Beyond the Photo Shoot

Raw Oysters

What happens when a four-star chef spends a day in-studio on a photo shoot? - Strong chance that the food will manage to find its way from the set to your mouth, and that the day will turn out to be one to savor.

It was Daniel Humm, Executive Chef of Eleven Madison Park in NYC, and Sous Chef, Bryce Shuman, who brought the very best of NY produce and the inspiration to shoot it.  The tables were turned, however, as I, a former chef, found myself cooking for perhaps the single most visible chef in Manhattan and one of his right-hand men -- caught somewhere between a photographic set and my humble kitchen.

The day started with freshly baked pastries and hand-squeezed citrus juice -- something that has become a pleasant habit with us as we work to complete the ultimate Eleven Madison Park Cookbook and launch new projects together.

Snack breaks came in the form of slices of Toscano (bread that is formulated and baked with low salt to exalt the flavors of the foods it is eaten with), topped with the new harvest extra virgin from Azienda Agraria Violashipped directly from my dear friend, Enea Barbanera, a renowned chef in Umbria, plus bitter chocolate from Mast Brothers in Brooklyn and fleur de sel.  It was a brilliant pairing of flavors, thanks to Daniel's inspiration and prime resources such as those found at Eataly, NYC.

As the photo shoot progressed, we popped open a bottle of Italian Spumante and indulged in delicious raw oysters from Widows Hole in Greenport Harbor, directly off the set and freshly shucked by Bryce.

At that point, the day was flying at full tilt. Ingredients were moving on and off the set as fast as our ideas, with one shot more dynamic than the next, and before too long it was time to sit down to the lunch that I had prepared.

The meal began with Bresaola drizzled with young extra virgin, a few drops of lemon juice and freshly cracked pepper, topped with a salad of raw baby artichokes, sliced paper-thin, frisée and shaved Grana Padano. That, and a glass of fresh VermentinoArgiolas from Costamolino gave me just enough time to finish the pasta. I served a rigatoni from pasta maker Rummo, cooked al dente and garnished with rendered artisanal Pancetta, sweet, slowly caramelized onions, hot chili peppers, and shaved Pecorino Canestrato. Espressoand freshly baked Swedish Oatmeal Cookies, ended the session with a delicate sweetness and a nod to acclaimed pastry chef and dear friend, Dieter Schorner.

I have to say that nothing compares to the experience of shooting on location at Eleven Madison Park: the brilliant concepts and expert handiwork of Daniel and his army of sous and pastry chefs always seem to flow effortlessly between my photo set and my grateful palate. But it was refreshing to switch roles and even wear two hats for a change. And perhaps even more than that, I believe it was what was at the heart of the day - the reward of sharing your best food with great friends who appreciate each bite for the quality and good intentions behind them - that made it so special.

With new and exciting projects on the horizon, I have a feeling the "full-immersion photo shoot" might soon become our new protocol.