I‘Always enjoyed working with chefs. There is a lot of synergy between cooking and photography. My first photo at the Ritz restaurant about 10 years ago has grown since then.Four years ago, they published first cookbook,I slapped. My most successful work happens when I spend a little time getting to know a place – and the Ritz is a place I’m very familiar with now.
There are a lot of places I want to shoot, but it’s all about time. You cannot use them when public spaces are full of diners. We have to do this between lunch and dinner: we don’t have much time, maybe 20 minutes to set up and another 20 minutes to execute. In these cases, I have to develop a vision first and nail it down when the opportunity arises.
The food at the Ritz looked perfect. I could shoot it on a plate with a white background – but I’ll try to include a human element where it makes sense.In this case, part of the restaurant is shown Les Arts de la table servicethe preparation takes place in front of the diners, with an element of drama.
Here we can see restaurant manager Luigi Cagnin and chef Spencer Metzger preparing Canard à la presse or duck pressed. It’s a French dish that was invented in the early 19th century and isn’t on many menus today. Duck breast and legs are served with a sauce partly made from the duck’s own blood, which is squeezed from the carcass in a large silver-plated press. The chef is turning the top of the press.
I tried it – it was delicious and full of flavor. A simple gilded lens won’t do the dish justice. It’s all about the process. I think this device – the printing press – has a certain aesthetic. I wanted to show the whole process in one image, so I used some artistic licenses. In effect, the pressed liquid is collected and then burned.
I choose to shoot where I shoot for a variety of reasons. That part of the restaurant is spectacular, I really wanted the golden statue in the background. Plus, the slightly darker areas maximize the impact of the flames, and you can really feel the heat when you’re watching this. The flames only lasted a second, so I had to hurry. I had Luigi light the pan three or four times before I got what I wanted.
When I photograph a dish, I try to understand what is unique or special about it. I am very interested in people and personalities in restaurants. One thing I love about this photo is that Luigi is wearing a ponytail and Spencer is wearing a classic tall chef hat – their usual uniform. Spencer gets to work At 16, he came for work experience. He was recently promoted to head chef.
I have a lot of admiration for the chef, especially considering the hospitality of the past few years. During the lockdown, I came up with a project where I took pictures of chefs in their empty restaurants across the country. This is pretty much the opposite of what I usually do. I shot in black and white, which seems to emphasize how all life is drained from these spaces. It was haunting and in stark contrast to the high-speed, dynamic environment where chefs typically work. What a joy to see life come back.
biography of john carey
born: London, 1974
Trained: Ravensbourne College of Art and Northumbria University, London.
influences: “Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. I love Bob Carlos Clark For his perspective on chefs and kitchen life. “
High Point: “Twice to win a category Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards – including This year this picture. “
Lows: “Selling our house to be able to continue doing the work I love.”
Most important tip: “Don’t always settle for the first shot. Bank the first shot, but push it — small tweaks can make all the difference.”