Three years ago, when I asked my friend Stefanie whether she might be interested in doing the photography for my cookbook, I could have not anticipated what we may getting ourselves into. I had not had a chance to thoroughly research this culinary endeavor, other than a semi-abstract idea of what I envisioned the book to be, namely, a collection of original recipes, beautiful photography, and some of my father’s paintings of individual ingredients. Over the course of the last three years, I spent countless of days and nights forming ideas in my head about what the direction and focus of the book should be, as well as researching and developing innovative recipes that were exciting visually, texturally and with flavor combinations that complemented one another, all while reconciling my “Tuscan” background with my exposure to cuisines from around the world, from which I draw heavily.
Even though we may have not known it at the time, we later realized that no culinary feat was insurmountable, and so our cookbook adventure began, not with an ensemble of chefs, sous-chefs, food preps, photographers, and food stylists, but rather, just Stefanie and I. The photographer, armed with her camera, a great sense of style and styling skills, professionalism, dedication, and a calmness that counteracted my intensity; and I, the accidental chef, with my creativity, imagination, perfectionism, cooking skills, and an obsessive passion for food; a mad scientist in the kitchen.
We strived for a food presentation that, even though artistic, was an honest representation of each recipe. No unrealistic tricks, like undercooking, or using fake food. Every dish that was photographed was prepared with the intention of being consumed afterward, in part, not to be wasteful, and secondly, to ensure that the dishes that would be published were not only pleasing to the eyes, but also to the palate, so that we truly believed in each and every recipe. Having said that, with each shoot we learned new and useful styling techniques, which improved our presentation with each dish. Even though all the dishes have been finally photographed, I feel like I could keep going, as I find great excitement in creating new dishes and presenting them beautifully.
But let me not get ahead of myself...
So what is this cookbook about?
The book's main focus is the use of fresh, locally available ingredients, with special emphasis on flavors, colors and new flavor combinations, drawing mainly from Italian, Indian and Japanese cuisines, culminating in complex, yet harmonious, dishes that are beautifully photographed, with almost an ethereal feel, which in my opinion is a signature of the photography of my partner in crime, Stefanie.
This cookbook is a true collaboration between the artist photographer and the artist cook, both having contributed to its development and execution. This book represents us, our vision, our passion, our complementing styles. From enticing starters to seductive desserts, this gem will be a pleasure to venture into.
Here is a little taste of what the reader will be treated to...
And for kicks, I thought it would be fun to share two contrasting images from one of our many on location shoots. After a ten-hour marathon, making several dishes, and using countless pots, pans, plates, while constantly running the dishwasher, after several suspenseful moments, as we strove for plating perfection, under the pressure of the clock, as I still had to play mom to my three children, it is curious to see the contrast between the neatness and calm in front of the camera, compared with the intensity of the kitchen.
A true labor of culinary love.