Category Archives: Travel

My 12th Man…

photoI left Seattle on Saturday night amidst the rabid fervor of a city whose excitement for their team’s opportunity to play for a Super Bowl berth here in my part of the world was bordering on mass hysteria. Flags and jerseys were on everything from grandmas to children to Chihuahuas…Seattle itself was emblazoned in blue and green.  The football fan in me was getting stoked but the Giants fan in me was green with envy.

I was back in Seattle to broadcast another 18 hours of live photography instruction on the education website, creativeLIVE.com. I have done 2 other stints here in Seattle over the past 8 months and this time it was to teach a 3-Day class in Table Top Photography Fundamentals. The first couple of times around I was fully in my wheelhouse teaching Food Photography and Styling, talking about Narrative Storytelling and building and using a Light Table. In preparing for these first classes my notes and anecdotes came very naturally, like the natural light in my studio. The experiences I was recounting were from a place where I have had my greatest successes and felt confident and sure of my ability to deliver.

These next instructional hours came from a very different place. It was pretty evident to my producer, Meg Gayman, that I was not initially thrilled with straying from my original intent to teach more Advanced Techniques in Food Photography. I wanted to stay in my comfort zone and that did not fit the plan that she and Head of Content Craig Swanson had for me. It was going to be Table Top, aimed at a very different audience and I was going to have to dig deep to make it work. My notes and anecdotes did not flow so freely this time. Carving and crafting this material to fit into 18 hours of walking the wire without a net felt much scarier this time around. If last time was a labor of love…this time I felt uneasy, like I did in my early years in education, teaching sex-ed to a room full of smirking teenagers. Thankfully, when it was over, I was exhausted but no longer scared and felt even more rewarded than the first time around. Meg and Craig pushed me further than I have been pushed professionally in quite a while and I am better for the experience. I think our content hit the mark and will stay with our audience for a long while.

Meg, of course, was not alone in ushering me to this place…which leads me back to football in Seattle. Those maniacal fans have a nickname that has gone viral lately and will be on full display these weeks leading to that coveted Super Bowl appearance that the ‘Hawks earned last night with a thrilling victory over their arch-rival 49ers. They are called the 12th Man. For you football novices, the game is played with 11 per side and the fans in Seattle…because of their noise and wild support have adopted the 12th Man moniker. This reflects how their super fandom has led their team to the best home record in the NFL over the past 2 seasons. The team fully acknowledges that they have indeed been inspired and sometimes even aided by the crowd noise. It played out again in last night’s game. The Seattle creativeLIVE Crew was most definitely my personal 12th Man during this past week.

I was still pretty unsteady about this workshop until I walked into the office on Tuesday and then something profound happened. I relaxed. I saw the familiar faces of those I have worked with and some I just know from the casual interactions at the studio. That pressure I felt to carry the show went away with the knowledge that my 12th Man had my back. Everywhere I turned there was someone there to insure the success of these 3 days. From production to camera to sound to catering everyone was on my page. Again, my thanks come directly from the heart. I truly love working with such amazing professionals who are as easy to like, as they are to work with.

With affection and gratitude:

Thanks of course to Arlene, George, Amanda and Celeste for having such confidence in me to keep bringing me back to Seattle.

Meg- Thank you for being a force under that little voice and sweet smile. It didn’t fool me for one second. You are a hurricane and I’m glad you are on our team.

Craig- Thanks for pushing me. One can only know what we are capable of once we get to the edge.

Lindsay- I felt reassured every time I looked over at you off set. Our conversations always made me feel like just being myself on camera would never betray me.

John- I cannot express fully what your presence there meant to me. You were kind of the deal breaker…I’m not sure I would have ever had been as comfortable with this material without you.

Darcy- The set only happens to look like a place familiar and comfortable for me to work in because of your vision and sensitivity. Thank you so much for taking the time and putting in the careful effort to give me my tools. Your input was invaluable.

Kate- sourcing and wrangling all of that gear was by no means a small endeavor. We navigated every issue seamlessly and that was in big part to how hard you worked to get us prepared.

Dan’Yelle- your instincts for styling and propping were only matched by your efficiency. You kept me moving, hydrated and happy on set. You were the glue (or the gaffers tape)

Jim & Cathy- you both are so much fun to work with. Striking that balance between education and entertainment is never easy but it comes so naturally to you both. You guys were my screen pass…I could always go to it when I was in trouble.

Will, Willy, Sam, Tracy, Noah, Boone and Riley- thanks for making it look dynamic and as beautiful as humanly possible with a middle-aged bald man for a subject. You guys really do operate in Beast Mode.

Kellen- in spite of your epic miscalculation of playing One Direction in Studio A when the father of a teenage girl is trying to get in a good head space…you still make me smile and I love how you work. The sound was terrific in spite of me smacking the mic constantly.

Caitlin- whenever anyone sneaks up on me from now on I will expect one of you to be behind me with a LAV, some tape and about 3 seconds to get it done.

Thanks also to go Tyler in the booth. The sound when we had 6 people on set talking could not have been an easy navigation.

Thanks to Nikoma for making me significantly less shiny. I sat next to Snooki on the plane ride home and wondered how we were on the opposite spectrum of what people in your field have to deal with.

Carolyn- having specific needs, especially my food needs met when working is so important… thanks for putting up with yet another pain in the neck eater.

Thanks to our students: Paola, Katherine, Natalia, Robert, Mike, Leah and Danielle. It is always so refreshing to have smart, energetic people in front of me when I am teaching. I know it cannot be easy to sit there, on camera for that long and look interested, engaged and excited. I am honored to have had you all in this class. You were all wonderful and your work on Day 3 was outstanding.

And to everyone else at cL that I see and speak to and joke and bond with, thanks. You make Seattle feel like home.

You are all certainly my personal 12th Man.

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Filed under creativeLIVE, Photography, Seattle, Travel

Thursday Night on Mulberry St…

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Sometimes you just need to rant. And rant I will.

Late Thursday night I was walking with my muse, right hand and trusted creative conspirator, Soo Jeong. Hungry and heading toward the dive noodle shop on Grand St. we like to go to for our Chinatown fix, I was in a good mood. The air was cooler than it had been than in the last few nights, we had seen a fun movie and we were looking forward to cheap steaming bowls of brothy noodles. And then the wheels started to come off.

We didn’t realize how late it had gotten as we were greeted by the owner with that resigned look of, “sorry, we are closing”. We thought…hey…this is NY..no problem. A fine thought if we were anywhere but Chinatown on a weeknight where the streets resemble any small town after 10pm…closed storefronts and deserted streets. So we wandered. As we got hungrier we ended up strolling up Mulberry Street. I make it a rule never to eat at touristy places and as the sidewalk hawkers were crowing about their ‘authentic” Italian menus, I was not swayed in the slightest. And then the critical mistake was made.

Soo playfully asked this fire hydrant of a man outside one of the cafes if they had stuffed artichokes. He of course started to wax poetic about how wonderful they were and where we would like to sit. Sitting was not an option in my mind but I could tell by the look in Soo’s face that she had been overcome by hunger, curiosity and the lure of easy eats. Stuffed artichokes are also her kryptonite…so I was resigned to the fact that I was about to break one of my cardinal rules. So we sat.

I made what I thought were pretty safe choices considering I was setting the bar pretty low in terms of expectations. Rigatoni and eggplant with marinara and mozzarella. Rather hard to screw up…especially since this was Little Italy…or so I thought.

I am bothered the bridge and tunnel crowd on date night in The City. I sneer at the cigar smoking wanne be’s on the sidewalk strutting around like they are Gotti in the 80′s. I roll my eyes at the tourists, drunk and loudly proclaiming their love of all things I-talian. My blood begins to simmer as the roving accordion player rocks out “O Solo Mio”, “That’s Amore” and a stirring rendition of the Theme from the Godfather.

What sets me over the edge is bad food and what I find absolutely infuriating is bad Italian food. This food was abominable. To call this Italian food was a disgrace to anyone with even a drop of Italian blood flowing through their veins. Our ancestors who called what is left of this neighborhood home are rolling over in their graves. To see what these business owners are holding out their as our culture, our food and our heritage makes me sick to my stomach.

I left so irritated and physically bothered by the experience that I needed to rant. Please, for the love of all things sacred never…ever…come to New York and visit ANY of the so-called Italian restaurants on Mulberry Street looking for Italian food. I am sure not all of them will serve you food as bad as what I had the other night but the kitsch and triviality of it all is too much to take. You want Italy…go to Italy. You want Italian food…go to a reputable Italian restaurant…or a family owned business…or stay home and make it yourself from a good cookbook with good ingredients. I can recommend places in all 5 boroughs that will at least serve you something that resembles effort and care if not a gourmet experience. Stay out of the tourist traps and the places that treat Italian culture and food like some sort of horrible caricature. Please.

I’d like to say I feel better…but I don’t. I’m just as angry as I was the other night writing this but at least now maybe some of you won’t make the same mistake we made Thursday night on Mulberry Street.

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Filed under Italy, Restaurants, Travel

SF Follow Up…

I have so many reasons to want to visit San Francisco. I have been visiting there since I was 12. My uncle and mentor, George, was one of the originals of the Haight Ashbury crowd back in the late 60′s and has never left. I have wonderful friends there including Foodwishes.com’s Chef John and his wonderful wife, SFQ’s Michele and my buddy Alexis from Fearless Critic. Even my pal, former SF denizen, Pichet Ong makes his influence felt when he’s not around paving the way for great restaurant reservations and recommendations via constant texts and emails. It truly feels like a home away from home.

This visit was obviously  business related and the workshops I was teaching at the terrific Contigo Restaurant went superbly. We were blessed by the weather gods and it was almost too sunny and warm to use the beautiful outdoor atrium at our venue. But all this being said, it was the reaction of the participants that was the most gratifying part of my trip.

Both our Saturday and Sunday groups were engaged, energetic and worked hard physically and creatively to make great pictures.

Both groups embraced the difficulties of shooting ugly foods, absorbed the information I was sharing about the business of photography and stood tall during the critiques of their work at our conclusion. This last part may have been the hardest and most daring. Consider handing over your card of unedited, unprocessed images to be critiqued by a teacher and group of other photographers. The thought of it even makes me sweat. I applaud their willingness to grow and learn and put ego and self consciousness aside for the sake of their art. Bravo!

One of our participants, Paola Thomas, wrote a terrific breakdown of what we did on Sunday and included her shots and how they were related to what we were learning.

Some of our other shooters were:

Stephen from Kitchen Beard

Natasha from Non-Reactive Pan

Irvin from Eat The Love

Annelies from La Vie En Plat

Anonymous SF Food Blogger Tummy Morsels

Kimberley from Edible San Francisco

Johanna from Low Sodium Blog

Marjorie from This Is My Dinner

Lydia Chen & Craig Lee

Thanks to all and thanks to Foodista and Andie Mitchell for publicizing the event.

Stay tuned for our next event scheduled for late June in Seattle and my debut workshop in my newly refurbished NY studio in July. And…don’t forget IFBC in Portland in August.

PHOTO CREDIT: Paola Thomas

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Filed under Food Photography Workshops, Photography, Travel

FFT# 146 Lettuce Turnip the Beet…

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Filed under FFT Food For Thought, Photography, Travel

FFT# 141 Gratuitous Food Porn 39

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FFT# 137 C’mon Y’all it’s Time to Get Nice…

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Faithful…

This sign is attached to Rick Gencarelli’s Lardo Food Truck in Portland, Oregon.  His Meatball Bahn Mi was the single best bite of food I ate while there. It was really incredible. I, upon my return to PDX will indeed go back to Praise the Lard. Amen.

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Korean Food on the Come…

Most days there is always a chance that Korean food will play some role in my day. It is pretty predictable that I will be eating at least some Korean food every day. It’s as ingrained in my life as the Italian food of my childhood. Last night, though, Korean food provided me with a unexpected evening of intellectual discovery and culinary innovation.

I began the night at the Time Life building for a  screening of Marja & Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new PBS show, The Kimchi Chronicles. The show which can be seen Sundays at 4pm on WNET NY and is about the amazing personal journey of Marja, as she rediscovers her Korean roots. Her love and respect for her birthplace and the foods she only became aware of after reconnecting with her Korean birth mother at age 19 are profound. The show jumps back and forth between her journeys in Korea and her NY kitchen where she and JG (as she affectionately calls him) instruct and experiment with Korean foods.

I found the show doing exactly what the show’s producer, Eric Rhee, commented on during the subsequent Q&A; bringing a heightened awareness of Korean cuisine to the masses. Their desire to take Korean cuisine off of 32nd street and into the mainstream is coming at exactly the right time.

Directly from the screening we headed to Danji, a new Korean tapas restaurant oddly placed in the theater district. My mind was still filled with the images of Korea and bubbling cauldrons of stews and steaming bibimbap, so I was dubious of the slickly appointed non-traditional layout of the restaurant. My doubts were quickly laid to rest as I spooned that first bite of crusted tofu into my mouth. The flavors of Korea were all there but with a refinement and flare that belied traditional preparations. It was the exemplar of what Eric and Marja and Jean-Georges have set out to do…bringing Korean food the next level.

Some would say that this is what David Chang has been doing at his now monolithic Momofuku franchise but he has staunchly refused the label of Korean chef. Chef Hooni Kim has no such reservations, and it shows, as he flawlessly marries the classic French training he received at FCI, his baptism by fire in the kitchen at Daniel and his Korean upbringing.

His food is a revelation as he plays fearlessly with Korean ingredients and flavors, French preparations and even the Spanish tradition of tapas. His “paella” is one of the most inventive takes on classic bibimbap I have yet to encounter. He wok fries the rice then adds the kimchi and chorizo for heat and protein, tops it with a fried egg and serves on a searing platter. He pulls influences from all over the globe to make this a truly international bibimbap. It was fantastic. The short rib, pork belly sliders, and especially the whelk salad are equally revelatory.

The revolution is indeed underway. Korean food is coming of age in America and people like Marja & Jean-Georges, Eric and Hooni are on the front lines. Tune in to the show….get hungry…and then check out the beginning of the future at Danji…it will open your eyes.

Marja was invariably asked if her husband intended to open a Korean themed restaurant. She did not rule it out. His experimentation with the ingredients and flavors on the show lead me to believe this is a distinct possibility. That may just be the push that truly brings this cuisine the respect it rightly deserves.

PHOTO CREDITS: PBS and The Village Voice

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Seattle Photography Workshop 6/7-6/8

I will be teaching a Food Photography Workshop in Downtown Seattle beginning one week from today. I am being hosted by none other than the Seattle Bon Vivant herself, Myra Kohn. I will be teaching for 2 days, each class being 4 hours long (9am-1pm) and covering the outline listed below. You can sign up simply by going to PayPal.com and making a payment of $150 to sundaysauce@gmail.com. I can send you the address upon registration. You can sign up for June 7th or 8th. We are capped at 15 spots per day. Some sign-ups have already happened on Twitter and Facebook but spots are available. Please email me if you have any questions.

Andrew

WORKSHOP OUTLINE:

I Discussion (1 Hour)

  • Introduction
  • AV Presentation
  • Equipment, technique and approach to daylight food photography
  • Styling tips and prop selection

II Practical (5 groups of 3 working together on practical shooting scenarios) 2 Hours

Food Porn Approach

Taking Table Setting Shots in Small Spaces

Graphic Depiction Approach (aka The Ugly Food Dilemma)

Difficult Lighting Solutions

III Review and Q&A (1 Hour)

Review Practical

View Photos

Discuss Editing and Processing

The goal of these 4 hour workshops is to give people of any skill level the basic knowledge and confidence to improve their food photography. With a need for not much beyond a camera, some basic light manipulation tools and a better understanding of what makes food pictures evocative and beautiful, participants will hopefully come away with the skills to make better food pictures.

Equipment:

Digital Camera

Light discs, scrims and small and large black and white cards (if possible)

Tripod (if you own one)

Any personal props you would like to style with”

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Gilt-y Weekend Fare…

Gilt Taste has a 3 story arc that includes some terrific recipes from Melissa Clark and Dave Wondrich that will surely give you some extra inspiration to eat and drink (as if you needed any more) fantastically this Memorial Day weekend. Go check them out before you do that shopping…you won’t want to miss out.

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Filed under Food Writing, Photography, Travel, Wine and Spirits, With Recipes