Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory (Portrait of Top Chef Canada Winner)

I have been absent from the Weekly Photo Challenge for quite a while, but Krista’s tales of hard work and determination inspired me to dive back in this week with a true mark of victory!

rene rodriguez

I recently had the opportunity to meet and shoot the winner of Top Chef Canada, Rene Rodriguez, owner of Navarra Restaurant in downtown Ottawa. Rene has an amazing look; we share a love of U2; and after hearing that he purchased a motorcycle with some of his contest winnings, I decided to try to model our shoot after a Rolling Stone cover.

Keeping things simple, I shot Rene and his bike in the alley behind his restaurant using a two-light setup. I placed one speed light in a shoot-through umbrella as the main light, and added a second speed light as a kicker to add a rim (or highlight) for some depth and separation.

I had two setups in mind, one featuring Rene front and centre, with his bike behind him and slightly out of focus, and the second with Rene on his bike. I am really happy with the results of the shoot, and even added some coloured gels for interest, but unfortunately I can’t show you the images from this shoot as they are part of a project to be released next spring. However, I can show you a portrait I took of our victorious chef against a fence at the end of the shoot.

The portrait above uses the same two-light setup, an umbrella as the key (or main) light on camera left, and a bare head flash at camera right to add a slight kiss of light on Rene’s left cheek and down his left arm to help separate him from the background.

Rene was a great subject, and obviously very used to having his photo taken since winning Top Chef Canada in 2014. The culinary scene is truly an amazing scene to be a part of, and I have really enjoyed working with a number of different chefs this year. I look forward to working with some more that I have lined up over the next few months.

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Chef Portraits: Ian Carswell

I have always been an art lover. From a young age I spent countless hours drawing and painting, and I have been lucky enough to visit some of the best galleries in Europe; and since moving to Ottawa I have learned that the city happens to boasts one of Canada’s premier art galleries. That’s why I was really excited to meet and shoot my fifth chef, Ian Carswell, Executive Chef of KW Katering at the National Gallery of Canada.

Ian Carswell National Gallery of Canada

Before the shoot, Ian and I chatted over the phone a few times and hit it off really well. At times I found it difficult conducting business over the phone with someone I hadn’t met while my two kids screamed and sang in the background, but as a family man himself, Ian completely understood. He even cooked my boys breakfast and treated them like kings during the morning portion of our shoot.

Based on our conversations leading up to the shoot I expected to really enjoy this experience, and I did. I can only describe Ian’s personality as amazingly infectious. After meeting me in the parking lot, he led me to the kitchen to introduce his staff, and then delighted me with a tour of the gallery… which was closed for the evening and completely silent. Ian has a great sense of humor, and had us laughing throughout the night, but he also showed that he could easily switch gears and seamlessly manage a couple of issues that arose as the evening wore on.

This shoot differed from the others in the series, because although there were some images shot in the kitchen, it was almost entirely shot in an underground boardroom where the staff set up a makeshift kitchen to prepare the dishes. You’ll notice that once the food was cooked, it was wheeled to the plating area in a large portable warming oven. The other thing you’ll notice, is that the staff were performing their art while being surrounded by famous works’ on the walls.

This was a memorable shoot for me because it’s not everyday that you have complete access to one of Canada’s treasured art institutions. I have Ian and his crew to thank for making the night such a special one for me. If you’re a lover of food and art, then you’ll want to make the National Gallery of Canada a definite stop on your Canadian travels.

I hope you enjoy the images…

 

 

Chef Portraits: Stephen La Salle

On a frigid date night late last winter, my wife and I headed downtown to catch a friend’s band play. We were already excited to be out because our friend plays in Sloan, one of my all-time favorite Canadian bands, but a last minute change in plans had us stumble on a nearby restaurant called The Albion Rooms. The show was better than ever, but what we talked about for days and weeks afterwards was this new restaurant we discovered and the incredible food they served. We still talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the head chef and culinary mastermind behind The Albion Rooms, Stephen La Salle.

stephen la salle

Leading the charge at The Albion Rooms for the past three years, Stephen has turned a hotel restaurant into one of the best dining experiences in the city with its beautiful mix of modern cool and rustic je ne sais quoi. For all you Mad Men fans out there, this is where the 21st century Don Draper would frequent. Whether you’re in for the salmon & eggs breakfast; the elk burger dinner; or just popping by for a cocktail such as my favorite, Rye PA, you are guaranteed to leave happy. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of The New York Daily News and many other positive reviews La Salle has garnered.

stephen la salle at barWhen he’s not cooking or overseeing operations in the kitchen, Stephen can often be found at the front of the house, perched at the corner of the bar preparing apps and making final touches to dishes while chatting with patrons. This is yet one more reason why the members of the Bytown Chefs Collective succeed in the industry. After shooting four of this group of seven, I have yet to find one of these guys with an over-inflated ego and too self-absorbed to want to be face-to-face with his customer base. They continue to blow my mind, and La Salle is no exception.

I get the sense that Stephen has a low key, easy going personality which probably serves him well in what I can only imagine to be a highly stressful job. However, when he gets down to work, his game face shows nothing but focus as he prepares his meals, and the swiftness and ease at which he moves around the kitchen is truly something to witness.

If you’re ever in Ottawa and want to have one of the best dining experiences of your life, make sure to visit Stephen La Salle at The Albion Rooms. Oh, and don’t forget to Tweet or Instagram your experience as he loves to engage with people on social media.

I hope you’re enjoying this chef series featuring the Bytown Chefs Collective as much as I’m enjoying producing it. I’d love to hear your feedback on the series, or stories about great dining experiences in the comments. Here is a gallery from the shoot…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Roy G. BIV

Since moving to Ottawa last spring, I have written many, many, many times about how beautiful the city and it’s surrounding area are. Heck, even CBC says that Ottawa sunsets are among the most beautiful in Canada.

Sometimes I don’t have to look far to see the constant stream of beauty we have around here. I took this shot with my phone from the end of my driveway last summer after a brief storm. It was the first time either of my boys had ever seen a rainbow. The moment became a personal highlights from our first year in the city, and I often look back on it to think about the wonderful day we had as a family that day.

rainbow