We were living in Korea and I was going to an American school.
I can’t remember my teacher’s name.
But I can remember the day when my teacher, whose name might have started with a G, was writing on the blackboard and explaining that a desert only has one “s.”
But a dessert has two, because you always want more dessert than desert.
She was right. I have always wanted more dessert than desert… or anything else really.
But today I learned that after spending all day photographing just five desserts, for the Town Hall cook book, eventually, even I did not want more dessert… well at least for a few hours. Knowing that I wasn’t permanently cured of my insatiable sweet tooth, I boxed up the leftovers and took them home, so I would be prepared when the cravings for more dessert returned.
Huge thanks to my very stylish and talented friend, Bridget, for making the day and process so much sweeter.
In my interview for a book proposal with the guys responsible for Town Hall, a restaurant in San Francisco, one of them asked me, “So, are you a food photographer, is that what you do?’
I said, “No, I photograph people.”
Maybe that isn’t the best response when you are interviewing to take photos for a cookbook… but I am a horrible liar.
I explained that I photograph people, but because I lived on a farm for a year and a half, I have taken photos of food, but usually, that food is still on the farm and being held by the farmer. I showed them what food photos I have and they agreed to give me a chance, because they like “messy.”
I was not offended. I would say my photos are pretty messy. I don’t do much fussing or arranging; I just take the photos.
That being said, on the day of the shoot, I suddenly got nervous when Mitch asked, “So what do you want to do?” I didn’t have any preconceived ideas. All I knew was, I was supposed to show comfort food in a comfortable and urban setting… which was the restaurant. I started thinking that I needed a stylist, I couldn’t do this alone… and I needed lights… but I didn’t have either of those.
So, I took a deep breath and gave myself a pep talk and started looking for good spots of light throughout the restaurant. All we needed for the proposal were eight photos… I could do eight photos.
After I relaxed, and the food started coming, and the fog started burning… it all came together. I had lots of fun and I felt really good about what we accomplished. But the best part of it all was I got to eat that bowl of yumminess at the bottom. Toffee, chocolate and butterscotch equals pure comfort in my book.
On June 16th, I was in San Francisco hanging out in the kitchen of the restaurant Town Hall, so I could have a better understanding of the food and space for our upcoming photo shoot for their book proposal. When, Mitch, one of the owners and chefs, suggested that I come down and take a photo of him and his brother Steven, with their former employer, Wolfgang Puck, at the restaurant Postrio, in Union Square.
I didn’t know much about Postrio, I had never been there before, and I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to celebrities. I had heard of Wolfgang Puck, but I couldn’t really tell you much about him either… so I didn’t really know what to expect. I only knew what I was told, which was: this was a restaurant that had been open for some time and they were having two closing dinners… tickets for the occasion sold out in 30 minutes… and there were very long waiting lists to get in.
So I showed up and took a few photos of the chefs prepping for the night and then decided to head home for the day.
As I got my things ready to leave, Steven informed me that Wolfgang said they would pay me to stay for the rest of the night and the next night too, if I would take photos of this important occasion. Mentally, logistically and physically I was not prepared for this assignment. I did not have enough memory cards or a flash, and I was wearing jeans in a very formal restaurant… but I could sense this was an important occasion that needed to be documented… and that I had a very unique opportunity… so of course I said yes.
And my sense was right… it was a pretty incredible bittersweet reunion filled with very hard work, lots of white chef coats, old friends and colleagues, dedicated patrons, sweat, conversation, tears, hugs, laughter, celebrities, lots of wine and good food.
My favorite part of the night was meeting the different generations of amazing chefs who worked at the restaurant over the years and who now live all over the country and run their own restaurants. These chefs returned to Postrio for the finals nights and worked for free, just to be a part of this occasion.
I also met customers who had been coming every Saturday night since the restaurant opened and waiters who had been working there for the same amount of years. I met my first celebrity, a very nice and humble man, who has not been affected by his popularity, and who made so many people smile as he walked around and talked to every person in the room. And I got a glimpse of other local celebrities, including the former SF Mayor Willie Brown, with his entourage, and the William of William and Sonoma.
It was a real community… built around good food and wine. The room was filled with people who knew and loved each other.
I have worked in quite a few restaurants, but there is not a single one that I would ever want to return to, even if it were closing down forever. I was told it was the end of an era for San Francisco, and after my two nights at Postrio, I certainly believe it.
This is what celebrating Independence should be… well, really it is all for my dear friend Michelle’s Annual Wine Country Birthday Bash… but it just so happens it is the same weekend as the 4th. If ever there was someone who should have been born on the holiday known for barbecuing… it is Michelle. Happy Birthday, Michelle!
The Rollei added another light leak this time on Anne’s shoulder, so I played in photoshop again… this time I copied my favorite friend Thomas’s trick and added a lens flare filter… if he can do it, then so can I. It looks looks a little odd, but it is just a desperate attempt to save a fun photo.
My second gig for the PR company while I was in London, was photographing Vapiano, a new restaurant near Oxford Circus. Still no flash, but this time, thanks to the two-story wall of windows and the color red, it was much easier to photograph than the yogurt factory that I photographed a couple of hours earlier that day.
The hardest thing about the shoot was to convince the unsuspecting patrons to let me photograph them while they were eating. London is not the most photography friendly city. I have found that Londoners, as a huge sweeping generalization, are not into having their photo taken. I am not sure whether it is because it is their last shred of control over their image, after having every move documented by the thousands of surveillance cameras all over the city, or just the humble nature that is a part of their culture. Whatever the case, it is not as easy to photograph strangers as it is here in the: I-want-to-be-famous United States. But luckily, I was able to talk a few people into allowing me to unobtrusively document their Vapiano experience that day.
My last Friday in Reidville, my favorite fireman Tim Brady took me out to lunch at Joe’s Lake. And I am so glad he did because besides being a local favorite hang out, it was another good lesson.
I was feeling pretty confident after having a 99% success rate of gaining permission to photograph everyone who I wanted to photograph. So I thought I had this one in the bag, especially because I was coming in with a local, but as I was setting up to take a photo of a woman talking with Tim, she said, “no,” and then her husband, the owner, who I wanted to photograph next said, “no,” and the man at the counter said, “no”…….and all of a sudden I was back at square one…..
So I realized that all those hours I spent talking with people before photographing, was essential. For each person I photographed this summer, I spent between 1-2 hours asking questions and listening, so when I eventually asked to take a photograph, they said, “yes”…….and now I was sauntering in assuming these people would love me like everyone else, but they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them…..so I rightfully got denied….except by this guy who is very proud to be from Sugar Tit…..the very small community next to Reidville (but Tim told me it was partly because he was in a car accident and still wasn’t quite all there.)
Then after Joe’s Lake, I was back to the nursing home one last time to re-shoot the Reidville sister-in-laws who were neighbors in Reidville and now share a room in the nursing home.
Re-shoot because the first shoot was horrible: one of them was tired and I was too cautious to request them to move around. So instead, I saved the awkwardness for when I had to call and ask to come and try again. But this time was much better. They both had just had their hair done, and a niece was there to help. The niece was very complimentary as well, she said she was impressed with how hard I worked this summer because she had seen me all over town, and that if I needed a testimony in order to get a good grade, she would be happy to volunteer.
My lesson this time: do better to make it work the first time, but if it doesn’t work out….do it again.
going to the NASCAR restaurant with my mom and brother was like going to the sons of the confederates’ meeting with my dad…..both very inappropriate and very funny. But when my mom replied in her most serious poker voice, “NASCAR,” when we asked where we should go eat, we had no choice but to go to NASCAR. While neither venue had much to offer vegetarians, I have to say the NASCAR restaurant was more annoying because of the sensory and noise overload. Every table has a tv in addition to the 3 or 4 huge tv screens and many more smaller ones on the wall. I asked our waiter how many tvs there were and he said he had no idea but at least more than thirty. He is a high school teacher and is not interested in NASCAR but he said it was a good enough summer job and he could change the channels on the tvs at his tables and watch other sports when he wanted to.
I started my Waffle House Tour 2007 in Lancaster, PA. For those who don’t know, I believe the Waffle House is a place to find community in our chain restaurant reality. Because community is my motivating force, one of my projects I have been wanting to do for many years is to document community within the WH establishments and this summer I hope to work on that in my free time….or if other projects don’t pan out.
Kisha and Carlos helped served us at the WH on Dillerville Rd in Lancaster, PA. I ate grilled cheese, sweet tea and then my brother and I had to try the new chocolate chip waffles for dessert. Kisha’s favorite artist on the jukebox is Shakira and the biggest event to happen in this WH was when Cylo the mascot for the Barnstormers, Lancaster’s baseball team, came to visit the restaurant.