Photoessay: portrait of a chef – Fergus Henderson

Perhaps best known for his use of offal, bones, tails and other normally discarded parts of the animal, chef Fergus Henderson is one of the innovators of modern cuisine. His dishes are derivatives of traditional British food, usually paired with French wines. However, perhaps the most impressive thing about him is that he’s actually an excellent trained architect (from no other institution than the AA) but one day decided he preferred food – and despite being awarded a Michelin star for St. John restaurant in 2009, he was entirely self taught as a chef and has never worked in anybody else’s kitchen.

Henderson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1996, and has since undergone deep brain stimulation therapy which supposedly has increased his mobility in the kitchen – however, watching him work it’s clear that he wields most implements with difficulty (and in some cases, it’s just too dangerous) and relies on his deputy. However, when you talk to him, it’s clear that his disability has not diminished his ability, talent or passion for food – if anything, it’s enhanced it. He’s an animated, engaging speaker with a dry sense of humor and a disarming smile. I had the honor of running a food photography class with him once; it remains one of the most inspiring experiences of my photographic career to date.

All I can say is that I have enormous respect for the man, and his bone marrow and parsley salad (which he describes in strangely architectural terms) was quite excellent, too. MT

This series shot with a Leica M9-P, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE and Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium.

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Photoessay: Master Baker Daniel Jorda at the World Gourmet Summit

Master Baker Daniel Jorda is from the small neighborhood of Trinitat in Barcelona, and a third generation chef. In addition to running his own bakery, he also works with Michelin-starred chefs to produce custom breads to complement their meals; having tried them personally, I have to say that his work has the perfect balance of softness, crustiness, and flavor. Most importantly, it never seems artificial or forced – the bread is always rustic, but somehow perfectly controlled.

This short photoessay covers the class he gave at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore a few months back. Series shot with a Leica M9-P and 35/1.4 ASPH FLE. MT

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com) or via Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it.

You can also get your gear from Amazon.com clicking through this referral link. It doesn’t cost you any more, but a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Pedro Miguel Schiaffino from Malabar, Lima

I had the opportunity recently to do some teaching (food photography, not cooking of course) with noted Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino from Ristorante Malabar, Lima at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore. First off – he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met, with completely zero ego; that’s pretty darn unusual for a chef. Secondly, he has a hugely infectious enthusiasm for the native foods of Peru, most of which he has to trek into the jungle to find. Pedro says he trains locals to recognize edible plants and roots, but they subsequently tend to leave for food distributors who can pay more; to this he shrugs, and rationalizes it against anything that raises awareness of his country’s produce and helps the locals find regular employment being a good thing. As I said, one of the nicest people I’ve met. Oh, and he makes the most amazing ceviche, too. Enjoy, vicariously. MT

This set shot with a Leica S2 and 75/2.5 Summarit (people photos) and a Leica D-Lux 5 (food photos.)

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Ceviche, with a domestic Peruvian speciality algae – the green blobs. Difficult to describe the taste; a little like a gelatinized gherkin but not as sour.

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What looks like rocks…

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…are actually Peruvian root vegetables, meticulously tourneed, and covered in a local edible river clay mix that the natives use to aid digestion. Although the clay itself tastes like…well, dirt, it lends an interesting semi-roasted texture to the skin of the vegetables. I’m sure it probably gives you your RDI for most minerals, too.

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In their natural habitat, with sous-vided lamb finished on the pan. Pedro blends modern techniques – sous vide for instance – with traditional ingredients, like the clay.

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Dessert. Pisco sour sorbet, stewed melon and various flowers.

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Talking with the students after the meal.

POTD: On portraiture

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Steve, head chef. Nikon D700, 85/1.4 G

Although I’m not a portrait shooter primarily, there are occasions on which one is required to rise to the occasion – usually for something related to another job. A long time ago, I did shoot fashion. If you have professional models or outgoing, confident people, it’s pretty easy to get a decent headshot. But it’s difficult to capture their personality because they’re always in ‘professional’ mode around a camera – you can’t show them for who they really are, because they’re not comfortable enough to show it around you.

The flip side of the coin is when you have a person who clearly has a very distinct character, but suddenly gets uncomfortable and shy in front of the camera.  Steve is a great guy, and very, very passionate about what he does – but completely blocks up and gets stiff in front of the lens. The trick I always use is to fire away a lot of frames until they get used to you; then go in for the stealthy kill: this shot (for a client) was not one of the hundred or so ‘posed’ frames we did; that was my intention all along. It was captured during a coffee break while he was talking to the client’s marketing director. I had the camera by my side on the chair, which I raised stealth-ninja fashion and got off a double tap to the head: bullseye. We landed up using this image for the final selection. Moral of the story: anticipate, and be ready at all times. MT