If you’ve been following my good friend and fellow doughnut cookbook author Jess Thomson’s fantastic blog, Hogwash, you’ll know that the past few months have found me all around Washington taking photos for the next very cool cookbook Jess is working on, Dishing Up Washington. We’ve met just about every type of farm animal you could imagine (including spying some alpacas all freshly shorn in a haircut a poodle might be embarrassed by). Munched on amazing pastries and the best goat cheese I’ve ever tasted, sampled from diners and four star restaurants and even gone home with whole farm-fresh chickens. I’ve stood in a lightening storm taking photos of trees heavy with cherries (watch out for those metal ladders!) and nearly melted in a 100F+ degree hot house packed with chile peppers. The best part was meeting the people behind all these wonderful foods, and hearing their stories.
A few Wednesdays ago found me somewhere particularly unexpected: on the rooftop of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel with about a million bees. The bees are the project of Chef Gavin Stephenson, who was accidentally inspired after a chance meeting with Corky Luster, Bee Ambassador. I’ve heard that happens. What makes this particularly interesting though is that Stephenson, who shoulders the title beekeeper as well as chef, is allergic to bees, so epi-pens are always close at hand (luckily, he hasn’t had need of them yet).
The bees, I learned, all feast fairly close by, on the maples that are scattered around downtown. The bees all orient themselves by flying straight from the hive in a single direction. So, the best place to get stung is to stand right there. If you stand off to the side, they pretty much ignore you.
They are housing two types of bees at the Fairmont, although for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what kind they were. I was snapping, not taking down notes. The bees naturally segregate themselves into their own hives, and produce very different looking and tasting honey. One type is clear and golden, with citrus notes while the other has a greenish tint and I swear has a hint of freshly mowed sweet grass. Both are delicious.
I’ve been feeling a bit bee-like myself for the past few months. Flitting from project to project, and making the honey. It’s been chaotic and busy and pretty much wonderful. And, now, I finally have some great news to share from a couple of those projects!
First off, the food photography & styling book I began last year is now available for pre-order on Amazon!
I couldn’t be more excited about this book. While there are some great books out there on food photography now, I think this book is a bit different. Sure, there are lots of tips and techniques outlined by me on lighting and exposure as well as food styling basics that don’t require toxic chemicals, but what really makes me excited about this book are the case studies about some of my favorite food photographers and stylists currently working in the field. I had amazing contributions from Colin Cooke, Iain Bagwell, Lara Hata, Sara Remington, Lisa Golden Schroeder, Dennis Becker, Charlotte Tolhurst, David Land, Francine Zaslow, David Clancy, Valery Rizzo, Johan Vanbecelaere, Keiko Oikawa, Diane Cu & Todd Porter, each sharing their personal stories, tips and beautiful work. I know I learned a thing or two from them and I hope that you get as much from their insights as I did!
Right now, I’m just putting the finishing touches on the manuscript of my next cookbook! I’ve kept kind of quiet on this one, mostly because the publishing process is so long and I know that tempting you with something you can’t get for over a year is kind of crazy. But, the time has come to share a little and ask for some help. You might ask yourself what cookbook could possibly follow up one on Doughnuts. More doughnuts? Nope. But, definitely snack food!
But not just any snack food. After doughnuts, I started playing around with more whole grains and better sugars, and my next book is all about that: Real Snacks: Sweet & Salty Treats Made WIthout All the Junk. Think Twinkies, made with whole grains and no high fructose corn syrup. Or Doritos, with no MSG or Red #5. These are snacks that taste great, have the flavors we all crave, but made from real food so you don’t have to worry about consuming all those “ates” and “ites.” For those of you (or those with kids) with allergies, there are all sorts of suggestions for how to make version that are safe to eat, including nut free, gluten free and vegan options. There’s also a whole appendix on DIY pantry staples like powdered sugar, yogurt coating (for pretzels and the like), garlic & onion powder, vanilla extract, evaporated milk and chocolate syrup!
The book isn’t out until next fall (see, publishing takes a long time!), but I am looking for a few recipe testers to help me put the finishing touches on the recipes. If you are interested, send me mail with your favorite junk food and any dietary restrictions and I’ll send you a recipe or two to try.
There’s much more to come, including a little tour of my new food photo studio down here in Portland, and several other great cookbooks I’ve shot over the last couple of months, but now I have to fly!