Photo taken at Carolyn Jung’s Food Photography (Foodtography) event which was on 5/25/2016. Grilled swordfish with fava bean, seaweed gnocchi, creme fraiche broth and foraged salad. This is one of the many beautiful and delicious dishes created by Chef Alexander La Motte at MKT restaurant, SF Four Seasons.
So, what is this all about? OK, well, first – did I tell you that I live in the most wonderful neighborhood ever?!!
Yes, I do! I live in a neighborhood where there’s a true sense of community. For example, every spring, we have a neighborhood progressive dinner where neighbors go to different homes for each course; appetizers at Mary’s, salad at John’s, main course at Audrey’s and then we meet up all together – all 130+ of us – at our club house for dessert!!! And of course, there is good wine to go with it all. Since nobody has to drive and we can all walk, people can enjoy wine that much more. 😉 Well, how’s THAT for a community event?? There are so much more fun and good things that happen in our neighborhood but I will tell you about that another time.
Anyway, lucky for me, one of my neighbor friend is the owner of a fabulous Chocolate Cafe called Dolce Bella Chocolates where she makes one of the best chocolates ever! Her chocolates are hand made, filled with the freshest seasonal fruits and herbs from her own garden such as raspberries and lemon verbena. Now, Audrey and I go way back to our kids’ elementary school days when our children were in the same Logo Robotics group together. We always love to talk about cooking and gardening whenever we meet and when she asked me if I wanted to go with her to a Foodtography event that was happening in San Francisco, immediately, I said YES before even really asking when or what we were exactly doing.
FOOD and PHOTOGRAPHY!!!
My absolute two favorite things in the world.
Once I learned more about it, I couldn’t believe that I was actually going!!!
The event was hosted by James Beard Award-winning Carolyn Jung at FoodGal and renowned food photographer Craig Lee. It was an evening on food writing and food photography. And we would have the opportunity to actually taste several beautiful dishes created by the Four Season’s MKT restaurant Chef Alexander La Motte and then even practice taking pictures of it! It just does not get any better than that.
I did not know what to expect beforehand, I wasn’t sure if it was a huge event or if it was a more intimate one. I was secretly and selfishly (more one-on-one attention, yay!) happy to find that the group was smaller – gathered at the corner of the beautiful MKT restaurant of SF Four Seasons. The two full glass windows on each side allowed a lot of natural light and also great view onto Market street. This is my iphone pic – not the best. But you get the idea –
Honestly, blogging can be very lonely work- I rarely have time to connect with other bloggers because I never have enough time to do much socializing online. But I always have so many questions about blogging and photography and I knew no one to ask my million questions to. Throughout the Food and Photography evening, I think I talked, commented and asked questions a LOT more than I usually would because I was just so EXCITED!!
Was it too much? I hope not…You know that I’m an introvert so this was really unusual for me. 🙂
Now, back to the Foodtography event.
A little bit about Carolyn:
Carolyn is a James Beard award winning food writer. For 11 years, she was the writer/editor at San Jose Mercury News. She was also the contributor for Gourmet magazine.
Carolyn has many more accolades and there are too many to mention, visit her site Foodgal for more. She also has a new cook book out “San Francisco’s Chef Table” which we all got signed copies of. Jealous??? 😜
Her blog in Foodgal is amazing which has both recipes and restaurant reviews with wonderful photos.
Carolyn’s talk on How to be a good food writer/critic and blogger
It is hard to include all the wonderful things Carolyn talked about in this single post. But here are just few points that really stuck with me.
- Be authentic, be yourself and also be critical
- This really was the biggest message for me. People talk about ‘finding your own voice’, ‘being yourself’.. all the time, especially for writers. But somehow coming from Carolyn, a respected food critic and writer, it just touched me deeply. Yes, sometimes, as bloggers in our pursuit of wanting to be more entertaining, to be more popular, to be more attention grabbing, we can so easily be tempted to act or write like someone who we are not. Actually for me, it gave me much strength and conviction to continue to do what I do.
- When describing food, TEXTURE should come first.
- Texture is really important to me. But I thought that was mostly just me. For example, I cannot tolerate mushy texture very well and so sadly I really don’t enjoy sushi unless it is ultra fresh. So focusing on texture is a good thing.
- Let’s not use phrases like ‘party in your mouth’; let’s use more descriptive words when describing food.
- Darn, I was hoping to use more hip and cool descriptions like ‘out of bounds good’, ‘that’s money’, … Oh,well..haha. But this is an area I really need to improve upon.
- Food writing is very unique in that it often includes politics, culture and even history (quoted from Ruth Reichl – last Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine)
- So true. I never realized that but in fact, that’s what I ended up doing in many of my posts because I had to explain the background that comes with a dish so I feel good!
Because English is not my first language (I’m not much better in Korean either.. sigh..), and I only attended engineering grad school in the US, I always felt inadequate about writing and blogging. But, after listening to Carolyn, I have a completely renewed sense of pride and purpose in what I do as a Korean food blogger and am motivated to become a better food writer.
Wow, THANK YOU, Carolyn.
Craig’s tips on Food Photography:
Craig Lee is a renowned photographer who is a James Beard team awards winner for 4 years and have published food photos for many magazines and newspapers including the SF Chronicle and New York Times.
Check out more of Craig’s photos on his site here.
Seeing Craig Lee’s photography got me incredibly excited and inspired to do better, oh, so so much better with my photography. It just happens that I LOVE impressionism and when he mentioned Rembrandt and how he loves using sun light in his photography…oh,boy….He had me at Rembrandt..😍
- Sun light creates spectacular scenes and we just need to capture it. By observing the direction of the sun light and seeing how the sun hits your food allows you to create drama and capture the moment.
In this age of photo filters and photoshops, Craig does NOT photoshop his images.
WHAAAT?? Is that possible??
He humbly smiled and said it’s because ‘post processing photos in photoshop is just too much work‘ but noooo…Craig, you know that’s only possible because you are just that fabulously good at what you do.
Right. Here are some pics of his pics. Go to Craig Lee’s photography site if you want to see more.
Simply feel the summer breeze coming through the window… This is such a beautiful photo that feels absolutely natural.
In the picture above, can you totally feel the warmth of the afternoon sun coming through?? I do!
And you can smell the aroma of the sweet caramelized pears and thyme dancing in the air as the afternoon wind is blowing through the window. This is what photography is all about. About capturing the feel of the moment.. to make you feel as if you are really there, not just see the cake but FEEL and almost taste it – I mean REALLY there.
- Unless you have a very bright natural light (and even if you do), use a combination of natural and artificial light.
- Craig uses a white cardboard and/or foil to light up dark areas when necessary. White cardboard is less reflective than foil of course so choose appropriately.
- Focus is very important. Make sure your photo is always in focus. It may seem like it is when it’s small but when you zoom in, that may not be the case.
Craig showed us various photos on how he sets up lighting for his food photography.
But what I think is so wonderful about Craig’s food photography is that his photos look so perfectly natural even when artificial lighting was necessary. I have seen many very bright, white washed, almost over exposed photos when it comes to food photography and this is actually not too hard to do. But to take a natural, untouched photo that still grabs your attention like the ones here seems almost impossible to me right now. I hope I can get there someday… someday…
He also gave me pointers on improving the angle of my photography. Here is my first shot before his advice:
Per Craig’s advice, I changed the angle to show the fava beans and gnocchi under the swordfish better. I also changed my position for better lighting (not facing the bright window but having the window to my side).
That’s better! I’m still not 100% happy with it but it is definitely better…
Well, here are more photos of Chef La Motte’s creations:
And finally I think this is my least successful photo but certainly a beautifully composed dish. It had one of my favorite edible plant – nasturtium leaves.
My deep compliments to Chef La Motte for such elegant presentations and fabulous combinations of flavors and textures. One of my favorite is the Green Pea Hummus with seaweed salad. The seaweed adds slight chewy texture which makes an otherwise soft hummus a lot more fun to eat. And even in flavor, the seaweed brings a hint of the ocean into the spread while the slightly sweet seaweed releases a burst of sea saltiness as the little pods pop in your mouth. It was simply lovely.
I would love to write more about other dishes but honestly, I did not get to try most of the other dishes because I basically ran out of time at the end with all the photo taking and Q&A. I must return soon to MKT to experience these dishes again at my leisure.
I wish you could have come along with me. It was an absolutely dreamy evening of food writing and food photography. My only regret is that I did not take pictures of me with Carolyn and Craig. I’m so bad at those things…. because I personally don’t enjoy taking photos of myself so I just don’t think about it until too late. Hopefully next time…
Thank you again Carolyn and Craig for such an informative and fun evening. Thank you Chef La Motte for your wonderful creations and thank you SF Four Seasons MKT restaurant for your best service as always!
Hope you enjoyed it!