This is probably my favorite picture I shot for Lodge Cast Iron Nation. I kow. It’s corn. Creamed corn. Iconic dish of the US that I did not before I moved to the US and married a Southerner. Such a simple and non pretentious side dish and so easy to mess up. My mother in law makes it from scratch and it is hard to beat but the version in Lodge blew our socks off.
Why is it my favorite picture? Simply because when we shot it, the whole idea of team work and telling a visual story of a recipe came together. The props chosen by the photo stylist Mindi Shapiro were just right and rustic enough to evoke cast iron cooking. The little negative space in the pan and creamy swirl worked by Tami Hardeman, our contributing food stylist is just perfect to show the consistency the creamed corn should have. I blocked and directed the light to be spot on the corn and still have some shadows and rustic feel around. We all did what we were supposed to do and it clicked. I had a huge smile on my face. It just jived.
Hopefully you will feel the same when cooking and reading from the book. I know one reader will…
Congratulations to Isadora (Izzy) from She Likes Food who has won a copy of the book and a 12-inch square grill pan from Lodge. Please email your snail mail address to helene @ helenedujardin . com.
I don’t often talk about work. Not the work that goes into this blog but the work that sometimes keeps away from it for long period of time. It’s no lack of recipes cooked and photographed though. I photograph cookbooks. That’s my full time job and one I absolutely love. Everyday I photograph recipes that you will hopefully cook and enjoy. Nothing gives me greater joy.
Everyday I get the chance to give a visual voice to words on a manuscript. As Senior Photographer for Oxmoor House publishing, I have the privilege of shooting for brands such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, Sunset, independent authors and big companies such as Lodge Cast Iron. I work closely with a creative team of editors and designers and spend my days on set with super talented food stylists and prop stylists. Our passion for food and photography unites us everyday over the same goal, to give beauty and visuals beyond the words on a page that you will read later and enjoy in your kitchen.
That’s the best I can describe my full time job. And I love it. When I moved to Birmingham to come work at Oxmoor House, I had no idea of what was ahead of me, the connections I would make with like minded people in the industry and all the beautiful cookbooks I would get the chance to work on with our amazing food and prop stylists. We are a tight unit taking our responsibilities to authors and recipes incredibly seriously. With their talents and our ideas, I am able to dive in my own photography freely and geek out, take risks and have a load of fun at the same time.
This past Fall, we worked on an amazing book for Lodge Cast Iron, the well known original American cast iron cookware. And what a blast we had. It’s not easy to shoot things in black skillets let me tell you… but we were given complete creative freedom with just the directive of "make it beautiful, make it Lodge". This iconic brand deserved gorgeous imagery blending its natural rustic look and feel with modern styling and photography techniques and compositions.
I loved how we all came together and worked our butts off to make it happen. I was able to work with my dear fried, Tami Hardeman, professional food stylist and the voice behind Running With Tweezers, who came to spearhead the book with our food stylists. We were all gelling for sure. Some of my favorite shots if my career so far grace the page of this book. I am super proud of the work accomplished by all involved and I hear the company is absolutely thrilled about the results too. Woohoo!
The book, entitled Lodge Cast Iron Nation, came out a couple of weeks ago and is collection of tried and true recipes, family favorites and sophisticated yet attainable restaurant recipes. Some were ones I cook at home regularly such as clafouti or chowder while others were completely new and surprising (and delicious) such as chicken cooked over hay.
I am a bit late coming to share it with you (I will post about my trip and workshops to New Zealand soon!) but I am doing so today with a couple of presents…
To celebrate its release, Lodge Cast Iron is giving away a copy of the book as well as a 12-inch cast iron grill pan(I have it and love it to pieces).
To enter: leave a comment on this post between today, Saturday April 5th and Tuesday April 8th (midnight), one entry per person, no anonymous comment please. Super easy… The winner will be drawn at random and announced promptly after. Good luck!
I am leaving you with two tasty recipes that I enjoyed photographing for the book. And eating, let’s face it, we ate really really well on set!!
We had a rough week and an even rougher weekend. Our 17 year old coolie-sheltie got really sick one night and was diagnosed with a terribly fast spreading tumor on his liver. Within two days, it had taken over him almost entirely and we had to say goodbye this past Saturday. We had hoped to spend a quiet weekend nursing him and getting us all ready but after another rough night, he just put his head in my hand Saturday in the wee hours of the morning and I just knew. He was telling me it was ok to let him go. We had had him since we was barely one year old. Within these 16 years with us, we had developed such a strong bond him and me and I just knew. As much as I was trying to fight the inevitable, I knew it was his time.
He has been part of every move, every major decision, every event that marked my adult life. He was there for the joys and the sorrow. He was a tough one. Beside one major gum operation when he was 10, we were blessed with an incredibly resilient dog. Last November, the vet marveled at his blood test. And then, a silently killing tumor brought him down. I could not bare to let him endure pain. He deserved more than that. He deserved we stayed by his side as he was taking his last breath.
Every moment once we came back from the vet was the first without him. A torture. Bill and I spent the weekend reminiscing about Tippy. The fun frisbee catching dog, the "belly rub thief" as we called him, the older days when he was still jumping and running, trying to keep up with our other pup, in spite of his arthritis. He was not one to be defeated. But this thing, attacking about every organ in his body was just too much.
We got angry, we got sad. We hugged on each other and on Bailey, our young lab-pitbull. We texted with friends who had met Tippy and it was so comforting to hear how touched they were by the news. We had 16 incredibly lucky and fulfilling years with him. He made us better as a couple and as individuals. For those without pets, I know it’s a bit hard to comprehend, I get that. I just know that there will be other dogs after him, just as there were others before him, because that’s what I know to do.
Along with comforting words and emails, I cooked a lot of comforting meals. Chicken with harissa and chickpeas, makeshift Pho, green fish curry and I made again the Poached Pears with Creme Fraiche and Sumac I had just made the weekend before.
Very few things say comfort, calming and peace than the smell of pears poaching on the stove with a bit of honey and vanilla bean. I wanted to add a citrusy tart note without adding more lemon so the idea came to my mind to sprinkle a little sumac of the creme fraiche accompanying the pears. I was right, it was just the exact touch to elevate this dessert. Sumac has a flavor note that I can only compare to what pomegranate seeds, dried and powdered would add to a dish. A little tart, a little floral and yet, it is a spice of its own.
We sat in silence at first, the soft pears giving away under our spoons, the hint of sumac and tart creme fraiche following. In between bites, we slowly took turns remembering our years with Tippy, all of our married life so far, all the runs, trips, all the things he chewed up, his love of sleeping in the middle of our shoes. We mended our broken hearts for a brief moment with a few chuckles and lots of laughs.
I am really excited to announce that I am teaming up again with my dear friend John Ondo, Chef at Lana restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina for a 4 day workshop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, May 13th-17th 2014, combining cooking classes and photo/styling….!
We were able to open registration to one more student thanks to the property we chose which is always good since our workshop always sell fast and with a wait list. Hopefully you will be lucky number 13! Yes, it’s a good number (my birthday is May13th…)
I have known John for many years and have photographed him and his crew many times. His food, cooking, restaurant are like home to us. He’s incredibly talented, down to earth and a great teacher. We had such a great time teaching our last workshop together that we decided to do another one.
We wanted to bring a workshop that was not only full of information but relaxing at the same time and we are always thinking the beach is about as relaxing as one can get!
We looked around and found an idyllic spot in Myrtle Beach. The house we selected offers a private bedroom for everyone (as well as bathroom) and a private access to the beach. Not to mention a swimming pool...you know, when relaxing after an afternoon of cooking and photography calls for a little play in the water…
In this workshop, I will share with the attendees my photo and styling processes. Anything from camera basics, creating an edible narrative with your photos, styling naturally, working with different light situations, current propping trends, etc…
Students will get to spend time with John work his craft in the kitchen through various small group cooking classes covering lots and lots of different ingredients and dishes (gnocchi, lamb, cast iron cooking…) Through both our personal guidance, attendees will develop their own creative process for styling, shooting and editing their photographic stories.
Throughout the workshop, I will take the group through studio/home as well as on location shoot, be it a bakery or a restaurant, a food focus event, etc… I am an open book, so any question you have about photography for blogging, editorial or cookbook will be answered. There will also be an open session for you to ask me anything you want about the business, or how to get started in the field.
I will share with you my experiences and tips on who to connect with, how to approach potential clients, or just how to best submit your blog for recipe development and photographing for brands. John and I will share with you the tips and hindsight we both gleaned from being the one in front or behind the camera and how to best approach light, time and space constraints.
Nothing is off limits with questions, from how to pick ingredients and how to cook them, how to manage your cooking/photo time efficiently, knowing about photography for blogging, cooking for photography, photo as a hobby or how to get started in the business. Both John and myself will be 100% available to all your questions. While we are in the gorgeous setting of the South Carolina coast.
Everyone, all levels of photography or cooking are welcome!
Update: While the one day workshops in Auckland, New Zealand are SOLD OUT, there are still spots available for the 2 day workshops I am teaching in Rotorua, New Zealand. (more information HERE)
This winter in Alabama has been quite different than all other winters I have spent in the South so far. Colder and lingering on. After the ice and snow that paralysed the Southern states just a couple of weeks ago, we had another snow episode just last week. This one was quite different though. It snowed on warmer grounds for a few hours and by 10pm, our streets were covered with the most beautiful blanket of fluffy snow. By 10am the next morning, it was all gone.
The evening it was snowing, one big snowflake at a time, I took the old pup and the camera and ventured outside. I was sure I’d be the only one out there. But, in that perfect quietness that happens after a snow fall, where all sounds become muted, where you feel that almost undefinable peace in your soul, I started hearing soft voices emerging all around me. Within minutes, our street became alive with neighbors, kids and dogs. Our neighborhood is full of creatives and I was not surprised to see many polaroids, brownie and diana cameras as well as high tech ones and cell phones. You could tell we don’t see snow very often! I was among them snapping away, instagramming and sending shots to family and friends.
As I could hear my feet onto the freshly fallen powder my mind wandered… Yep. While others were pondering snow angels at almost midnight, I was thinking about another kind of frozen fun. The edible kind. I started thinking about silky smooth whipped cream dessert, ice creams, snow cones, slushies, frozen drinks and granitas.
The next day after work, I picked up a whole bunch of blood oranges to make granita. I added a bit of tequila, quite a bit of lime juice and a tad bit of salt and pink pepper flakes for a little kick. The beauty of this granita is that you can make it without the alcohol for a kid friendly treat or take it a step further and turn it into a frozen margarita for an adult cocktail between friends. I admit, I also really wanted to try the new citrus juicer attachment on the new food processor the folks at Magimix by Robot-Coupe had sent me over Christmas. That thing is impressive. No more arm feeling like it’s about to fall off after juicing many pounds of citrus for juices, cakes and marmalades. I am addicted.
There’s something about blood oranges that make me eat them non stop when they are in season while I don’t really bother with regular ones any other time. They are so much more fragrant, beautiful to look at and marry themselves equally well with lots of savorydishes.
Yes, I am a sucker for cold desserts on cold days. Makes me rush to the fireplace. There’s no logic to my logic except that it was delicious and well worth the bit of prep involved.
Ok, I confess, I still enjoyed it all weekend long even with the temperature coming back up in higher ranges. Blood oranges just make me swoon.
We had an unexpected snow day yesterday and since our offices at Oxmoor House were closed, my husband and I decided to enjoy it to the fullest. Took the dogs for walks in the snow and around the neighborhoods to check if we can help anyone. Tidied up the house floor to ceiling, caught up on our reading and watched a couple of movies. Oh, and had a couple of cocktails in front of the fireplace.
Things are slowly going back to normal today and we’ll have to catch up on our photo schedule the best we can. I secretly wished the roads were still undrivable just so that I could watch the pup frolic in the snow. Bailey is like a kid with a new toy everytime he steps outside (5 year old lab-pit mix), while Tippy (17 year-old collie-sheltie) enjoys the freezing temperatures on his old bones.
It’s been a fun day also spent in the kitchen making soups to keep us warm and cozy. Lunch was an old Food&Wine recipe I had clipped a while back (Bon Appetit also has a version of it in this month’s issue that I have not tried yet), Spicy Pork And Kale Soup With Harissa. It’s an interesting blend of Asian flavors (soy sauce, galangal,..) and Moroccan ones (harissa). It works really well together and we polished off a couple of bowls with joy. The original recipe called for ground chicken but without the possibility to go the store, I used what I had in the fridge. Dinner was super aromatic Root Vegetable Soup, thick and creamy, that I served with Croque Monsieur.
I am so thrilled to be able to share with you a project that has been in the works for a little while now. I will be teaching three workshops in New Zealand at the end of March. I have never been there but always daydreamed about the possibility of traveling to this gorgeous part of the world one day. And now, it’s a reality and my husband Bill is coming along to discover it all with me.
The folks of the gorgeous magazine Nourish for which I have worked in the past is taking care of all the logistics while I focus on the finer details…such as sharing with attendees techniques, exercises and tips to work on their camera and styling skills. We will cover camera basics, how to optimize your use of natural light, basic and more advanced food and prop styling techniques and tips.
I will be teaching two half day workshops in Auckland on Monday March 24th. Details for each session HERE. You can decide to do one or the other or join me for the whole day as both sessions will be different and the afternoon one builds on the morning one. Please head over HERE to register.
The third workshop I will be teaching takes us to the beautiful region of Lake Rotoiti, Rotorua March 26th-28th for a complete two day intensive course (details HERE). We will be able to explore food photography and styling trends of the last few years, work on mini photo assignments throughout the day with my complete guidance along the way. Through hands on demos, I will give you the techniques and tips to improve your skills whether you are photographing for blogging, future editorial work or just for fun. A mini immersion of sort in a magical setting.
Please head over HERE to register for the 2 day workshop.
A new year! Wishing you a great 2014. May it be filled with all the things you work, wish, hope for! May it be filled with creative energy, engaging people and wonderful moment! It’s been a whirlwind of a year for us. A new position, a move, living apart for most of the year. Seeing friends get married, others have babies. There has been some really tough times too, which I may come back and share with you although I am not quite ready for that yet. You have been there all along, reading and sharing with me and it has made 2013 very dear to me.
It’s been a perfect mix of busy and quiet around here. My parents arrived the week before Christmas and are staying a couple more weeks. In the middle of work and play, we have had a wonderful time with friends and family, taking short and longer road trips, dogs in tow. We’ve enjoyed long simmered meals and new restaurants, quiet reading time and effervescent card games. A nice cozying time. For sure.
When my parents come visit, I like to spoil them a bit and won’t let them do too much around the house. It gives them time to really enjoy each other’s company, take walks, make plans, etc… I love cooking dinner for them and making them dishes I know they don’t usually try at home. I cook from so many different cuisines that I always enjoy making them discover something new. A typical week ranges from French, to American, Mexican, Asian, Italian, Moroccan. It keeps me immensely happy in the kitchen.
One of the cuisines I find myself cooking and craving a lot is Vietnamese. Thai is definitely a really close seconds. Can’t explain why. It comes in waves. We could have an entire month of Vietnamese and Thai dishes and dive right away in another of Italian and French or Northern African. I love spices and herbs. I love the play that each cuisines does with them, so different in taste and flavor, and yet intrinsically similar blending the sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami. To our palates and in our plates.
One of the highlights of December for me was this Tamarind Beef & Kohlrabi Salad from Luke N’Guyen’s "My Vietnam". This books is both a delight for the eyes as it is to the taste buds. This dish is great post heavy holiday party meals with the refreshing crunch of beets, carrots, kohlrabi and the deep flavors of mint and fresh coriander. It’s hard to stop at one serving, let’s just put it this way.
Hope you enjoy it too! Best served with a cold refreshing beer I might add…
Starting years ago, I always thought that by this time of the year I would get tired of anything Christmas before it is even the holiday and yet, it never happens. In the world of food photography, we tend to start Christmas photo shoots in the summer. In the world of cookbook publishing, we take full opportunity of the season upon us to shoot the next Christmas. So, when your inboxes get filled with holiday promos on Halloween day, part of me screams "no, no, no! We’re not there yet!" and part of me is already filled with ideas about menus and decorations and awaiting impatiently to put all these into action.
This time of year I look forward to a little more baking, roasting veggies and long simmered soups. For loved ones, family, friends. For our little team of two also. Not a whole lot of things beat baking on a Sunday morning and filling the house with the aroma of vanilla bean, apple, quince, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc…
One thing that always get my head geared up for the season is the abundance of citrus around. Gorgeous Meyer lemons, sun bursting oranges and my favorites,satsuma oranges. Their aromas, soft skins and subtle flesh always bring me back home in a way. I find myself recreating the same full fruit bowl my mother used to bring us after dinner filled with clementines, oranges, nuts and dried fruits. That was our dessert. Simple, easy and the perfect light break in between heavier holiday meals.
During the holidays, I love to incorporate every citrus I get my hands on into cakes and confections. My favorite thing to make on a short notice and when the cravings hits on the weekend is a simple creme fraiche, olive oil and satsuma cake.
A few seeds of tart pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top and I am go to go…
The month has been busy at work with a few really cool cookbooks I got to photograph, meetings for other books that will be shot that I can’t wait to shoot and work on. Long days at work left me little time at home, most of which was devoted to plan and execute the workshop I taught on Saint Simons Island with my friend John. Oh man…this workshop will stay in my memory as one of my favorites. Teaching with a friend is a wonderful experience, but teaching with someone you consider family is even better. We plan to do this again next year so stay tuned!
This past weekend I got to workshop with Tami, my other sibling in a parallel universe at the Mixed conference in the mountains of Virginia. We had a special three hour workshop in addition of our session and we decided to throw the attendees a real challenge by styling brown food, a very brown chickpea stew… Ugly food turned sexy and appealing under their cameras. We were thrilled to see how they embraced the challenge!
It feels good to take a few days off from work and do these. They are revitalizing to me. They are of course taxing on the brain and body but I love being able to share the experiences and resources garnered along the years. And meeting really talented folks who only need a little push to start unleashing their creativity and owning their talent. Watch out world, there are some pretty gifted photographers coming your way!
Traveling always takes a toll on the body and the diet. While I try to make good choices, I do lose my willpower once in a while and can’t always find the things that truly feed me happy such as lots and lots of veggies and fish. In between two trips and loads of late evening shooting, I make a point at eating both. Lots of salads with grilled fish, lots of soups with poached fish and variations galore.
These two salads are current favorites. A fennel and cucumber salad adorned with scallions and mint with a light splash of oil and vinegar. The other one is a watermelon and dandelion greens salad right from the farmers market bounty that I find right now, topped with roasted trout and a simple vinaigrette. Easy to make, simple and refreshing. A perfect little detox on a plate in between a few road trips or a couple of holiday meals.