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
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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.

Lentil Soup from Scraps

Lentil soup from scraps

I spent some time in the kitchen photo studio and cooked a lentil soup made from scraps. This is not so extraordinary… until you learn that reducing food waste is the #3 recommended solution to reversing carbon emissions. This is according to Project Drawdown, which is a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming.

The soup was inspired by some left over coconut milk we had in our fridge from last night’s dinner, and a half lemon I had placed in the “eat me first” bin in our fridge.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to blog more about my efforts to reduce food waste in our kitchen.

Kitchen Photo Studio

Kitchen Photo Studio Hudson Valley NY

Kitchen Photo Studio Upstate NY

Kitchen Photo Studio Catskills NY

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.

Joe Beef Cookbook

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.

Joe Beef Cookbook photo by Jennifer May

Joe Beef Cookbook sausage

Joe Beef Cookbook

Joe Beef Cookbook wood oven

Joe Beef Cookbook Montreal

Joe Beef Cookbook

Joe Beef Cookbook

Joe Beef Cookbook Restaurant

Joe Beef Cookbook snow crabs jennifer may photo


Japan Cookbook

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.

Japan Cookbook Cover photos by Jennifer MayJapan Cookbook photography by Jennifer May NYCJapan Cookbook ramen photo by Jennifer MayJapan Cookbook photos by Jennifer MayJapan Cookbook Phaidon photos by Jennifer May

Lail Ceramics

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.

red currants farmers market lail ceramicssquash blossoms gardenpears farmers market lail ceramics

The Amsterdam Restaurant

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.

Amsterdam RestaurantAmsterdam Restaurant
charcuterie by Jennifer May
grilled artichokes
Roasted carrotsBar restaurant photography by Jennifer May NYC
Chef portrait by Jennifer May
chef portrait
breakfast sandwich
Amsterdam Restaurant
Bar action
latte art

Edible Westchester Magazine

Edible Westchester Magazine

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.

Jennifer May Photographer

And, here is a shot Chef Vergara took of me, from my perch behind a log.


Eddy Award Finalist – Iron Cross Cooking

A video I made became a top 5 finalist for an Eddy Award. It’s not a win, but it’s not a loss! (The Eddy Awards are brought to us by the people who put together the family of Edible magazines.) I made the video during a cover shoot for the premier issue of Edible Westchester magazine. Chef Christian Petroni, co-chefs and friends gathered to cook a local lamb using an Argentinian style of cooking. Petroni had a steel cross, of sorts, fabricated by a steel-worker, and he lit a fire underneath. They spent the day stoking coals, watching the meat get “more and more sexy by the minute.” Check out the video, above.

Eddy Award Edible Westchester Chef Christian Petroni

Happy Holidays 2017

Happy Holidays 2017!

happy holidays holiday cocktail

I am writing this in the early days of 2018. The holidays have come and gone, and we are all marching forward into the new year. I am reflecting on the year behind me, and looking ahead.

In 2017 I joined a gym. I have never thought of myself as a gym person, but things change. As I peddle and push I watch TED talks and music videos. Sometimes I imagine myself as a super hero, and I am always glad I went.

This December, we traveled to Hornby Island and spent time with my family. My brother and some friends charged into the frigid Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day.

For the year ahead, I look forward to collaborating on exciting photo projects, quality time with my 5-year-old, and laughs with my husband. After today’s TED talk at the gym, I am inspired to spend less time browsing social media, and more time turning the pages of books.

polar bear plunge Hornby Island 2017polar bear plungepolar bear swim 2017bonfire beach
Christmas girl lights happy holidayspacific ocean snowprop plane

How to Prep a Double Crust Pie

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.

How to Prep a Single Crust Pie

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.

Editorial Style Product Photography for PepsiCo

I got a call to do some editorial style product photography for PepsiCo. The shoot was to be at their Research & Development headquarters in Vallhalla, NY. This is the center of the world, as far as PepsiCo goes. I am situated in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, and so much seems to be right down the road from me. These images will be used to promote two new products from PepsiCo: Pepsi Fire and LemonLemon. Food styling was by Laura Kinsey, with prop styling by Kristine Trevino.

Editorial Style Product Photography for PepsiCo

PepsiCo LemonLemon beverage photography

PepsiCo LemonLemon cocktail photography

PepsiCo LemonLemon editorial product photography

PepsiCo LemonLemon product photography

Canoe Hill Restaurant in the Hudson Valley

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.

Canoe Hill Restaurant bar

cherries at bar

homemade butter on toast

lemons in bowl canoe hill restaurant

whole fish on plate

canoe hill restaurant interior

Cooking Julia Child’s Recipes

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.

meat glaze jennifer may food photography
A white stock, which boiled on my stove for two days.

meat glaze jennifer may food photography
The stock, after two days of boiling, before it cooled in the fridge.

meat glaze jennifer may food photography
The meat glaze, after cooling in the fridge overnight.

meat glaze jennifer may photography
The stock, as a red wine reduction. We then used it to make an infused butter.

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.

vegetable soup jennifer may photo
Soupe au Pistou

pistou jennifer may food
The tomato, garlic, parmesan, and fresh basil pistou for the soup

I am working on my baking. Now that I have made “cream puff paste,” I will use that basic recipe and make gnocchis.

onion quiche jennifer may photo
Onion quiche in a “short crust”

cheese puffs julia child jennifer may food photography
Preparing the “cream puff paste” for baking

cooking julia child
Cheese puffs

Easter Weekend

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.

raspberry marshmallows jennifer may food photographer nyc
Making home-made raspberry marshmallows

mince meat tarts easter weekend
Mince-meat tarts

Aperol Spritz Easter Weekend
Aperol Spritz and pastry dough remnants

wood fired pizza
Margherita pizza in the backyard wood-fired pizza oven

Baking Videos for Social Media

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.

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