WORK DIARY: ANATOMY OF A CULINARY PHOTOSHOOT

IMG_6850[1]

I recently had the opportunity to work on an exciting & challenging work project: a culinary Photo shoot showcasing the signature dishes of the 12 restaurants of Heritage Resorts, one of the brands for which I am the Content Creator.

Sure, taking 3 dishes’ shot per restaurant might sound like a pretty straightforward task : the Chef is in charge of the aesthetics of the plate and you rely on the photographer’s skills to capture the dish at its best angle under the best light and bam! You shoot one dish after the other and you’re done.

FullSizeRender

Except that no. Firstly, my creative self had set as an objective that each restaurant’s personality, ambiance and location should be reflected in each dish’s photo.
Again, that could be a straightforward task but when the dishes come from 12 restaurants splattered across a 2500 hectares estate it is somewhat problematic.

Secondly, chefs catering for guests of two 5-star resorts, dozens of villas, a golf club and beach club do not exactly have a million time slots and space readily available for a culinary shoot.

Also, have I mentioned that I only had one working day to shoot all the dishes?

 

After selecting Tristan Chaillet as the photographer, I started working on a mood-board for each dish, picking colorful ingredients,  statement utensils and other accompanying items to bring texture and Style to the backgrounds. Amongst other props, I chose lemon because its color and shape make it photogenic and bring out a nice contrast to black plates, wooden tables and other dark backgrounds, as are cherry tomatoes and feta cheese.
FireShot Capture 1 - (33) Pinterest • The world_s catalogue_ - https___au.pinterest.com_search_pins_
After browsing for days for food styling inspiration, I eventually got overwhelmed by the overload of gorgeous images I scrolled through on Instagram and pinned on Pinterest and decided I needed help (for this particular shoot, not my life in general, you get me).

I contacted a few food stylists recommended by friends and eventually decided to go With Josepha Desvaux de Marigny ,who despite not being an established food stylist as such, had excellent credentials working with one of the most respected Chefs on the island and whose creative eye and organizational skills were assets I knew I could personally vow for.

I organized the shooting day military style:
First the location: to meet my 24-dishes- in- a-day objective, I had decided to shoot all the 12 restaurants’ dishes in one location, which was at Heritage Awali as it was the entity with the highest number of restaurants on the resort. But there was a catch: every restaurant had to bring onsite its dining decor which were tables, table cloth, vase, cutlery, plates, glasses, lamp and whichever item that added to the feel of the place.

FullSizeRender (1)

Evidently, this was not achieved without some gnarling, complaining and finally acceptance on the part of food and beverage managers, waiters and chefs.

I had set-up a time table which established at which time each chef had to have their dish ready, to minimize their waiting time spent on the shoot, which I am proud to say worked out admirably.

All 3 of us carpooled  to Bel Ombre, which turned this usually long drive into a short, intensive creative brainstorming session, with Josepha and I pulling out colorful food styling photos from our iPads and creative diaries and Tristan providing his professional insights whilst driving carefully.

IMG_6845[1]

Despite all the prior-planning, most of good shots from this day were the result of trial-and-error  and probably a good mix of creative minds :
I wanted the seafood platter coming the Infinity Blue restaurant with the ocean as a background to convey the feel of the restaurant, but after a million trials in the chosen spot and a few uncertain ones by the pool ‘because it had a nice green-turquoisy’ Colour,  Josepha had a “eureka” moment when she saw the chef removing the platter after the shoot which turned out amazing.

IMG_6849[1]

seafood-platter
Photography by Tristan Chaillet /Copyright http://www.heritageresorts.mu

We were shooting on the table the Indian restaurant and the three of us sensed that something was not quite fantastic about the background. The restaurant was on that undergoing some electrical works and the maintenance team had removed a wooden board to work on the wires behind it. We took this board, placed it on the ground with all the dishes and props and it matched perfectly.

top-10-must-try-dishes-at-heritage-resorts
Image source: www.heritageresorts.mu 

 

And because no one knows his restaurant and dishes better than the Chef,  Chef Ravi Kanhye the Executive Chef of Heritage Awali regularly came up to us with accessories and other ingredients when he saw us doubting saying gently “maybe give this a try” and of course, the Chef is always right.

 

Overall it was a creatively and physically strenuous day but it was definitely an invigorating experience shared with passionate and gifted souls and it’s definitely days like this which keep me going.

You can view a sample of the photoshoot here

A million thanks to Tristan, Josepha and all the artists of Heritage Resorts for sharing their passion, wisdom and expertise. 

TRAVEL DIARY : GETAWAY TO RODRIGUES

We recently returned from Rodrigues, and wow, It was one of the most relaxing getaways that I’ve ever had the chance to enjoy.  I tell you all about where stayed, ate and had fun.
 SAM_4498

ACCOMMODATION 

SAM_4226
We stayed at ‘Les Cocotiers’ at Anse aux Anglais, loacated a mere 5-minutes’ drive from Port Mathurin, the capital.
 The hotel has a creole-style architecture, with pavilions bearing light tropical colours.  It faces the sea, has one restaurant, one bar and one swimming pool, all overlooking the lush tropical garden surrounding the premises.  The hotel didn’t have many guests (besides us, there was one other couple when we arrived).  The staff explained that it would fill up as from Thursday afternoon because of the long weekend coming (we arrived on a Tuesday). 
 
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE HOTEL 
SAM_4230
  • The room was spacious, clean, nicely decorated and has a balcony which faces the sea.
  • The staff was kind, discreet and extremely helpful.
  • The Food! We stayed for 4 nights, with two nights on half-board and two nights on Bed and Breakfast as we wanted to sample the most of Rodrigues legendary cuisine. What we had for dinner on both occasions were a pure feast and we were not disappointed once by the breakfasts. Dinner was traditional Rodriguan dishes (seafood salad as entrée, rice-based dishes with grain and assorted with curries or ‘daubes’ which were out of this world. Their octopus curry was simply to die for. All of these delights were of course topped with fantastic locally-produced pickles and chilli paste.
  • The location. It is a delicious walk from a seaside spot where locals hang in the afternoons.  There is a kiosk, picnic tables and food trucks. We spent almost every afternoons during our stay there, brought some rosé and enjoyed some ‘gato piments’ and grilled sausages and chicken from onsite food vendors.  No loud music, no kids shouting and running around, just zen individuals minding their own business and enjoying the stunning view and tranquility of the place. Good vibes only. SAM_4522

RESTAURANTS

Rodrigues is truly a foodie’s paradise. The country is rich in locally-sourced ingredients prepared in a spectacular way, ranging from lemon pickles, honey-glazed pork sausages to dried octopus and fresh lobster.  Whether you choose a restaurant, a street food or a hush-hush little guest house, you will always eat something that will rock your world.

Basanio Snack Boutique

SAM_4047

It is located on the main road leading to St Francois. We brought our own rosé and there was a Rs200 corkage fee, and our lunch consisted of fried calamaris, a ‘poussse pousse’ salad (some kind of local seafood), curried octopus and dry octopus rougai. Bassanio himself was uber cool and his food simply amazing.

Madame LaRose

SAM_4422

 SAM_4423
SAM_4427SAM_4438SAM_4450
It’s pretty hard to get more authentic than at Madame Larose: It is a traditional creole house with about thirty Goats roaming around the garden. I am a sucker for outdoor dining and lunch served under the islander-styled, breezy veranda could not have been more spot on.  The waitress could have been less grumpy but besides that, the dishes sent me straight to Rodrigues’ food heaven.
 
 Mazavaroo
SAM_4329
 The place is gorgeous and has typical laid-back, island feel. But, to be honest, I heard so many amazing things about Mazavaroo that I went in there with very high expectations. We had honey-glazed grilled pork as an entrée – delicious. I ordered a fresh tuna ceviche and there were too much onions in it for my liking. Don’t get me wrong: it was good but I just felt that its food’s reputation was a bit overrated. The service was great though.

Le Marlin Bleu

 SAM_4235SAM_4233
We went on a Wednesday night whilst all the other restaurants were closed. It was packed, so we were seated inside. It was incredibly hot so we asked to be moved on the terrace as soon as a couple of guests left.  We had a pizza named ‘La Rodriguaise’ (octopus, tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese, Shrimps sautéed with garlic.  Our favourite part of dinner was the lemon tart dessert.
 Note: Most restaurants are closed on Wednesday nights. We drove up to St Francois to have dinner Mazavaroo but it was closed, as were all restaurant along the way. We were obviously aware that we needed to have a reservation to dine at most places in Rodrigues (they sometimes open up their restaurant just for one couple but you need to call first) but Mazavaroo and Madame Larose never picked up their phone when we called, so we tried our luck in vain.  We ended up having dinner at ‘Le Marlin Bleu’ just nearby the hotel.

WHAT WE DID 

Zipline at Tyrodrig

IMG_2550

 I’m a huge adrenaline junkie so this experience was definitely the highlight of my stay.
Super fun with breathtaking views and serviced by a friendly and professional team.

François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve

SAM_4054SAM_4062SAM_4177SAM_4074SAM_4084

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAM_4132

Gorgeous garden with giant tortoises walking everywhere, impressive cave and very knowledgeable tour guide.
Ile aux cocos
SAM_4250
Painfully long, overcrowded boat trip to get to and return from this paradisiac island. Beach is gorgeous. We booked through marideal.mu, waited at Pointe Diable for the designated marideal skipper to show up, he took our voucher, didn’t really acknowledge us and almost left without us. He basically puts you in which ever boat which has space left.  When we arrived, there were tables set for lunch on a terrace overlooking the beach but for some reason we were told that our seating place was at the back of the house, a dirty little shack with no view. It was unclear how and why people that came together in the same boat trip had a more pleasant place to lunch. That was a bit frustrating since we did pay quite a lot for this all-inclusive day trip. Since we didn’t want to eat in this shithole, we took our (delicious) lunch to eat on the beach. There was some island tour where the guide explained about the birds but chose to skip that and went for a drink in the crystal clear sea.
Hiking and beaching at Anse Bouteille and Trou D’argent
We left our car at St Francois and hiked to Anse Bouteille and Trou D’argent, which takes around 30 mins.
These beaches were absolutely stunning and the swim just exquisite. 
SAM_4359SAM_4386SAM_4391