Friday, December 28, 2012

Restaurant Critic: Craig LaBan

Was food always your calling?

No. Although I always enjoyed eating. My mom cooked but it was not a communal activity.  I really didn’t connect with food until my college years. I was a French major in college and lived in France for three years. During my time there I was more involved with the music industry. I did land a job as a translator at La Varenne, a culinary school in France. It started in Paris then I moved with it to Northern Burgundy. I eventually returned to the States and lived in Boston freelance writing about food. I went to journalism school to learn more about the craft of being a good reporter, worked my way up through small papers covering communities, and eventually came back to food writing and restaurant criticism at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

Where are you originally from?

I’m from the suburbs of Detroit. I attended University of Michigan. I’m proud of my Michigan roots. In my experiences you move around a lot for journalism.

Since returning to the Inquirer as restaurant critic in ’98 what has been your biggest “surprise” in food breakthrough in Philadelphia? What stuck with you even up to today?

There was no one big surprise. The city and its dining scene happened organically. It’s really stunning and exciting to watch and to be immersed in the scene. In 1998 Stephen Starr opened Buddakan. Then there was the arrival of Marc Vetri, the BYOB’s, Jose Garces, and the gastropub craft beer movement took place. Philadelphia has blossomed into a desirable place for young chefs. They have infused it with a new sophistication. The last couple years we have continued to move forward and it’s growing even faster.

Are you allergic to any food?

Any food critics you looked up to? Read about?

Food critics tend to be very reclusive – so I don’t get many opportunities to gather with colleagues. Among those I admire from afar, though, is Jonathan Gold from the Los Angeles Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. He’s a fantastic and witty writer who embodies the spirit of adventure and discovery that is the best part of food writing. He has the ability to dig through the ethnic neighborhoods and find the hidden insider gems. Pete Wells for The New York Times is a real pro. Alan Richmond is a funny writer. Calvin Trillin, the legendary writer for The New Yorker, also the author of “Alice Let’s Eat,” was very influential.

A wish list city you could review?

Tokyo, Japan. I love traveling. Also on my list is Shanghai.

What is your opinion on the Layover episode with Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia? Was it accurate?

I was actually pleasantly surprised. I don’t watch much food TV because it’s very “fluffy". I thought the Layover episode was smart and accurate. However any 43min show will miss things. The episode showed the diversity of Philadelphia. There was a complete omission of Jose Garces, which was a shame because he has had so much to do with the food scene in Philadelphia. Jose needed to be mentioned and he wasn’t. Overall, though, it was a fun show and captured the pulse and attitude of the city. No cliches.

Any style of restaurant or food you would like to see in Philadelphia? See more of?

Better Thai food. Middle Eastern food is also very lame around here with the exception of Zahav. We can have regional variations on that. Same with Japanese. What would be great to have, but will be very hard to re-create, is to explore more of our own history, to take the old traditions and make new restaurant versions of that.

Favorite night to go out?

There are multiple nights I go out and all for different reasons. But never on a Saturday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Food Stylist: Carolyn Schirmacher

B.T.S. Video Link to Carolyn 

1. How did you get into styling? 

I think it was my destiny which evolved out of being raised in a foodie family.  My mother was a food tech and taught me the chemistry of cooking as I was growing up. She was in PR/ Marketing for a state wide grocery chain in Wisconsin. She had a local cooking show in the early seventies and was a talented homemaker. Since my degree was in Art and Clothing/Textile design, I learned how to manipulate materials and fell in love with the creative process and the art of making. I  I was offered a job in Chicago with a national food/ home magazine, "Cuisine Magazine" in the mid seventies. At the time it was a cutting edge mag being distributed internationally.
    I was listed on the mast head as "Photography Stylist" but wore many production and editorial hats including assisting the contracted Food Stylists. I had the privilege to work with some really top photographers and Food Stylists.
    When Cuisine folded, I moved to Portland Oregon for the lifestyle. The photo industry was in its infancy at that time here. I had to explain to many Photographers what a stylist was and what I could do for them. Expectations were low, so when asked if I could style food, I just said yes and met the challenges as they presented themselves.

2. How did you get into photography?

I think that was also a destiny card, but was raised in a time when it was a man's profession, so I just kept discarding it as a professional option. As an artist, my drawing skills were limited and photography became a medium to express myself. The phone was always ringing booking me to style, shooting just kept getting side tracked. Eventually after so many photographers told me I should be shooting, it started to sink in that I felt underemployed at times as a Stylist. Also, for years I saw a huge need for more of a feminine perspective. I lacked confidence in my technical ability as a photographer nor had the financial means to buy the equipment. Martha Stewart eventually jumped on it. The economic times have played a factor in my expanding my services to include photography too. Just too many projects didn't come through because the budget couldn't cover the costs of a Food Stylist so the photographer did their own styling.
I have cut my teeth on shooting my husbands custom ceramic lamps which are represented to the Interior Design trade. They are the perfect object to learn to sculpt light as they are round and shiny. I am still very much trying to find my voice and feel fluid as a professional photographer, but feel confident now that I can deliver the quality of work I want to put out there.

3. Which has had you travel the farthest from Oregon? 

Styling product. When I was on staff with Cuisine Mag, they sent me from Chicago to British Columbia, most of the travel stories though I was packing a bag of props for the Art Director to take with her then staying at home to produce and style other stories. In the nineties I had an agency with a window account that sent me all over the US and Canada, destination spots like Aspen and Santa Fe, to art direct and style luxury homes.

4. Where did you go for inspirations on styling? 

Over the years there has always been published works from some great talent that has been inspirational or affirming. Currently there seems to be a lot of new young talent emerging. The lists is long and considering it's a collaborative profession, I doubt if one could attribute the end results to just one person. For photography:

5. For the food you are styling how close to the recipe do you stay?  

For editorial, if the recipe is not very photogenic I will make recommendations to the client in how it can be presented to read better to camera. Then either the recipe is revised or a serving suggestion is given. Some clients will pull me into the development stage when introducing a new product. This is ideal. If it is a product, usually it is a matter of breaking down the prep to meet the demands of the production so that all aspects of the products characteristics will read better to camera. I believe anything can be photogenic if technically well styled and the lighting is gorgeous. The only real change I will suggest to a client is when a main ingredient is hidden, then we will manipulate the build to make it visible. This can happen on pizzas. Garnishes are another solution for visually communicating key ingredients.

6. For the motion work did you find it more difficult or easier to style than your still work? 

Yes, they both have their challenges. It get's down to expectations,  priorities, budget and how big it will be as a final image or how fast it will be moving on the screen. I just did a TV commercial where the agent wanted the product to look as perfect as if it were a still shot. Of course the budget was tight and my assistant was a PA. Though a conundrum, there is always a solution to how to make it happen. For still, now we have photoshop which is almost cheating compared to the food shoots before we went digital. Then there was retouching, but the Food Stylist  had to confirm if the detailing was to be perfected on set or was there some budget for retouching. In still, if an image is going to be a large poster or billboard then even the simplest element can demand a lot of time to get the details perfect. If motion there is that issue of quantity vs. time vs. expectations.

7. When did you know you were able to take off and work for yourself? 

I built my confidence up working on staff with Cuisine Magazine. When I left there I had a full portfolio and a client base of photographers ready to hire me as a freelancer. It was an ideal situation. Again, I got into the business as a Food Stylist when the industry expectations were lower. The benchmarks were still being established as they continue to be.  As a photographer though, I am still trying to feel out my comfort zone of whom I should approach for work. I have had some rather large projects and know enough to cover myself with a strong technical assistant. One thing I have learned is that it takes a team.
8. Are there any dream clients you want to work with? 

As a Food & Photo Stylist  I feel very fortunate to have lived my dream. I left a major market to live in a second city realizing that my career would be limited but I wanted the quality of life Portland had to offer. I still managed to work on national projects. Now I just wish for a stronger economy so there are more good clients  and enough work to go around. I get a lot of calls from young people who want to be a Food Stylist. From what I can see the profession is changing and there is less demand for technical food styling. Regionally, editorial rarely has the budget to use a food stylist and depends on the photographer with a chef. This is another reason why I decided I needed to start shooting.

9. Tool you can’t live without? 

My bonsai tweezers; hand wrought steel, great action, nice weight and have a flat head making it easy to maneuver and less damaging to fragile items. Commercial clothes steamer with customized interchangeable nozzles for selective steaming, and hand held broilers for cooking on set. My yellow rectangular cleaning lady buckets to pack around my kits.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Grace Bonney : Design Sponge

Photo Credit: Peter Yang

1. Has writing always been your passion?

My favorite toy as a child was a typewriter. As an only child, it always felt like the best way to entertain myself and find an outlet for my imagination.

2. Working for so many notable publications what was your sign to know you could start a online blog on your own?

 I started the blog well before I started writing for publications. When I started D*S magazines like Domino and Blueprint didn't exist yet, so I really only thought of my blog as a fun hobby. When the home/lifestyle niche blew up big time it became clear that their might be a job in there if I worked at it hard enough.

3. How did you find contributors? Did you use resources from your prior publications?

I found my contributors by hiring people I was fans of or already knew as friends. I wanted to find people I trusted and could let go to do their own thing without needing much guidance.

4. The blog is almost 9 years old, did you expect this to grow so much? What were your biggest surprises?

Absolutely not- I thought it would be a fun hobby until I got the guts to apply for a job at a magazine and even though that came to pass, I kept the blog the whole time and, knock on wood, it's lasted longer than a lot of my favorite magazines.

5. Do you see yourself starting something else beyond the blog? Anything in the works?

I'd always love to open a charity wing of Design*Sponge. Animal rights, world hunger and helping military families are a big passion of ours, so I'd love to find a way to give back more on a regular basis.

6. When did you start the D S Biz Lady Series? What made you decide that?

That was inspired by an informal Biz Ladies dinner at my friend Rena Tom's house (she owned Rare Device then and now works at- and founded- Makeshift Society). Rena invited us over for drinks and some casual moral support (all the guests ran their own businesses) and I mentioned it on the blog as a great way to get advice and feedback. People asked me to create one so I did. Then I turned it into a 10 city national meetup one year (I funded it on my own) and then, when travel became too costly, turned it into a weekly free advice column.

7. Has social media played a large role in your business?

Until recently it hasn't played a huge part. I only really got into twitter two years ago, so it's been something I've slowly learned to love and embrace as a place to be more casual and talk about things other than design.

8. Where are you originally from? Will New York always be your home?

I'm from Virginia Beach, VA. I love the south but I think I'm pretty much a New Yorker (more specifically, a Brooklynite) now.

9. Who inspires you? Do you have anyone on your wish list to contribute to Design Sponge?

I'm inspired right now mainly by people who really put themselves on the line for their work- musicians, comedians, chefs- people who make their personality and their passion a major part of what they do.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The New York Times: El Mariachi

You would never think in the depths of Trenton, NJ you would find such an authentic, amazing Mexican restaurant. The food writers at The New York Times have found it. I had a great experience shooting for them and had the opportunity to try the dishes after I photographed them.

You would easily drive by this place if you didn't know where to look. The interior was a little out of date but that didn't stop people from coming in.

You can get the whole article here:

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Wall Street Journal: The Mildred

Screen shot from website

I had the opportunity to shoot a new and very interesting restaurant located in the Bella Vista area for The Wall Street Journal in Philadelphia. Michael Santoro chef and owner has a impressive background in his cooking endeavors leading up to the opening of The Mildred. They serve the majority of their entrees in cast-iron Staub French ovens. Slow cooking is a signature method of cooking they have here. I photographed their vertical pheasant which is being served. 

Friday, November 16, 2012



Last Weekend we wanted to go out some where we haven’t been. I didn’t feel like changing into something nice so what came first on our list was Cooperage. My parents wanted to take us there back in the summer but I wasn’t feeling it and we decided on some where else. So it left it limbo for another date.

Joe and I went last Saturday night, on a decent cool evening. We were both hungry and very thirsty so once we got there the draft list was first on mind. I had the last of their Ocktober Fest beer and Joe had a IPA. The list was good but not extensive. It was also more of a whiskey bar even though it didn't feel like it. For the appetizer the waitress recommend their fried calamari dish. Main entree I ordered their signature Coop’s Burger done medium with sauteed mushrooms and sweet potato fries. Joe had their black bean burger and side salad.

As for the fried calamari dish I was impressed. What made it so good was their house made side dip and the fried rings AND tentacles. (those are my favorite) The scallop style dish it came out on was very appropriate but in the same instance stood out from the entire look of the restaurant. Cooperage even in the name has a dark earthy feel. The bright white plates and overly lit atmosphere stood out like a sore thumb. The iron base tables worked though. Also the dollar store salt n pepper shakers were a bummer.

The Coop’s burger came out perfect and the sweet potato fries as of right now are my favorite in the city. Originally I was a fan of Good Dog’s but these were perfect and bright orange. Honestly they could be frozen Alexandra’s but until I know they are the best!!!

Joe’s black bean burger was also great and the light lemon vinaigrette dressing just tossed with the Mediterranean mix was good.

Overall the food and presentation was good. The atmosphere when walking in and a couple decoration points were a little off. I would go back again but more for a lunch date than a evening out.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

1-2 cups of cleaned, dried pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons of melted butter or olive oil

seasoning salt




Preheat oven to 300 degrees

In a large bowl mix the butter or olive oil with the seeds.
Pour in remaining ingredients until covered.

Distribute pumpkin seeds evenly on tray.

Let cook for 45min or until golden brown

Every 15 min check on seeds and mix around.

Enjoy as a snack or on your salad!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Food Stylist: Katie Christ

Katie Christ

Does any one else in your family have a passion for food like you?  
 My older brother started cooking in professional kitchens at age 17.  He's traveled a lot and is a terrific global cook.  Between the two of us, we've hit a lot of countries, cultures and cuisines.  It's fun sharing what we learn with each other.

Where are you originally from? Was traveling a culture shock to you? What was your favorite place you visited?  
I grew up in So California and we did a lot of family trips to Baja  I was fortunate to be exposed to another culture and language early in life. When I traveled to Europe for the first time as a teenager and it was like a bright new world had been opened to me.  I think I've just always been a very curious person.  I've been to so many incredible places since and had so many phenomenal experiences  --including living in Paris and Mali, West Africa. A couple of recent experiences that really stand out are Naoshima island in Japan, the Allora and Ajunta caves in India, cruising the Mekong river in Laos and camping in the Sahara desert near Timbuktu for the music festival.

While at Citizen Cake what was the most challenging pastry?  
[Lauging] The hardest thing for me still, to this day, is to not boil over a pot of cream on the stove.  Seriously.  I had such amazing mentors in that kitchen and they truly made everything attainable for me. I loved my time there.  I learned so much.

Working on the show Top Chef would you say that was more challenging than working in a real kitchen or about the same?  
Working in a professional kitchen is pretty grueling and working on the show that first season, for me, was even more so.  I was the Culinary Producer on the first season and we were laying the foundation for the show from the ground up.  The culinary team consisted of just two of us.  We did everything from setting up what was essentially a restaurant kitchen to helping develop and produce challenges, set styling, food styling and washing dishes.  It was an insane amount of work -- around the clock, for six weeks.  I slept for nearly 3 days straight after we wrapped.

Who was your first big break through client?  
I'd been assisting food stylists in SF, LA & NY for about a year and a half.  I'd started getting my own styling gigs when I got hired onto a big packaging job for a national grocery store chain that lasted several months.  That was my 'lucky break' that enabled me to transition to doing solely my own thing.

What kind of work do you enjoy styling most? Editorial, advertising, film?  
One of the things I love most about my work is the variety.  In any given month, I can shoot the whole gamut:  editorial, catalog, cookbook, packaging, print ads, video, TV.  Cookbooks and magazines are the most creative we get to be and I love it when clients put together the creative team and let us free to do our thing. It's so gratifying for me to create as a team. I do also really enjoy the technical challenges that ad jobs can present.

On your blog, Gorgeous Grub what do you find yourself writing most about?
Sadly, I don't seem to find the time to write and share my experiences nearly as much as I'd like.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.  I really do love food, travel and photography -- though let me be clear that I make no claims to possessing any photography skills!  I write about food-related adventures or discoveries wherever my travels take me, whether it's around the corner from my house or in another city or country.

Any clients you dream of working with?  
 My fantasy client would send me off to work with cooks/chefs/bakers/pastry chefs all around the globe, styling their creations.  I haven't identified yet who that client is, but maybe they'll read your blog and find me!

Favorite place to eat in San Francisco?    
That's a tough one.  I have a lot of favorites.  There have been so many new, exciting places opening the past couple of years, I sometimes forget about some longstanding treasures.  One of the benefits of having my own blog is that I can keep a running list of the places I really like.   I love checking out the latest restaurant opening and am always on the lookout for inspiration.   I'm really looking forward to the opening of Chocolate Lab, Michael Recchiuti's newest creation.  The list goes on…... I feel so lucky to live in a town with so much creativity and passion that it's virtually impossible to name just one (or 10)!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Boston Globe: Cover Story Photos...

I got a call from one of the photo editors at The Boston Globe who was doing a story on the fickle food shopper. Discussing where people go for what product.

They knew what they wanted in the shot, but as far a final execution that was up for creative interpreting. It was going to be shot on simple white background because they were putting text around the image pointing to the different food items.

I had some ideas for the front cover and inside spread shot (see really bad sketches below) But as long as my food stylist and I knew what those sketches meant, that's all that mattered :)

They needed the photos in two days for text placement and to go to print. We succeeded and you can see below that it worked out well.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Food Stylist: Amy Marcus

1. What made you decide to go to culinary school?
I moved to Italy about a year after graduating from college. I lived with my relatives in Lucca, and then I moved to Florence. I had a boyfriend in Florence and his mother was the most amazing cook! I cooked with her all the time, furiously writing notes, and trying to translate what she was saying from Italian to English. When I returned home to NYC, I decided that I wanted to continue cooking, so I went to culinary school. 

2. Do you have foodies in your family?
Yes Yes and Yes!! Both sides of my family love to eat! I am Jewish and Italian, so it was ingrained in my at a very young age. I grew up on Pasta and homemade sauce, the best!

3. How was your experience working at the foodnetwork?
It was great! I did my internship there from culinary school and then stayed on freelancing for 4 years. I learned so much and just loved it! In fact, I recently started freelancing there again developing recipes. It's been wonderful!

4. Who was your first breakthrough client?
I'd have to say for recipe testing and developing, Martha Stewart Magazine. This was the first place that I actually learned the skills of testing and developing recipes. It was very important to my career. For Food Styling I'd say working for the television show the View and then The Right At Home Website for SC Johnson. They were a wonderful client because I developed the recipes and then styled the food at the photo shoot. I really can't say if I prefer film or stills. They are so different, and I really enjoy doing both. It's so great to have the variety. 

5. How has social media helped your business?
I've definitely met people in my business online whom I never would have come in contact with. I've made so many new contacts. And my name gets passed around more because of it. 

6. Who are your inspirations?
I'd have to say my biggest inspiration was and is my mentor AJ Battifarano. She was the person I started assisting after culinary school. She taught me everything that I know! She is still a wonderful friend and mentor

7. Have you ever traveled for work?
Yes I have, but really only to local places such as Philadelphia and Chicago

8. Dream Client?
I'd love to work for an Italian or French company and have to shoot in either of those places. Just for the local produce alone!!! Not to mention the pasta!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pickled Carrots

**Depending on how many jars you have and what size will dictate how many carrots you can fit in the jars.

I made 3 16 oz jars

I bought a pound of carrots, they were huge so I only fit about 4-5 carrots peeled and cut down.

Also I wanted a little kick so I picked up 8 jalapeno peppers and cut them up between the jars.

3 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of pickling spice

3 cups vinegar and 3 cups of water (between the 3 jars)

I boiled the 3 cups of vinegar and water and let simmer. While that was sitting I cut/peeled the carrots and jalapenos and divided between the jars. Then poured in the pickling spice and a clove of garlic for each jar.

Once divided I poured evenly in the jars the vinegar and water mixture. If they needed to be topped off I added water.

Tightened the lids and put in fridge for up to 3 weeks before opening.


Monday, October 1, 2012

One Million Dollar Ride

 MS 150 City To Shore Ride

I always dedicate this past Friday's post to my LONG weekend of bike riding for a great cause, MS.

The weather was great and the energy of all the volunteers and staff is always inspiring. This year my boyfriend Joe was able to come and grab some shots of me riding ;)

Jersey's Team is SOOO close to raising One Million Dollars. The team has been riding for 13 years. I've only been apart of it for the past 3. It's been great ever since I've joined. Raising awareness for this disease is the number one goal for everyone.

Jersey's Team:

General Info:

You can still donate:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Feastival 2012

Photos From The Night!

The 2012 Feastival was my first. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the event and I knew this was something for me. It brought the best restaurants and chefs together to showcase their best dishes while raising money for the art scene. The Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe have been apart of the city for nearly 16 years. I know the Feastival will become a staple event in the city to continue support for the arts.

Pulling up to the event there were silver painted performers dancing on the top of the Feastival banner and Audi cars lined the front entrance for show. In the entryway of the Pier 9 venue was a huge flashy disco ball... This was going to be a good time.

The venue was packed to capacity with performing artists, food, drinks, and music. Having the list of restaurants before hand helped me navigate to the tables I was looking most forward too. First up was Nick Emli from Rittenhouse Tavern. I’ve had some of his dishes before, but there always really good. He made Rabbit and Fois Gras Croustillant with Concord Grape and Cocoa. Rich, sweet, delicious!

I tried close to 30 tables but I’m not going to write about them all, just the highlights of the night! I was really looking forward to Michael Klein’s daughter’s table; Miss Rachel’s Pantry which is a vegan cafe that does breakfast and lunch. Her dish was a lobster mushroom Mac N Cheese. The choice of macaroni was a big plus because it wasn’t a skimpy little thing. It was just a bite but would definitely be a hearty meal. R2L was always a restaurant I admired. It was probably the art deco of the restaurant and view but the food is very modern and Chef Stern does a nice job at it. Of course his choice of dish that night was a house made pretzel, smoked salmon, shaved red onion with mustard cream cheese. It wasn’t too salty and had a nice balance with the cream cheese. Probably the one dish I had that night that I keep talking about was Eric Ripert 10 Arts table. They served an amazing roasted pork belly, cream grits, with dashi sauce.  I wouldn’t expect anything less. I was getting thirsty by this point and wanted a glass of wine but I wanted to see what Franklin Mortgage was making. I was there once before and love the atmosphere and the sculpting of the drinks but I’m just too girly to handle them. The bartender at the event sold me on their Moko Collins which was actually very refreshing and served large.

Throughout the night performances were taking place and the music was keeping the crowd moving. My fellow friend photographer JJ was there photographing guests and chefs and producing a live feed of photos on a big screen. There were auctions happening and announcements by some local celebs like Ed Rendell. Also Amstel Light one of the large sponsors had a couple photo booths set up for people to have their photo taken.

Other than the food that night the dinnerware it was presented on was so unique and pretty. Verterra who is a new company, specially to the Philadelphia food scene is a compostable dinnerware that is created from only fallen leaves. There are no concerns about plastics, glues, lacquers, veneers or any toxins to leach into foods. I was speaking with the marketing director after the event and he was very impressed and excited about the Philadelphia Feastival and the food scene as a whole. Being located in New York it’s hard to get to Philly but there is a lot of potential here for them, and can bridge the two cities together.

The event as a whole had a lot of great perks beyond the food. I’m already looking forward to next year and the attendees.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Food Stylist: Harry McMann

Photo Credit: Jim Noble

Harry McMann

1. How did you get into food styling?
                I was recruited out of culinary school by a photographer, who had an ongoing project with a supermarket chain. They were fairly simple shots, but high volume. It was a great way for me to get my foot in the door. I liked the work, and discovered a niche that wasn't being filled at the time.

2. Where do you look for inspiration?

                    I subscribe to the usual magazines, Saveur and Donna Hay are a couple of my favorites. But food photography is everywhere. I can't look at a package shot or a TV spot without trying to figure out what they did.

3. You seem to have a lot of hot/prepared food in your portfolio. How much of that is actually hot? How do you make it look hot?

                It's usually not hot. Room temperature works best for most products. You need to keep it looking moist and shiny, that gives the impression that it's fresh and hot. Also steam if it's appropriate.    

4. What is a trick you use to keep the glasses chilled?

            My usual method is to use Rain-X on the glass and then spritz it with a 50-50 mix of glycerine and water. It works best if the glass is brand new.

5. For your ice cream shot, how long did that stay “fresh” on set?

            The ice cream was fake so it will last indefinitely, I use Cool-Whip which is pretty stable. As long as nobody bumps anything, the photographer should have 30-40 minutes to work with it. Of course if you're using real product, it's a different story.
6. What has been the most challenging thing to style?
            People are usually surprised to hear me say that the simplest things are often the most challenging. Things like peanut butter, or oatmeal are difficult to style with and aren't very photogenic to begin with. When you're working with something like that it could be a long day! I've seen more than one photographer pull  their hair out trying to get a good image of a single strawberry.

7. Do you work with an assistant or is it solely you?

    Both. It depends on the size and scope of the project. For film and TV, I usually have assistants because the day moves a lot faster, and I don't want everyone waiting on me. A good assistant is worth their weight in gold.

8. Who is your dream client?   
    My dream client was one that got away. I was approached once about working on a project with Julia Child, but nothing ever became of it. For me, that would have been the ultimate.

9. For your restaurant clients have they been in studio or at a location?

        Both, but it seems that lately I'm working on location more. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I can work either way.

10. Favorite thing to style?
                I hesitate to pick a favorite. I like drinks because when they're shot right, you can get some really cool images. Clients seem to like my burgers and sandwiches, also my ice cream. I live in Maryland so I get a lot of seafood shoots. But It's all good, there aren't many foods that intimidate me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What Is Zabaglione

One of Italy's great gifts to the rest of the world, zabaglione is an ethereal dessert made by whisking together egg yolks, wine (traditionally MARSALA) and sugar. This beating is done over simmering water so that the egg yolks cook as they thicken into a light, foamy custard. Traditional zabaglione must be made just before serving. (There is also a frozen version.) The warm froth can be served either as a dessert by itself or as a sauce over cake, fruit, ice cream or pastry. In France it's called sabayon  or sabayon sauce.  

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Le Macgyver Cordon Bleu

It’s 10:00 at night, your hungry, do you know what your going to make?? 

Easy, the already cooked chicken in the fridge with that other leftover stuff. Just turn the broil on and watch it bubble!

-Two left over pieces of grilled chicken.

-That little serving of shredded swiss cheese in the back of the fridge that could possibly last one more day. And blue cheese (if you have it)


-End of the lunchmeat ham or pepperoni.

Put the chicken on a baking stone and layer with whatever meat product you have.

Sprinkle the swiss cheese over that and crumble any blue cheese you have on top of that.
Take the bread crumbs and sprinkle that on top.

Turn the broil on med-low heat and let cook for about 10-15min.

The crust should turn brown and cheese melted and still heating up the chicken.

You can eat this by itself on a roll or with that last scoop of ice cream in the freezer.

Friday, August 24, 2012

100th Post!!!

This is dedicated to the famous SNL skit Cheezborger Cheezborger!

You can watch the clip here:

I want to thank everyone for making this blog a success and for all the contributors past, present, and soon to be!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Food Stylist: Chris Lanier

1.) How did you get involved in styling?

About 8 years ago, a friend of a friend recommended me to Alison for a job.
She called and asked if I'd like to help out. I had no idea what food styling was then.
I assisted her on a shoot for Williams Sonoma and after that she started calling me for more jobs.

2.) It sounds like you have a cooking background. Did you attend school for that? Self taught?

I went to a small cooking School in Austin TX in a strip mall when I was 18. I worked in restaurants while going to school and continued working in restaurants into my 30's.

3.) Any creatives in your family?

 My family is from a small town in Texas. My Dad was a janitor and also worked in a leather factory. He just retired after many years as a rural mail man. My Mom is a nurse, and my sister is in PR. I am the only one in my family doing anything like this.
Everyone thought it was a little weird that I wanted to become a chef but they all supported me. My inspiration to become a chef came from my Mom and Grandmother who were both amazing cooks.

4.) What kind of farm do you own in upstate New York?

My fiancĂ© and I own a four acre former goat and horse farm in the Catskills. We are in the process of converting the property into a vegetable farm. We are working on infrastructure and amending the soil before we start planting. We will grow specific crops for chefs in the city and local restaurants. We will also grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for our seasonal supper club called "Ravenwood" which we have at our apartment in Brooklyn or upstate on the farm.

5.) How did you start assisting for Alison Attenhorough? Was it always food?

Alison needed an assistant for a job and a friend of friend gave her my info. We worked well together and have continued to work together for the past 8 years. We have done everything from Grey Goose to Dog food. We've cooked in mansions and dingy hallways on hotplates. We always have a good time, and make the best of it. We are traveling to northern California in August for a Food and Wine story.

6.) Who is your favorite client you have worked for?

I really like working with the new Bon Appetit team. They are all such great people and they love what they do. It's refreshing to work with a group of creative people who are excited about every part of the magazine they produce. Everyone in the test kitchen is great. They are so professional and they take their job very serious to make sure the recipes work and taste great.

7.) Any photographers in the industry you want to work for? Any clients you want to work for?

I would love to work with Gentl and Hyers. I think what they do is so beautiful. They capture the most rich and amazing color and shadow. Their photos are like still life paintings.
 I would love to do a cookbook start to finish with an awesome chef.

8.) What’s your favorite food to style?

I think my favorite food to style is grilled, BBQ, roasted over open fire, cooked in a outdoor oven, cooked on the beach, next to a stream, or on a farm type things. Growing up in Texas, this is how I learned to cook. I think it photographs well, and looks delicious.
I love shooting outside in natural light with elements of the environment peaking in. Food looks best when it's super fresh, and I always find the freshest ingredients.

9.) Is Bon Appetit a continual client for you? Is editorial work the most interesting to you?

 I work for Bon Appetit whenever they call me and I am available. They spread the jobs out between a lot of different stylists, so I'm always excited when they call me for a job. I think editorial work is more my style. I like things that are more natural and real. Although I've learned all the tricks of styling for ad jobs and commercials, it's not something I often feel proud of. Sometimes you have to doctor up the food and smear so much goop, oil and chemicals all over it, so it can hold up for hours or look a certain way. I prefer to work in a more spontaneous environment with photographers who know when to stop. When you get the shot, its nice to move on and keep the pace up.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Scariest Food Commercial: Here in Philadelphia

Little Baby's Ice Cream
Commercial link below

If you plan on trying the ice cream I'd advise NOT to watch the commercial.

Was this a good idea gone bad? Was it successful? Grabbed the wrong audience? 
Or just grabbed them, but in the wrong way?....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The new gorgeously designed restaurant Vernick with owners
 Julie and Greg from upstate New York. 
Greg previously worked a Talula's Garden and Stephen Starr restaurant in Philadelphia.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Foie... Friend.... Foe...

Irate chefs, and frenzied gourmands are what filled California’s streets (not really) after the ban of Foie Gras.

What is Foie Gras?

Is the liver of a duck or goose that has been enlarged through a special feeding technique and then served in pates, or a main ingredient in a hot dish. It’s a specialty that not all restaurants would serve.

The controversy:
This technique is essentially a form of force feeding which is seen as animal cruelty. This goes beyond just raising them.

There are plenty of sites against it:

For French inspired restaurants in California they are going to have to fill that space on the menu with something else. Maybe... a veggie dish? Nah.

Having eaten it several times and enjoying it, from a East Coast perspective I feel it’s perfectly ok. I consider it a technique in cooking than animal cruelty. What about lobsters? We can’t throw them in boiling water now because it will hurt? They taste so good though!

Just the other week France has actually gotten “involved” with this ban on the delicacy in California by boycotting California wines sold in France that actually ARN’T sold in France.

You can read more about that here:

As long as this feud doesn’t hit Philadelphia I’ll continue to eat my duck the way I like it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Food Stylist: Noah Witenoff


1. How did you get into styling?
Photo Credit: Ryan Szulc 
After graduating from Concordia University with a degree in International Business, I decided to change career paths and go to cooking school to become a cook. In school, my Chef ended up being a food stylist and invited me to do my internship with her on a tv show. I fell in love with the career that I had no idea existed, and then decided I had to become a food stylist. I assisted my Chef while working in restaurants for a few years and then one day, took the plunge and quit the restaurant world. I started shooting my portfolio with photographers and started to make some connections. It took some time, determination and a lot of practice,  but eventually my career took off.
2. What did you start out doing, print of film?
My background started in print other then my internship. I worked on different kinds of projects ranging from Kraft What's Cooking Magazine, to the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Sometimes in the beginning I would be hired to replace someone who wasn't available or I would do things like style pudding in a cup. Not the most glamorous stuff but after some time, people got to know me, and my reputation got better and better.
3. Have you done work in the states? If so where? What clients?
No, all my work has been in Canada.
4. What was the hardest food to style on set? 
The hardest food to style on set for me is a pizza. You don't have much time to get it right. You will have a client (or many clients) and an art director giving opinions of elements that they'd like to see more or less of, and during this time you have to also focus on keeping that pizza alive. The cheese always wants to dry up, the pepperoni oozes grease, and vegetables tend to shrink and shrivel. The trick is to keep everything looking fresh and yummy and realistic but that takes quite a bit of work. 
5. At first working for McDonalds were you nervous? Was is a lot of prepping?
My first McDonald's tv commercial was for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics campaign. I was very nervous as it was not only my first time shooting for McDonald's but it was also my first time shooting a tv commercial! I had worked on a test shoot with a Toronto photographer named Ryan Szulc to bid on a McDonald's print campaign, and from that they requested I work with them on their tv spot. We shot 5 commercials in two days (which is crazy) and we also ended up shooting stills with the athletes. 
Photo Credit: Ryan Szulc 
To make sure I was ready for the job, I practiced quite a bit at home and tried to advance myself as much as possible. I had never seen how it was done so I had to come up with strategies and techniques on how to best move through the day. I had three assistants with me and it ended up going amazing. It was a crazy adrenaline filled two days!
As for prep, there was not too much to do. We used a food styling truck (fully functional kitchen including deep fryer, fridge, freezer, and AC)  on set and all the food was supplied by McDonald's. We just had to cook it and make it look right for the shoot. There was also a bite shot of a Big Mac in one of the spots so we must have made at least 25 non stop! Pretty insane but so much fun. You can still see one of the ads on my site of Alexandre Bilodeau and his Big Mac.
6. Who are some photographers you have worked with in the past?
Some of the photogrpahers I have shot with are:
Toronto: Ryan Szulc, Michael Alberstant, Edward Pond, Kevin Hewitt, Colin Faulkner, Yvonne Duivenvoorden, Brandon Barre and James Tse. 
Montreal: Mathieu Levesque, Louise Savoie, Hans Laurendeau, Martin Girard, Michel Paquet
Ottawa: Christian Lalonde
7. Is there a company/photographer you would love to style for?
I would love to shoot for Donna Hay magazine in Australia and Martha Stewart's magazine in the US. I love what they do and it would be a great team to be part of.
8. Where have you found your inspiration for your props/styling techniques?
I definitely look through a lot of magazines and keep an eye on what other people are doing. Magazines like Donna Hay, Gourmet, and Bon Appetit always have beautiful inspiring shots. Also when I started, I did find it useful to research techniques online when possible and read some of the food styling books that are available. I would read something, test it, and then make it work for me. I always found that these tips were great starting points but definitely needed tweaking. A lot of my techniques have been made up on the spot. If there's a problem, find a solution fast. If the solution works, write it down and use it again and again.
I also try to do a lot of test shoots with photographers. These are great because we get to play with ideas that don't have to fit in a box and are not designed by someone else for a specific objective. These shoots are for us to be as creative as we want and the end result is for our portfolios. This, I would say, is the best way to stay current and inspired.
9. From a business perspective what have you found most beneficial for yourself in your marketing? 
My website has been key from the beginning. I had the site made within a month or two of me starting my own business. It has definitely evolved through the years and I am really happy with the way it looks now. Other then my site, it would be my personal interactions with photographers and clients. Going on "go sees" and meeting people is the best way to let people see your work and what kind of a person you would be to work with.
10. What tool can’t you show up without on set?
There are quite a few but if I had to choose just one, I would say my favourite tweezers. I use them a lot to reach for things on a plate, move things around without messing the whole dish up, and sorting through different kinds of small food items. Tweezers = food stylist best friend :)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bottling Beer

One of my favorite parts about brewing beer is bottling it. It shows your one step closer to having a finished drink :)

Buying a six-pack you don’t event think about the cap unless it’s Magic Hat or Lion’s Head with a fun message, but when you home brew, bottling is part of the process.

Here are the items you need to bottle beer...

Caps and "capper"


1.) Oxygen Absorbing Caps
2.) Capper tool
3.) Bottles
4.) Brewed beer
5.) Case to store them in
Empty Bottles

Once your beer is ready to bottle you pour the beer from the 5 gallon containter into the bottle leaving about an inch at the top.
Then you take a flat cap and place it on top of rim. Take the round secure holder on the bottom of red capper and place over the cap.
Pull and press down both handles on red capper till you almost squeeze the bottle. Then lift it off and you have a capped beer bottle!

Capped Bottles

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Test Shoot: Crayfish

Here are some picks from my test shoot with Crayfish. I was lucky I got some, their season ended in May

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Crumble Crostini

What Ya Need:
-Leftover bread sit out overnight (sourdough)
-Olive Oil
-Sea Salt
-Crushed Red Peppers


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut up the bread into inch slices, than tare the bread into small approximate inch cubes but not perfect.

Place flat on a baking sheet or stoneware.

Drizzle olive oil over the pieces of bread than sprinkle on top sea salt and red crushed peppers.

Place into the oven and let cook for 10-15min or until golden brown on edges.

These are great to pop in your mouth or I put them on my salad. :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My #PBW2012

The first 10 days in June are Philly Beer Week. After this post I will probably have one more night of tasting beer and specialty foods.

Joe’s family happen to come down on Sunday the 3rd so we all decided to go to Monk’s. I know I go there all the time but their beers are always different and always good. We ordered the usual Spanish Flies and Ghent mussels (which were perfect). I started off strong with a double IPA by Sierra Nevada. It was something new by them and was full of aromas and had a strong finish. After that I had the Dogfish Saison.

We departed from the folks and ventured down to Stateside. I haven’t been there since I photographed their pickled dish appetizers about a month ago, so I was craving more. Stateside is a whiskey bar with great craft beers. They had some specials going on for Beer Week and you could tell by the crowds of people standing outside. It was a beautiful day so all the windows were open and the sun was pouring in. I had a Victory Hop Devil which was fine considering I was still feeling the earlier drinks. I love their huge concrete bar that wraps from the front door to the opposite wall. For how crazy busy it was the bartenders had their ears open and jumped right on our orders.

By the time we left the skies had opened and got drenched all the way home. That was ok because there was a pint of Ben and Jerry’s waiting for us at home.

1536 East Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

264 South 16th Street
Philadelphia, Pa 

Beer Week

Friday, June 1, 2012

Nancy Ori's Travels to Italy

Nancy Ori is starting on a journey to create a cookbook on regional Italian food.

I have been teaching photography in a remote region in the hills of Italy and have been to the same town three times now with my students with a fourth trip planned for October. I have gotten to know everyone who lives there practically....about 200 in the hilltop town. Three chefs have shared their recipes with me and I have photographed the region quite a bit. I want to do the cookbook as a sample of my work, a learning experience to photograph food, and as a gift to the many people who have been involved to produce my workshops. They will all be featured in the book. I will very likely not make any money on it but will have a great experience putting it together. The three chefs have cooked for my students each time so they will get a copy to remember my trips. The B&B where we stay will be happy to get a copy since they will also be featured along with their chef. It is kind of a community project.

The town is called Casperia and is located in Lazio about an hour south of the Tuscan border.
During the workshop we had a chef at the B&B who prepared all the breakfasts and two amazing dinners for us. The second chef gave us cooking lessons and learned how to make Stringozzi, a local pasta that is all one long piece of dough. That was probably the most interesting thing we saw and how they roll it out.

I would say that the Stringozzi is something that has been handed down through the generations of the ladies who were demonstrating the pasta making. 

The third chef was the featured person at La Tacita, an exclusive resort restaurant in the countryside of Casperia. He is a two star Michilin chef which over there is quite something. There are only 37 of them in all of Italy.

You Tube Links:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Geoff Binns-Calvey - YOUR special effects guy!  Special effects  Sculpture

Where did you start your special effects endeavors?

   I started back in Cleveland, when I was a 24 year old carpenter- I saw an old high school friend, who was now a photographer, looking harried, pushing a cart through a lumberyard. I asked what he was making.
  "A set," he said. "Hey, do you want to build it for me?"
  I said, "Love to, but I have no idea what that involves."
 "Two windows in an eight foot wall. And it only needs to stand up for six hours."
  "I can do that," I said. And not long after, I was his studio manager, rigger, and effects guy.
What was your first rigged contraption?
  When I was six or seven,  using bits of wire, springs, and scraps from the garage, I made all the doors on my father's old work car pop open when he opened the driver's door. The trunk as well!

Do you work more with photographers or in video? 
  I started out with photographers, then got into TV commercials. But now I'm getting more work with still photographers again. The money's the same, and the pace is a little less frantic, so I enjoy it. And I've got a lot of the more complex equipment and tools from video shoots, which I can bring to still shoots.

  For your over sized props like OfficeMax, what were they made of?
      The Office Max props were a combination of MDF (medium density fiberboard), urethane foam, Bondo, fiberglass, and metal. The giant sheet of paper was just a piece of .016" polystyrene plastic. The giant Dorito was upholstery foam, a two part pourable soft urethane foam, and pigments. Oh, and bits of cut out tissue paper, for the "spice flakes".

What’s your favorite rig you have made?
   Hmm... recently, I rigged up a laser guided high powered baseball cannon. I went down to Cincinnati, and spent the day shooting 120 mph baseballs into pinatas full of guacamole and nacho cheese dip, for a Pepto Bismol commercial. They just blew apart. That was a pretty great day! (Video here- save time, and skip to the 1:00 mark)

What’s your favorite prop you have made?
    A recent favorite was a giant piggy bank, mounted on a mechanical bull rig. That was a couple of weeks of carving, sanding, and painting with my good friend Martha Schrik. The spot, and the pig, came out great!
   What do people come to you most often for?
     I've been getting a lot of beverage work, recently- bottle dressing, ice, frost, and pours. And I do a lot of grill and flame shots, although it's not the majority of my work. I've got a whole range of equipment for that, with a "cracker fogger" to make room temperature steam or smoke, a set of very nice acrylic "hot coals", and a great, controllable flame rig for grills. And I sometimes make custom grills to match the layout, welding up the grill rods on site, and cutting up the backyard grills as needed to get lights underneath.
Your work is so specific, does your work come word of mouth or do you market yourself to potential clients?
   Mostly word of mouth. A lot of recommendations come from the food stylists. When they see a layout with flames, steam, smoke, pours, splashes, or anything tricky, they'll often say to the photographer, "You know who'd make this all go smoother? Geoff." I owe the stylists big time!
Did sculptures come before or after your special effects work? 
   About the same time, starting years ago. I was fascinated with prosthetic makeup effects, and got into life cast sculpture that way. Although I don't do that sort of f/x makeup work- it's very skilled and specialized- I use a lot of the same sculpting materials and methods in prop making and rigging.
What’s your favorite medium you’ve worked in sculpting?
  I've been doing some vacuum formed pieces over life casts, that are really interesting. You can get the feeling of draped wet silk, with the color and texture of corroded copper.
Photo credits:
  Giant Dorito, Ink/Paper/Scissors; Geoff Binns-Calvey
  Foam Pizza Painting, Pig and Martha; Amy Binns-Calvey
  Standing by Giant Pig; Martha Schrik
  Welding the Grill; Justin Paris