a day of magic: cooking + food styling with la tartine gourmande @ haven’s kitchen, nyc

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Today was a day worth photographing, literally. This morning I woke giddy, tossed the comforter aside and got my camera ready for a full day of snapping, savoring, and styling with one of my revered home cooks, La Tartine Gourmande. It was 2007 when I discovered her site, and I remembered poring over her recipes, awestruck by the freshness of the photography, the whimsy of the styling (the bowls!), and recipes that were always, simply, delovely. As a self-taught baker and improvisational cook, I found Béatrice Peltre intimidating, unattainable — she was French!, she had a camera worth coveting, and was making pastries I’d only dreamed of baking. But over the years I followed her evolution, and witnessed photos that were less stylized and more rustic and elegant. And in the time I grew as well. I had quietly mastered yeast, perfected the chocolate mousse and burned a few cookies and toughened some muffins along the way.

I also shifted from a simple point-and-shoot camera to a complicated DSLR, and learned the meaning of the words: aperture, depth of field, ISO, f/stop, shooting raw, bokeh — and as one would expect, I fumbled and got frustrated and took hundreds and hundreds of photographs to find my hero. Someone once told me that being a photographer isn’t necessarily about tools and technique, rather it is about falling rapturously in love with your subject. So I guess it’s safe to say that this blog has become an ode to food, a sonnet about its color, texture, shape and taste.

However, love is tough and tricky and tumultuous, and I sometimes find myself furious that I didn’t capture the right shot; I wasn’t able to show you through a photograph how hearty that multi-grain loaf was. How the preserves practically melted into the loaf. HOW I TOOK A PICTURE OF A JAR OF JAM WITH ITS GODDAMN PRICE-TAG AFFIXED FRONT AND CENTER.

CLASSY.

So instead of the usual routine, I invested in an all-day food styling and photography class with one of my culinary loves at Haven’s Kitchen. And from the moment I set foot in the simple, refined space, I started swooning. From the lavender bundles and lemon soaps to vintage white restaurant plates and artisanal teas to stacks of fabric napkins and peonies tied with twine, you can’t help but want to pack up your bags and set up a pup-tent in the kitchen. Suffice to say, Haven’s Kitchen is a foodies’ paradise.

And then there was Bea — and she was charming, self-effacing, French, kind, patient, and obsessed with all the details. Over the course of the day I learned that I should always shoot with an ISO of 100 while always, always adjusting my aperture and shutter speed. Olive oil can provide sheen, while a spray bottle and ice-bath are perfection for keeping veggies crisp and mouth-watering. I learned that food composition was about simplicity, lack of clutter, and a determined focus — it’s never helpful to have your eyes distracted by too much color, texture and contrast. And most of all, I learned that while I adore Bea’s photos, the photos I take are from my perspective, my point-of-view, and are sometimes a little over-exposed. I like the white-out, the freshness of it. I love colors that pop a little more than they should, and today I experimented (as you can see from the PILES OF PHOTOS in this post) with a tripod (oh my), with darker lighting, and with a lot of cropping.

But let’s not forget the food! There was so much of it. From piles of French, Australian and UK magazines showcasing the stylings of the world’s greatest gastronomic art directors to the strawberry tiramisus and piles of tartines made with ricotta and heaps of vegetables and buttery prosciutto, I found myself shooting and consuming delicious, flavorful food.

Not only do I absolutely need to fix everything in Bea’s cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, I need to ferret out inspiration from all sorts of places. I need to experiment, to play, to fail — all of this will lead me to what’s next.

I believe this to be true.

So what do you guys think of the photos? I’d love to hear your thoughts + feedback + TIPS!

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2 thoughts on “a day of magic: cooking + food styling with la tartine gourmande @ haven’s kitchen, nyc

  1. Hola Felicia
    I´d like to contact you (email or phone). Saw on your “Life List” you wanted to clim Machu Picchu.
    COLTUR Peru is a 57 year old tour operator, and wanted to discuss with you the possibility of setting up a tour led by you that focused on culinary and arts (climbing Machu Picchu of course)
    Cheers
    Enrique

    Like

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