This year, I built a kitchen photo studio on my property in the Hudson Valley. It is such a relief to have space to move. Our own house is very tiny, and it has been challenging, over the years, to do my work based out of it. I can now move around freely in 800 square feet of open space, amidst tons of great natural light. As well, I have ample storage for a collection of props, linens, and surfaces I have been collecting over the years.
The second Joe Beef cookbook has been published, and it was an incredible experience. Over the space of a year, I gave the book about 30 shooting and travel days. Plus maybe another 15 days doing edits, organizing, prepping and sending files. That is a lot of days on one cookbook shoot Most cookbook shoots I get are budget around 7 days for photography.
On most of our shoot days we started in the morning, shot through the entire day, into the evening, and ended well into dinner service. The goal was to capture everything – but of course, when working with people who create new ideas as quickly as you can document current ideas, it’s a constant game of catch-up. When I work with Fred, Dave, Meredith, Marco, and the rest of the Joe Beef family, my mantra is: ‘Keep up, and don’t f*** it up’. Below is a short preview video I made to splash the book on social media. And, a sample of my favorite photos from the book.
Announcing the Japan Cookbook that I photographed and that was published last April. This is clearly an overdue post, on an overlooked blog. Japan was written by Nancy Singleton Hachisu and published by Phaidon. The props were picked by Barb Fritz, and the food was cooked and styled by Hannah Kirshner, with the help of her assistant Saori Kurioka. We borrowed handmade pottery from potters in Brooklyn and San Francisco. And Hannah called on specialty farmers she knew across the country to send us unusual Japanese produce. An enormous team produced this book, I only wish I knew everyone’s names to note them all personally.
I spent a day with Lail Ceramics, a potter based in Woodstock, NY. In the morning, I drove over to the Kingston Farmer’s Market and picked up beautiful in-season produce. Then, we photographed the new color lines and plates. These dishes feel so good in the hands, and absolutely everything looks beautiful in them.
I have been making regular visits to photograph the chef, staff, bar, and menu items at The Amsterdam Restaurant, in Rhinebeck, NY. As usual, with restaurant photography, the shots are used on the restaurant’s website, printed matter, advertorials, and through their social media channels. Here are some recent shots.
I dropped in at the Applestone Meat Co for some new meat shots. The Applestone team took care of cooking all the meats. And Barb Fritz was on hand to deliver the props and style these pretty moments. Small team packing a punch.
The second issue of Edible Westchester Magazine features a photograph I took of Chef Chris Vergara. He took me on a foraging walk through some public lands in Westchester County. We looked for ramps, wild onions, and mushrooms. While squatting in the bushes, to get this shot, I also kept my eyes open for ticks and poison ivy. I love photographing in nature, but I am a little bit obsessed with the pests and hazards.
And, here is a shot Chef Vergara took of me, from my perch behind a log.
How to prep a double crust pie… look at it! It looks just like the ones my grandmother used to bake. Erin Jeanne McDowell, the Fearless Baker, shows you how to prep that dough, so you can make one, too. We made this pair of pie videos in the week prior to Thanksgiving. Although, there is a whole season of pie-appropriate holidays to come. I’m definitely going to see if I can make one to match Erin’s.
If you have ever wondered how to prep a single crust pie, here is a very clear demonstration. Erin Jeanne McDowell, the Fearless Baker herself, and I made a video showing you how to do it. This video shows the step between making your dough and filling and baking your pie. This shows the very crucial rolling out, trimming, and crimping of a single crust pie.
Look at all that butter! No matter how many times I work with Erin (and I have worked with her a lot, both when I hire her to make food for my photoshoots, or when she hired me to photograph her baking cookbook) I am always surprised by the butter in the dough. One day I will get it right, and stop over-mixing mine. One day.
The Fearless Baker Cookbook was published yesterday. My friend and colleague, Erin McDowell, wrote it and I photographed it for her last summer. Erin wrote a beautiful story about the process for Food52, complete with lots of behind-the-scenes pictures I took for her. Check it out for a sample of her terrific writing. And here are some photos of recipes you will find in the book. As Erin writes: 200 recipes, 1000 photos later, The Fearless Baker is born…
I recently visited the Canoe Hill Restaurant on assignment for Hudson Valley Magazine. The restaurant is owned by Michael DelGrosso and his wife, Lauren Lancaster. They are Hudson Valley transplants, via Brooklyn, where Michael helped create the aesthetic of many of Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s most beautiful restaurants. I only wish he would bring his eye to Woodstock. I would be a regular.
I returned from a week photographing a cookbook in Montreal and decided to spend a month cooking French food. I turned to a book that is already on my bookshelf: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
These photos are not examples of what the recipes should technically look like – only what they did look like. But I am excited. The stock that simmered on my stove for two days, eventually became Glace de Viande (meat glaze). We reduced a tablespoon of that glaze with wine and shallots and made Beurre Marchand de Vins (Shallot Butter with Red Wine). We put slabs of it on an inexpensive cut of beef, and transformed the steak into a delicacy.
I am really loving preparing simple ingredients in a different way than my standard, and creating entirely new flavor profiles. I make soup all the time. But Soupe au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup with Garlic, Basil & Herbs) is a fresh take in my kitchen.
I am working on my baking. Now that I have made “cream puff paste,” I will use that basic recipe and make gnocchis.
We hosted Easter weekend for some grown ups and a trio of children. Here are some food memories… Thank you to Kendra McKnight for making mince-meat tarts, home-made raspberry marshmallows, charcuterie, French 75s, lakeside grilled leg of lamb with yogurt-garlic sauce, and so much more. She even delayed her family’s morning departure so she could teach me step-by-step her favorite pie crust recipe.
I am in Montreal this week, photographing a cookbook for Joe Beef. This got me thinking to the year I spent photographing their first cookbook. It was before I had my daughter, and that makes it seem like such a long time ago. Although, she is only 5 years old, and in the scheme of things that is no time at all. I am so excited to be here. This is the 2nd week of a at least a few I will spend with the team on this book. I so look forward to what Fred, Dave, Meredith, Marco, Ari, and the rest of the team (their family has also grown since I was last here) will show me.
Below are some shots I did for their first cookbook.
This winter, I spent some time with Erin McDowell, filming baking videos. These videos will roll out as social media spots in advance of her upcoming cookbook, The Fearless Baker. Erin is an incredible baker, and also a food stylist. I work with her often on shoots for my clients, and last summer she asked me to photograph her own cookbook. We ended up shooting every single recipe, which is unusual. But if you know Erin, you know she is not only fearless, but has boundless enthusiasm and energy. The book will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this October. Until then, here area a few videos showing the techniques you will find in those pages.
In these deep days of winter, I have been playing around with food motion. It is so much fun. I am becoming obsessed. Here is one video I made, it is a recipe for shrimp scampi, which my husband cooked in honor of the most delicious wild-caught shrimp we found at a local butcher shop. It’s a very simple recipe. It is quick to cook, and it is rich and delicious with crusty bread or pasta. See this video, and a few other examples of food in motion over at my website, www.jennifermay.com
I was recently asked to do some butcher shop meat photography. The Applestone Meat Company wanted pretty much all of their cuts of meat documented. The challenge was to come up with an attractive way to photograph this glorious meat in its raw form. We wanted appetite appeal, and that can be a tough ask from a raw piece of meat. We brainstormed. They suggested white. I suggested marble. We decided to show the raw meat in the very early stages of cooking. The higher end cuts were dressed up in only salt and pepper. Some of the other cuts were given marinades and dry spice rubs.
This butcher shop also produces a lot of sausages – andouille, bratwurst, hot Italian, chorizo, Parmesan and broccoli rabe and many more… well over a dozen different blends. We wanted to show these, but we didn’t want to show them raw with raw ingredients around them. So, we cooked the sausages in a way that reflected their particular characters. One of the butchers at the shop happens to be a trained chef. He and the Applestone team came up with recipes, and he cooked them for the camera.
Look for these images rolling out on the Applestone Meat Company’s website and social media channels in the near future.
On a chilly day in January, I made preserved Meyer lemons. I will give them a shake every day, and in about three weeks they should be ready. I am collecting recipes for pasta, gremolata, roasted potatoes, relish and fish dishes. I am excited to see what new dimension this condiment will bring to the food we cook at home!