Friday, May 28, 2010

Casey's Real Deal

I recently worked on a campaign for Casey's restaurants, the premise being that the food is already the deal - no other incentive required.  The desired "feel" to the images was that they should be authentic looking, appealing and somewhat retro. The executive chef from Casey's was also present at the shoot, he typically works on product development and kitchen training for new franchise owners.  On shoot day he helped ensure that the finished product well resembled the Casey's style, portions and look.   
Styling burgers come with their own challenges, especially when there is melted cheese and multiple components on them and hence this shot took a bit more time than the steak and rib shots. 

As someone who works in food, I confess to looking and even scrutinizing food photos on everything from flyers, to magazines, packaging and menus. I can't help it, and it seems that my kids have picked up on the habit as well.  We often compliment the work, discuss how it might have been made, sometimes we criticize it and even provide potential solutions for the perceived problems. Michael Kohn photography.  

I was on a TV shoot recently when one of the crew showed us this site:, it compares professionally styled fast foods with what the typical consumer would receive - and then run home and photograph.  Enjoy!  It reconfirms the importance of making food look appealing.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I have had the good fortune to travel to Paris, a lot, and be paid for it! In my career-so-far, I have worked for two French companies whose headquarters are in the City of Light. On one of these trips, about two and half years ago, I arrived a day early and upon arrival, dumped my luggage with the hotel concièrge and then ran off to my "Macarons Class" at LeNôtre, conveniently located on the Champs Elysées.   For the uninitiated, macarons are almond flour & meringue cookies sandwiched together with a delectable filling.  They are crisp, and chewy and melt in your mouth.  We were eight students under the tutorage of a high-toqued French pastry chef.  We learned techniques and put them to the test, making an abundance and a variety of macarons.  One of the tricks that we learned is once a pan of macarons is baked, pour a cup of water under the parchment paper and let it drain off. This creates a hint a humudity which keeps the underside of the macaron moist, while maintaining the crisp dome on top.  We each received two large pastry boxes of our creations - too much for me to bring home especially with all of the other French foods that make their way into my luggage.  I shared the wealth and gave a box to a Paris-based friend that night at dinner.  One of my food pet-peeves are the shocking food colours used by many makers of macarons.  I try to stay away from them, and prefer to have the natural tones of the nuts and fillings show for themselves - hence "my" colours are on the muted side.  Almonds are always used in the cookie base, but I have also incorporated hazelnuts, and pistachios and am game to do some other nut experiments.  As far as fillings go, the salted caramel is deadly, and I am convinced that I gain weight by osmosis while merely making it!!  Chocolate ganache, chocolate buttercream and chocolate-praline ganache are all close runner ups. For a "lighter" flavour, raspberry-rose buttercream is fragrant & floral and naturally pink. Mixing and matching is fun, and I am constantly on the lookout for new permutations.
The salted caramel buttercream is a three step process, but well worth the effort: making the caramel, cooking egg yolks & heavy cream to 82 C without turning them into scrambled eggs, and lastly incorporating the 375 grams of butter.  Send me an email if you would like the recipe. Thanks to Michael Kohn for making the photo.   

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Reality of TV

I happened to notice that we are now in May! Where did April go? I have been working on a steady basis on television commercial shoots, hence my tardiness in updating my postings. Working TV is very different than stills, there are more people, more variables and the days are much longer. Personally, I really enjoy them both - the diversity, the camaraderie and ultimately the satisfaction of a job well done in either situation.
The shoots that I just came off of include many firsts for me: working with rotten foods, a 20 hour work day, a cat wrangler and talent having to eat high fiber cereal & bars for many, many takes.
Without naming names and products, I can say that I have recently worked on a shoot where we worked with insanely rotten and moldy foods - latex gloves and face masks were made available! The other stylist actually cultivated them for a few weeks. The product is an all-natural substance that people will be able to place in their fridges and it will reduce food spoilage.
The twenty hour day: after two prep days, I started out Day 3 at St.Lawrence Market at 07:30, (officially they open at 8:00 on weekdays but they really are there earlier) and that glorious four letter word "w-r-a-p" was not uttered until 03:10 the following morning! We stayed a little longer and put a few things away, I think that I sat for the grand total of an hour during the entire 20-hr day. No complaints though, things were no different for the two other stylists with whom I was working. In the end, the client got what they wanted and needed. Four 0n-air celebrity chefs + 16 recipes = lots of shopping + loads of equipment and lots and lots of food & prep.
Another recent shoot had us working out of a moveable kitchen in a truck, street-parked in a very upscale neighbourhood. At one point, I was outside with a propane torch "grill marking" chicken thighs which must have appeared a little odd to the unaccustomed. On the "crew list" I noticed that there was a cat wrangler listed to be on set that day. Hats off to them if they can train a cat, I can hardly get my dog to listen to me. Later on that day and over the walkie-talkie, I heard the "cat" shot being set up. I then heard the director asking if they could PUSH the cat through the kitty door. Next I heard him say that they would take the shot from where the cat would have come through the door. So much for cat training, I wonder how much a cat wrangler gets paid?
Last week we were working with high fiber cereal and cereal bars. The cereal claims that one 52 gram serving yields 52% of one's daily fiber requirement - impressive and all the more so when the talent had to eat bowl after bowl after bowl of it in order to get the right takes! Needless to say, he was only in the shoot that one day and we had new talent for day 2.
Day 2 talent had to eat high fiber cereal bars, though not quite as high in fiber as the cereal, after one eats enough of them in take after take, they yield the same beneficial results.

Other recent projects include supplying macarons to three local caterers, including a few new flavour: pistachio and cardamom in the cookie with and a raspberry and rose buttercream filling, and a chocolate almond cookie with a dark chocolate and praline ganache. I have been meaning to get some macaron photos up - it is on the "to do" list, and will happen soon.