This series started with the broad theme of identity, followed by the simple question, “how have I changed?” I grew up, I changed physically, I matured, I met people who helped shape me. I’ve traveled to various places around the world. I’ve done many things that help shape who I am, but my biggest life changed was with food.
Growing up, I was a very picky eater. My family did not eat a variety of foods, much less foods from other cultures. I only changed when I met my wife in my early 20’s, more from embarrassment than anything else. I told myself that I would try anything and not let my preconceived thoughts alter the way I approach food. The simple change in my attitude altered the way I view the world and led me to a passion of mine, cooking. I love to to cook and I love to cook for other people. When I recommend something and say, “it will change your life.” I am giving it my highest praise. Your life will never be the same after experiencing that particular food. It is a bold statement and one that I do not use often. Each photo represents a meal and a location that has changed me.
Pat’s Pizza’s Pesto Bread, Portland, Maine
I first had “Pesto Bread” at a small pizza chain called Pat’s Pizza. I had never had pesto before. It was green and therefore, represented vegetables. In reality, pesto is basil, garlic and cheese. This taught me to not be so quick to judge food based on name and color. This meal has also inspired me to grow my own basil. I start each season with one plant. I propagate it until I have enough basil to last me through the winter. I represented this process by the basil plant with exposed roots in the water glass. Maine will always be a special place to me. I worked at a summer camp outside of Portland for 5 summers. I met amazing people from all over the world. Similar to trying new things, it was the first time I considered myself to be an adult. I transitioned from being a college kid to a functional member of society.
Indaco Pizza, Charleston, South Carolina
This pizza was the first time I had brussel sprouts. Up until this point, I just assumed the worst flavor imaginable, based on their reputation. It also challenged my ideas of what are appropriate toppings for a pizza. I never would have thought to combine unique flavors like brussel sprouts, honey and apples on a pizza. Although I have only been to charleston a few times, it will always be a favorite place of mine. I could do an entire series on the food that I’ve tried and recreated.
Joe’s Baked Rigatoni, Marriottsville, Maryland
Uncle Joe has been like family to me. I grew up in the house next door to him. Every few months, he would call the house and invite us over for dinners that he affectionately called “Italian Night.” Baked rigatoni was a staple. It was a unique take on traditional Italian pasta dishes. This meal represents family. Not just family by blood, but family in a sense of the relationships that you chose to create. This meal was also the inspiration for cookbook business. In college, I took a course called “Multicultural Art Education.” In this class, I decided to create an artwork based on Joe and his background. I interviewed him as he was cooking this meal. I decided to create a series of cookbooks based on different cultures and different meals. This series blossomed into a business that I continue to work on today.
I have been doing commercial food photography for a few years. I needed to do something different than your typical product shot that you would see on menus and in cookbooks. I chose to focus on the ingredients, rather than the meal in its finished stage. I did this, because in many of the meals, it was the ingredients that had a lasting impact on my cooking, not the final product. I was inspired by the Baroque still life painters, specifically Juan Sanchez Cotan and Pieter Claesz. These baroque artists (and many others), would often use dark backgrounds and strong light to highlight the natural color in food. They would frequently hang ingredients, and let objects come off the edge of the table to force the viewer’s eye throughout the entire work, both of which I utilized within my work. Unlike the Baroque still life paintings, my work is much cleaner. There is minimal overlap of the ingredients. I chose to do this to add emphasis to each individual ingredient.