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All of us can take pictures. After all, it is simply a point and shoot thing! But not all of us can take great pictures, do what he or she loves, and makes a great living out of it. Furthermore, not all of us can take photos that seem to come alive with its sheer beauty.
This month, I have had the greatest pleasure of interviewing one of the best photographers in the industry, Diana DeLucia.
Diana first became popular in the Corporate world creating headshots for executives and Law Firms. She gave her clients more control in the portrait process “I want them to like their headshot; it will be used for many years to come in various types of media”. After this many avenues opened for Diana in the corporate world such as photography for website homepages, annual reports and brochures.
Diana does not only deal with corporate photography, she also works with product photography. She uses the standard white background in some of her shots, but she also encourages her clients to make use of other background colors and emphasizes the importance of prop styling in product photography. Not only are these “beauty shots” perfect for advertising materials like brochures and billboards, but they are also perfect for their websites, swing tags and product labels.
However, her passion is food photography especially for the fine dining industry. This includes not only the dishes whipped up by some of the biggest names in the culinary world like New York Chef Daniel Boulud and Sydney, Australia Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, but this also includes portraits of the world-famous chefs as well.
Diana also specializes in restaurant photography, and her photos capture what chefs want their restaurants to portray – comfort, elegance, grace, and the fine-dining experience. Diana knows how to tickle the visitors’ fancy and imagination by not only taking photos of the chefs, their restaurants, and their dishes but also the behind-the-scene actions of restaurant kitchens. Her food photography grabs the attention of viewers. The food photos tantalize their senses and make them imagine the taste and smell of the dishes.
Diana DeLucia is a very interesting woman with a very interesting talent of “bringing to life” the images she captures through her lenses. And it is my greatest pleasure to share with you the interview I have had with her. I hope you enjoy reading through the interview, and if you have any comments, please feel free to leave one. I also encourage you to visit her website to learn more about her art.
Dish by Iron Chef Marc Forgione of Restaurant Marc Forgione, New York City
Fettuccini “carbonara”, Feather Ridge Farm egg, Niman ranch Bacon, Oyster Mushrooms.
I asked Diana about her craft. You will find the Q&A below:
1 ) I learned that you were originally from Australia, what made you decide to move to the United States?
Business and Marriage (“I’ll save that for Vanity Fair” she says)
2 ) Has photography always been your interest and your passion?
Photography was my passion since I was a small child; my father gave me my first SLR camera, a Praktica, when I was 14 years of age. I studied Photography and darkroom film processing at the local Community College in Bundaberg, Queensland, while I was also at High School. I photographed mainly wildlife and scenery, and I soon discovered a passion for Fruit Bats and their habitat. Through this passion, I was fortunate enough to gain a great friend mentor – the renowned, late, Australian Naturalist, Writer and Photographer, Harry Frauca. Harry taught me extensive knowledge about photography and nature.
3 ) What made you decide to make a career out of it?
Photography was always my dream and my passion, and I wanted it to be my career from a young age. I had many diversions from photography, but I was always working in the industry one way or another. I walked the run ways on the Gold Coast as a fashion and swim wear model and worked in Television and Advertising Casting in Melbourne for many years before moving to the USA in 2002. It was here in the USA that I took up my Photography career more seriously.
Le Cirque Restaurant in the Bloomberg Building, New York, New York
4 ) Did you take photography courses to enhance your skill?
As a photographer, you have to continually update your skills, so yes.
Photography is subjective. It is an art form, and to some degree, you are born with a photographer’s eye. If you have the eye, you learn the rules; and when you can break them, you learn the science of the camera; and you practice them all; and the eye will take care of the rest. Of course, you also need Marketing and personality, and you can never be in a bad mood. You must always smile and make people happy and feel good about themselves.
I was also very fortunate as I also started the magazine NY Restaurant Insider with my partner at the time, and over a 5 year period from 2004 to early 2010, I was house photographer and gained a great reputation in the Fine Dining industry, which led to many, many bookings in the Restaurant Industry and Product photography. I also work extensively in the corporate world as I developed my own niche and methods.
“Yellow fin Tuna Ribbons, Avocado, Spicy Radish, Ginger Marinade”
Dish created by Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Jean-Georges Restaurant, New York City
5 ) Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between taking up photography courses and self-taught photography? In your opinion, what is better?
I would say that in today’s world, it’s always a better idea to start off with a degree. But, it’s not always that way. I have no degree, nor do many other renowned photographers. It’s the ability to sell and brand yourself, and people must like your photography style, that is what gets you bookings. You can photograph the most wonderful images in the world, but at the end of the day, it must be what people want, not what you want.
6 ) What is your “special style” in capturing images that make your art stand out from among the rest?
I love photographing food, and I love color. I see the food as an edible art form that can also be sensual to the human eye. I use mirrors and natural light if possible to keep the richest colors. I became accustomed to details as my images were often enlarged and in the centerfold of the magazine, so I learned to be super critical, and I can now spot an issue with a dish on site.
I’m not the most technically correct photographer; I have a knack, a 6th sense, especially for colors. Even my portraits are rich in color.
I recently started capturing black and white images again, and I offer B and W conversions now for all of my services, including Food, which has a different feel to it yet again without the color.
7 ) Right now, what is your inspiration in creating beautiful art and what motivates you to do more?
Much of my inspiration comes from my subjects themselves. Seeing the passion that Chefs have for their work brings me so much inspiration to constantly grow as a photographer. When I worked with Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin, I had to sit down afterwards at a cafe, have a glass of wine and cry, literally. I cried as I could not believe the passion he had for his craft; you could feel it. I have since learned to contain this feeling as I see it over and over again in this industry.
Out take Photograph taken for a cook book project
Potato Artichoke Chile, Nirmalas Edible Diary, Chronicle Books, photography by Diana DeLucia Photography
8 ) Was there anybody in your life – a loved one perhaps or a famous photographer – who greatly influenced your career? How so?
My career in photography was greatly influenced by friend and mentor, the late, Harry Frauca, Wildlife and Nature photographer; my admiration for Annie Leibowitz; my respect and pleasure to have witnessed and been involved with the work of Erik Fitkau many years ago in Melbourne; and recently my love for the work of Lou Manna. Only one of these is a food photographer, but their passion for their work is what made me study them.
My clients are also a great source of inspiration as they continue to praise my work and my growth as a Photographer.
9 ) Is there anyone that you would love to have the opportunity to work with? If so, who?
Yes, I would love to work with Annie Leibowitz, or just follow her around for a day at a Vanity Fair Celebrity fashion shoot!
I’ve shot so many Chefs. My dream assignment would be to travel to Leon, France and work for Paul Bocuse. A day in the life of Paul Bocuse would be amazing!
10 ) I see that one of your passions is food and restaurant photography, what is in them that made you fall in love with taking photos of it?
It is the passion of the Chef. Seeing that in action is an amazing thing to witness and photograph. The fine-dining masters create works of edible art, and so much work goes into each dish they create. Many people do not understand or appreciate the research of ingredients, the art of the presentation, and just how much goes into creating one dish.
I also love to photograph the restaurant interiors; they are pieces of history. Each restaurant is created by different Restaurateurs/Chef/Interior designers with vastly different personalities, and the ambiance and personality of each is so different.
My favorite restaurant designers are Adam Tihany and the world famous David Rockwell.
11 ) Have you ever had a “blooper” during one of your photography sessions, or a funny and memorable experience perhaps?
Yes, Charlie Trotters 20th Anniversary. It was a very expensive fundraising Charity dinner for the Boys Home in Chicago. Many of the worlds finest chefs were cooking at the dinner, including Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, Daniel Boulud, Heston Blumenthal, Pierre Herme, Charlie Trotter, Tetsuya Wakuda and more; and the restaurant and kitchen were so busy that we had absolutely nowhere to photograph the food. So I was set up in the spare bathroom, and it was funny to have the Gods of food bring me culinary creations to photograph in the loo. No lights, no nothing, just the light in the bathroom, funny stuff. In my opinion I did a lousy job that time, but the memories and laughs were worth it.
12 ) What are some tips and advices that you can share with photographers, especially those who want to turn their hobbies to careers?
Understand that to work as a photographer, unless you are creating Fine Art, you need to take photos of what other people want.
You then need to apply your own style to this as this is why they hired you, and it is what separates each photographer from another.
Never act like you are the celebrity that is doing them a favor; I hear this complaint over and over about photographers.
Thank you for your time Diana. To contact Diana to arrange a booking call the number below or fill out the contact form on her website at this link
Diana DeLucia Photography LLC
860 406 1782
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I have been trying to pin Steve from Resort down for some time now. After my persistence I was successful to secure a few moments of this valuable time. You will find a rather interesting Q&A from the mid section of this article.
The recession has not spared anyone. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you do, you will feel the huge impact that the global recession has on everyone. Even the food service industry is feeling the strain. No one is spared from financial stress. This is why restaurant management needs to have a budget and an expense control system. That is why the products of Resort Software are practically heaven sent. In truth, you don’t have to be a chef, and you don’t have to run a restaurant just so you could appreciate their products.
With this software, you can really control your expenses. You can minimize financial loses. This is really great considering the fact that everyone is practically opting for a low cost food planner. Adopting any of Resort Software’s programs will likely help you minimize your expenses and maximize your profits. This is what we need right now.
You can find a system that will work well for you. If you are a chef, you can get the Resort Chef program. This is the perfect software for you if you are pursuing a career in the culinary industry. This is also good for culinary students as well. You can easily browse, organize and edit recipes easily using this software. Fundamental features include those that you will need for basic costing.
Now, if you are running a restaurant, you can get Resort Restaurant instead. You will definitely enjoy using this. This is specifically designed for chefs like you and me in mind. If you are not a chef but you are running a restaurant, you will still love this software. This practically has all the costing features that you will need. In fact, it has a banquet costing feature that you can use as well. This is perfect for a single site operation. You can organize, edit and sort through various recipes using this software. You can also do menu costing work here as well. This is actually fairly similar to Resort Hotel software which is the most complete program of the bunch, because it offers multiple costing feature. Now, if you are running a hotel, you definitely need to get that software.
Hotel managers will also enjoy using Resort Executive. On the other hand, if you are merely running a much smaller establishment, like a bistro, perhaps. You can opt for Resort Bistro. This software basically offers all the features that you will need for bistro costing management.
If you are not running any establishment but you still would like to organize your recipes, you can opt for Resort Recipe. You can use this program to sort out recipes and organize them. You can also use the costing feature to ensure that you will be able to stick to your budget.
There are several Resort Software products that you can get. In fact, you can get one for your home. Even chefs need to make sure that their families are not incurring unnecessary expenses. Fortunately, there is a program that is perfect for households.
There are six recipe management programs that you can choose from depending on your needs and preferences. Each of these products offer various features that you will definitely enjoy using. Now with these things available in the market, there is no reason why you can’t stick to your budget.
Q & A with Steve Driessens
What is your position and what are your functions?
I’m a half-owner and director of the company.
My day-to-day job is writing software for new products and updating existing products so I guess if I was in a big company I’d have an impressive sounding title like ‘Chief Technology Officer.’ But, we’re a small family-owned company, so I also double up as receptionist, tea lady, janitor and a do few other jobs as well.
How long have you been working in this company?
We founded the company in 1989 so our 20th anniversary is coming up later this year.
How do you like working in Resort Software?
I love it. I came into this business from an engineering background and while food service is vastly different from engineering, I try to apply the same structured, engineering design principles to our software development process as I did when I was designing big steel things for a living.
Self-employment can be a double-edged sword though. I tend to work twice the hours I would if I were a regular employee, but I also have the freedom to pick and choose what I work on at any one time. So, if I’m not in the mood for some particular task, I can generally leave it until I am in the mood and do something else instead. That’s rarely an option with a boss breathing down your neck.
Do you imagine yourself still working here in – let’s say – 10 years from now?
Yes indeed. I’m here until I retire or they carry me out the door in a pine box.
What are your usual customers?
Most of our sales are made on-line to individual chefs and students/apprentices, but we also generate corporate sales to hotel groups, industrial catering organizations, culinary colleges, etc.
Do you personally use any of the software?
Yes. In the software industry we call this “eating your own dog food.” It’s a horrible expression, but the idea is for the development team to spend as much time as possible actually using their own software to see if it really works as intended. This also gives us valuable insight into how to modify the software to make it more usable.
We also store our own recipes using our own programs.
How reliable are your programs? Will you recommend them to just anyone?
Our products are as reliable as we can possibly make them. This is in our interests as much as our customer’s interests. If our software was unreliable it would drive up our tech-support costs and potentially force us out of business (this is probably true for any software company).
As for recommending our products, well, we have programs for just about anybody regardless of their position or level of computer expertise. So, yes I’m happy to recommend one of our products to just about anybody from the most experienced chef to the home cook/enthusiast.
How has the recession affected your product sales? Are there more people buying?
Our online sales to private individuals took a bit of a hit late ’08 but are slowly recovering. We’ve had much more corporate interest than normal since the recession kicked in. So, I guess chefs aren’t spending like they were, but companies are seeing their profits nose-dive and are turning to companies like us to help bolster their bottom-line.
There’s an old saying about people waiting until it rains before they fix their leaky roofs, and we’re seeing examples of that now from the corporate sector.
Do you think chefs really need any of these programs?
Some chefs definitely do need our products!
Senior chefs in restaurants and hotels are under huge pressure to generate profits these days and the most effective way to do that is through improved cost-control and optimizing profits. We provide the tools to help control recipe costs and to analyze and optimize a customer’s profitability (through Menu Engineering) regardless of their actual size and turn-over.
A number of chefs use their familiarity with our products to enhance their employment opportunities too. Plenty of companies use our products as a matter of course these days and it always looks good to a potential employer when an interviewee has the skill to walk into a job and use our products from day one.
Other chefs aren’t interested in costing and just want some way to store and print their recipes on computer. We have a free program called Resort Recipe for them. This particular product is also very popular with students and cooking enthusiasts.
Are you a food connoisseur?
No. Far from it. I love my food (as my ever expanding waist-line will testify), and I do appreciate fine food, but I don’t think I have a particularly well developed palate which makes me a bit of a culinary Philistine. Some days I’d be just as happy with a Vegemite sandwich as I would be with a three course meal prepared by the very best chef.
Do you like to cook?
Yes, I do. I’m not even remotely competent in the kitchen but I get a kick out of cooking something and having it turn out as intended. I have managed to pick up a wealth of cooking knowledge from customers over the years which has been a big help.
We also have a TV running in the office most days and it’s glued to the Food Channel, so it’s difficult not to absorb some cooking knowledge even if it is done subliminally.
What software will you recommend for chefs? Is it necessary for one to get two or three software?
More senior chefs would certainly benefit from one of our costing/menu engineering products and we have five of them to suit differing requirements depending on the size and nature of their business.
Other chefs want some way to store their recipes that’s a bit more advanced than the traditional grease splattered recipe cards. We were never going to sell software to these guys anyway, so we’re happy to provide our free Resort Recipe program for that.
Other than food service specific software, it’s hard to get by without a good ‘Office suite’ (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.) such as Microsoft Office, or the free Open Office.
What would you tell a potential buyer about your products?
Just try them for yourself. All of our products ship with sample data and you have a free 30 day trial period. If you have any questions or suggestions (no matter how trivial), drop us an email. We’re always keen to get constructive feedback.
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With the increasing demand for recycled products and environmentally-friendly products, it is great that many companies are offering greener alternatives. Natural corks, for instance, are not just used as wine closures these days. They are biodegradable and renewable, so it is fairly common to see them being used as flooring tiles, automotive gaskets, soil conditioners, building insulations, craft materials and sports equipment. One of the forerunners of cork recycling is the largest manufacturer or natural cork wine closures – the Amorim Cork.
Amorim Sets the Standards
Cork has always been a favorite wine closure. There is no other stopper that can match natural corks for their impermeability, flexibility and resiliency. It is also environmentally friendly. It is biodegradable and recyclable. Amorim corks are considered the best quality of natural corks. In fact, Amorim sets the highest standard in the industry. Their products serve as a benchmark for the rest.
Amorim uses the best raw materials and technology in producing their natural corks. The company is continually striving to achieve the highest quality of corks. They invest more than $6 million every year for researches. The studies primary goal is to completely eliminate trichloroanisole (TCA) from their products.
Amorim and their Corks
There are actually several kinds of wine corks and Amorim produces all these variants. You will find corks for fortified wines, still wines and sparkling wines. All of their corks undergo tried and tested procedures and laboratory tests. They are produced using the high-technology equipment. Not surprisingly, all of their corks meet the most rigid standards for safety. In fact, they are the only cork producer to have received the ISO-9002 accreditation.
Getting Your Wine Corks from Amorim
Amorim ensures that all dispatched corks meet the highest standards of quality. However, they provide certain guidelines that winemakers have to observe if the latter wants to ensure that Amorim cork quality is maintained. Care should be observed when transporting, storing and handling Amorim corks. This is to avoid the occurrence of ‘cork taint’. Actually, corks do not cause tainting; however, they may be contaminated with TCA which causes tainting. There is a very small chance, however, of cork tainting when you are using Amorim corks. Although this chance is fairly slim, Amorim endeavors to completely eliminate chances of cork tainting occurrence.
A couple of months ago, I contacted Carlos de Jesus, Amorim’s Communication and Marketing Director. He was gracious enough to provide answers to my queries regarding Amorim corks. Below are my questions and Mr. de Jesus interesting and insightful answers:
Q & A TIME
Since corks are not the same, what does your company’s have that will make your corks stand out from other manufacturers’ products?
What are you doing to ensure and improve the quality of your corks?
Both questions are intimately related as one of the key issues that differentiate ourselves from the competitors is the sheer size of the investments — and the speed at which those investments materialized – allocated to improve cork because even a material with the enviable track record of natural cork can be improved upon.
In this case, the market asked us to defeat something measured in nanograms, or parts per trillion. To operate at that level, one needs science. And to have science, you need money. Dozens of millions of Euros were allocated for R&D, new plants, personnel training, new quality procedures and the incorporation of processes as sophisticated as gas-chromatography with electron capture and detection (GC-ECD) or mass spectography (GC-MS). This multi-year R&D and Quality programme is a crucial element to explain why Amorim could enjoy last year more than 6% growth in our wine cork sales.
But if R&D is crucial, it is not the only reason why the company can enjoy growth in such a tough competitor field. We have a network of fully-owned subsidiaries that cover every single major wine market in the world, increasingly important when the wine supply base is going global. We have dozens of industrial units that guarantee peace of mind to our clients and the most encompassing product portfolio, covering every single wine price-point.
Wrap all this in the unique know-how of a company that was founded in the 18th Century and maintains its unique corporate DNA, and it is easy to understand why, and I quote, Forbes said that in cork, Amorim is number 1,2,3,4 and 5. If it was today they’d have to go all the way to the at least number 7.
Have there been any reports of TCA from use of your corks?
TCA can be carried by cork and plenty of other products, including plastic and cellar materials. Today we know that an anisole is not just an anisole. In addition to TCA, we also have TBA and TeCA, compounds with identical sensory profile but that are not carried by cork.
So today, we have to profile and analyze different and highly complex compounds at nano level. We do this with wineries and retailers and even with wine critics, especially because many wine faults are wrongly attributed to cork. Without GC capacity, it would be impossible to do the job. At Amorim, every year we produce 3 000 000 000 stoppers and we test everything bale for TCA. The end result is that we don’t have to make promises of perfection, not any more than other industries such as the aerospace industry, the cell phone industry or the computer chip industry. So, what we share with these industries is not the perfection that everybody knows cannot be obtained in this world. What we share is the adoption of solid risk management policies that ensure that problems tend to be identified and dealt with as soon as possible in the production chain.
Having said all that, can the odd cork in the midst of all these billions have TCA? Yes, but a combination of preventative and curative measures makes that problem curve go down, not up. Unlike it happened in the 90′s, when the problem was not as understood as it is today.
What kinds of corks do you have to offer?
As mentioned, we can cover any conceivable price point for wine, but also for Champagne and sparkling wine, as well as for Cognac, rum, whisky or Tequila. And then we have special products in small quantities that can go to specific industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, olive oil or even Dijon mustard. The breadth of utilization is just amazing.
And if you go outside the stopper division, cork is used on aerospace materials, luxury design shoes or competition kayaks, concert halls or churches – or in your home, of course.
How did you get into this type of business?
After more than a decade outside Portugal, it felt right to come back to Portugal, where the quality of life is close to unsurpassable. Because the holding company is publicly-listed on the NYSE-Euronext, I was originally hired as the investor relations officer. But after just a few months I took over the marketing & communications. Different audiences, of course, but both are about communicating on a timely and reliable fashion while creating a narrative that revolves around a very complex and unique product that, because of our heightened environmental awareness, the world is now getting to know all over again. Something else to thank Al Gore for…
What do you like about it?
The whole world is finally searching for that triple economic, social and environmental bottom-line balance that we all so desperately need. In cork, we have had that balance for hundreds of years. To be able to tell the world that it is possible, that such beautiful balance exists and it is not an utopia – and still get paid for that – is a privilege.
You know, for many years while in NYC, most things seemed to be a blip on the computer or a ticker on the bottom of a flat screen. When I look at a cork oak, I know that I will be long gone and the darn thing will still be going strong. With Direct Wines, in the UK, we recently planted three cork oaks in Theale. When we finished, Tony Laithwaite, the local MP and I looked at the three saplings and realized we just planted something that would be producing corks for their wines well into the 22nd Century. The product, the human and natural ecosystem behind it, makes cork the best example of how nature and mankind can coexist and prosper.
Do you see yourself still working for the company, let’s say, five years from now?
Five years is just about half of one single cork harvesting cycle and that humble cork on top of a bottle of wine can easily have half of century of growth and care behind. But seriously, I hope I am, I never had a job I loved so much.
And there you have it!
You can find more information about Amorim here.
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I received the following email from Chef Graham Ash. Matthew
It was interesting to read Mr. Strazzers interview from Nigeria and I would like to share my experiences with you.
I am based on the Nigeria Delta, between Lagos and Port Harcourt at a site called ‘Escravos’ where a new liquid to gas conversion plant is being built. The difficulties faced in this region are well documented, security here is very tight creating a safe environment.
I am employed as Executive Chef and work 12-14 hours a day for 42 days, then have 42 days off – yep, 42 days off!
I am responsible for feeding all the expats, which will rise from the current level of 180 to around 350 (There will eventually be 9000 men working and living on the project)
I have a team of 20 chefs over two sites. Who cater for all expats, who are a mixture of UK, American, Italian, Philippine, Indian, Korean and South African. This colorful mix mean we cook a wide variety of different foods.
I have a good budget and this allows me to cook quality food, even though we are ‘mass catering’.
As you would imagine, on a site like this, protein is King and anything grilled is always popular – steak, pork chops, chicken etc
The quality of the ingredients varies considerably. The majority of the meat is quite lean and requires careful cooking to avoid drying out and going tough. The fish we get is excellent and it has been exciting cooking with new species. The local ‘shiny nose’ is a large, meaty river fish that makes excellent fish and chips for Friday lunch.
The fruit and vegetables are a nightmare as they have such a short shelf life and vary considerably in size and shape and normally come with double their weight in soil.
Flour, sugar and other commodity ingredients, like cooking oil, can vary in quality from unusable to just about usable.
There are dedicated National caterers for cooking National food. From what I have sampled, it is a very protein rich diet (Goat, beef and chicken) and quite heavily spiced. Fish is also very popular.
Cow heel, cow tail and even cow skin are considered among the choice cuts. The majority of the meat is served wet, or as the locals call it ‘soup’ and is always served with a side of maize or semolina. This is made like a very thick porridge and small pieces are used to dip into the soup.
Cutlery is not required for Nigerian cuisine.
I sympathise with Mr Strazzer when he is talking about the difficulties faced in educating the staff.
The work rate leaves a lot to be desired and changing a mind-set from the ‘tomorrow’ to the ‘now’ is a challenge.
I am very lucky, in that my chefs, on the whole, are honest, dedicated and willing to learn from me.
Working in this kind of environment is always going to be tough, but if you view everything as a challenge and not a problem, then, with a good sense of humor you will gain a great deal of satisfaction.
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