming more and more common.

Then, I received an email from a rep, of sorts, letting me know I’ve been accepted into their group and am now officially listed online. It’s called Wonderful Machine, and they sound like a terrific bunch of promoters. They are going to reach out to people on my behalf, and what’s not great about that! Here is my listing page:

And finally, one more meeting with a private client for a photo shoot in the spring. A full day, packed with promise.

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