Wednesday, June 17, 2009

International Conference on Food Styling & Photography; a Personal Journey Part I

View from the Boston University Dorms taken with a point & shoot

How does one begin to speak of an epic, highly personal journey? A countless flood of thoughts rush through me as I consider this. Do I talk about vegan writer and brilliant photographer Linda Long? Or perhaps world traveler Clare Ferguson who’s bigger than life passionate personality leads her food styling? Or maybe beautiful food stylist Marcela Sorondo whose thoughts of her beloved Argentina bring her to tears when she thinks of the current unrest in her country. I could begin this story by sharing new friends; chef Susan Reid (Picture on the left), and photographer Brenda Hickory from King Arthur Flour, who I loved instantly and who spoiled me with a fantastic dinner of lamb tongue salad, chicken livers, sardines and even better conversation. Maybe I could start with the fun Dunkin Doughnuts girls at the Logan Airport who laughed and played with me. Or perhaps with the cop who laughed and decided not to give me a ticket as I attempted to drive home completely jet lagged?

The list goes on and on. There are scores of stories to tell, so I’m just going to have to start from the beginning. I hope you have some time, this might take awhile.

Arriving in Boston by plane last weekend, I was armed with instructions to catch a bus, and a train, and another train. They looked simple enough. However, I’m famous for getting lost. My complete lack of direction has placed me in funny situations on many occasions. This time was no exception. I made such a mess of things that it’s a miracle I made it at all. I’m not certain, but I think I may have been heading to Florida via the subway system. The kindness of those around me was remarkable! Everyone wanted to help.

A group gathered around me to explain where I had gone wrong, and provided me with instructions on how to get where I really wanted to be. As I finally neared my intended destination, I was aided by a shy younger man in pleather pants and long dreadlocks who looked surprised I asked him for assistance. His face lit up and he was happy to help me get to the right stop. However, as soon as I stepped out of that train I got lost again! I must have looked confused, because a student ran up and helped me get to the dorms where I was staying at Boston University. The people in Boston are a joy to be around. I am grateful for them.

Hungry after finally checking in, the friendly front desk girls pointed me in the direction of “Brown Sugar”, a Thai restaurant down the street. When I’m at a new restaurant I typically ask the wait staff to surprise me with something they love. My waitress came to the table with delicious young coconut milk with coconut pieces floating about the glass, and later with a foil packet of perfectly poached mixed seafood with mixed vegetables in a very tasty spiced broth. I would risk jet lag again just for that meal!

The next morning I headed off to the conference a bit apprehensive of what to expect. Would I be unwelcome? An outsider from Idaho I came without knowing a soul. Fortunately for me, I got lost again on my walk to the conference center and began to trail a sophisticated, intelligent, New York looking little lady who I accurately guessed was heading to the same place. Thankfully, what I lack in direction I ironically make up in intuition. I caught up to her, and what I noticed first was this brilliant mischievous smile in her eyes. As we walked we talked, she introduced herself as Linda Long, fashion photographer turned food photographer.

Linda, a vegan now for 33 years, stopped me on our way into the building and guided me over to a table. Wanting to show me something that must have been important to her, I waited while she dug through her bag. What she pulled out completely blew me out of the water. Her book “Great Chefs Cook Vegan” slid into my hands as I stood in stunned silence. I opened this beautiful work as she began to unfold the story within. I knew immediately this text would be groundbreaking to both the vegan, and the cookbook world.

Linda was a fashion photographer long before she entered the food realm, and what she brings to our world is life and accessibility. For this project she asked famous chefs to create a vegan dish using any ingredients they wished. No restrictions. What they came up with is the most creative collection of vegan recipes I have yet to lay eyes on. She didn’t stop there though. She took classic, beautiful, black and white photographs of each and every chef and placed a full page shot of them next to their recipes. Linda has a rare and special ability to capture everything alive and beautiful in her subjects.

I was off to a wonderful start.

To be continued tomorrow, but first I'll try to tempt you to come back with a little dessert! Served at Saturday's lunch, this sponge-like pastry was filled with raspberry mousse and fresh raspberries. I often wondered what they serve chefs, food photographers, and food stylists at these conferences. Can you imagine the nervousness of the staff and planners?

Notes: Click the title above or the link below for Part II.


Heather said...

Oh being a chef myself and an wanna be photographer I so wish I could have been there! It looks like you had so much fun! I look forward to reading more. Some day...

Mary Bergfeld said...

Shall we call it Act I or Chapter I? Susan, I'm enthralled. Can't wait to hear more.

sherri said...

This sounds like one great experience-and what a wonderful idea to ask the servers to surprise you with their favorites!

Cheeky Kitchen said...

A wonderful start, indeed. I can't wait to hear all about your experience!

Heather S-G said...

You've gotten me excited!! How very cool...can't wait to hear more :)

Ginger said...

Keep going. . . . . I love this blog post!

foodcreate said...

Wonderful! I can't wait to hear all about your experience1

Thanks for sharing :)

And if you can visit me I can visit you:)

Join today our community submit your recipe:)


Zoe said...

Great post! I am a Bostonian, new blogger and just completed a culinary program at BU so I went to the conference just to check it out. I am so inspired! Love your blog and your work!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Hi Laura - swing by my blog and take a peek.

ARUNA said...

Hi Laura, u have a cool blog!

The Cooking Photographer said...

Thank-you everyone for the comments! Thanks Aruna! I'm so glad you like it!

Thank-you Patricia for the award. I am happy and grateful.

Zoe I'm happy you found me! And thanks!

Pink Little Cake said...

Oh my God what a wonderfull experience you are sharing with us!! Please post lots of pictures I want to see it all. You are so lucky for going there, it must have been a great experience for you. Keep us posted.

Cheryl Balara said...

Hi Laura,
I stumbled upon this post looking for info on the 2011 Food Photography Conference.

It was nice reading about your experience since I am going this year. Are you going to this year's conference?

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