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Shooting in Manual: The Ins and Outs of Food Photography

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Shooting in Manual: The Ins and Outs of Food Photography

Posted on 10 April 2014 by Administrator

Making the switch to manual photography is a bit like taking a leap of faith. All the fancy buttons and menu options on a DSLR camera can be intimidating and there is a lot of new terminology and concepts, such as apertureshutter speed and ISO, to master. I learned how to shoot in manual by taking an introductory photography class when I was living in NYC about six years ago. My teacher was a big proponent of manual, so that’s what I learned and I’m forever grateful for it.

Why Shoot in Manual?

Cameras are pretty amazing these days and you can get some really nice pictures just by pointing and shooting with your camera on automatic. It’s easy, the pictures are generally decently exposed and you can move from situation to situation quickly without having to make decisions about and adjustments to your shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

The down side is that your camera makes all those decisions for you. Right now you may be thinking, “Hey, that’s great. I don’t want to mess with all of that!” I hear you. A few years ago I was in the same boat, but I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of having control over how my image turns out.

 

automatic camera settings demo picturesFig. 1 – For demonstrative purposes, I took these pictures using the automatic settings on my camera.

Let’s take a look at the pictures in Fig. 1 above.

I used the basic automatic setting for the first picture on the left. Sadly, the camera decided that it should use the flash. The built in flash on cameras tend to be, well, not great. You can see how the lighting is kind of uneven and the image looks flat. So, not a great image.

For the next two images, I used the automatic with no flash setting. I think the images are much better; a little underexposed, but they have a lot more depth. If you have editing software you can fix the exposure issue, so, while not ideal, it’s fixable. The issues with these photographs lie in the other decisions the camera made.

Focal Point

You may have noticed a pretty blatant different between the second two pictures. (Hint: it’s the focal point.) The middle picture is focused on the basket of strawberries in the background while the picture on the right is focused on the shortcake in the foreground. You’d think that, with a difference like that, I must have done something differently. Nope. The only thing I did between the two photos was press the button.

So the camera made a pretty significant and apparently arbitrary decision about what was the focus of the picture. You may have your own ideas about what is important in a picture; I know I certainly do. Shooting in manual gives you the control to choose where the camera focuses, rather than having to rely on the camera’s software to make that choice for you.

(A lot of point and shoot cameras these days can recognize and automatically focus on faces.  Alas, by the time you’re photographing your food, it probably doesn’t have a face.*)

Aperture and Depth of Field

Shooting in manual allows you to select the aperture at which you shoot, which gives you control over the depth of field if in the image. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what I just said. I’m about to explain.

Aperture InfographicFig. 2

Aperture refers to the hole in your camera that lets in light. Much like the pupils of your eyes, the larger or wider the aperture, the more light it lets in. The smaller the aperture, the less light that gets into your camera. This works in conjunction with the shutter speed to determine the exposure of your image.

Aperture is sometimes referred to as “f-stop” because aperture is written as f/[number]. The larger the denominator, the wider the aperture. In other words, f/5.6 means that there is a larger opening than f/16. It’s a little counter-intuitive at first, but if you think of it in terms of fractions it makes sense. (1/5th of a pie is a larger piece than 1/16th).

Okay, so what does this matter? It matters because the aperture affects the depth of field in a photograph. Whereas the focal point is where in the photograph you focus, the depth of field determines how much of the photograph is in focus.

aperture and depth of field example imagesFig. 3 – These images were shot using a tripod. Note the long exposure times.

The focal point for all four of these images is right in the middle of the strawberry with the whipped cream on it. The basket of strawberries in the background is very blurry in the top left image where the aperture was f/5. This image has a shallow depth of field. You can see how the basket gets sharper as the aperture gets smaller, creating a deeper depth of field. The basket is sharpest in the bottom right corner where the aperture is f/32. The focus of the foreground changes as well, but the change is subtle in these pictures.

In Fig. 1 above, where I shot in automatic, the camera chose an aperture of f/5. That means it chose to have a shallow depth of field like the top left image here in Fig. 3. But what if you kind of like that adorable little ceramic basket you got on sale at Anthropologie? You might want it to be a little more in focus. If you’re shooting in auto, you don’t get to make that decision.

aperture failFood Photography Fail. I defaulted to auto one day when photographing in a restaurant. Wrong decision.

This image is an excellent example of what can happen when you let the camera make the decisions. I was in a restaurant and a little shy about whipping out my enormous camera during dinner. So instead of taking the time to get my settings right, I just used auto. Of course, it was dark in there and my camera used a wide aperture to let in more light, which ended up creating a very shallow depth of field. Only a sliver of the dish is actually in focus, which is less than ideal, to put it mildly. I learned my lesson.

Whoa Morgan, you just said something about it being dark and using a wide aperture to get light and what’s going on?

Don’t panic! This just brings us to…

Exposure: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO

So, aside from making decisions about aperture and depth of field, we have get the right balance of apertureshutter speed and ISO to have a properly exposed image. That basically just means that the photograph is baby bear. It’s not too dark and it’s not too light; it’s just right. Now, contrary to what Foodgawker and Tastespotting might be telling you, exposure is somewhat subjective. Yes, there’s absolutely overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark) images, but there’s a lot of gray area in between. (pun intended)

Exposure-Triangle

Shutter Speed

We’ve been over aperture, so lets talk about shutter speed for a moment. Shutters speed refers to how long the shutters remain open when you take a picture. The longer the shutters remain open, the more light that reaches the camera’s sensor and the brighter the exposure.

If you look up at Fig. 3, you can see that the shutter speed changes in each image. When the aperture was f/5, a lot of light was getting in through that wide aperture, so the shutters didn’t need to be open as long. However, as the aperture got smaller, the shutter needed to be open longer and longer to let the same amount of light reach the sensor.

Think of it as a faucet. If you want to fill up a glass of water, it will take longer to fill the glass with the water at a drip versus when you turn the faucet on all the way and the water rushes out. (aperture = drip/stream, shutter speed = the time you hold the glass under the faucet)

A word of warning regarding shutter speed: the longer the shutter is open, the more likely you are to shake the camera, leading to sad, blurry images. If you shoot regularly in low light situations like, I don’t know, your kitchen, you may want to invest in a tripod. Similarly, if you’re photographing something that moves, the longer the shutter speed, the more likely that thing is to be blurry.

ISO

What is ISO? Remember back in the days of film cameras when you’d go to the drug store and there’d be all those different kinds of film? 100, 200, 400…basically, the ISO is how sensitive the film was to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive the film and the grainier the images tended to get. With digital photography, the ISO controls how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to light. Again, the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor is to light and the higher the risk of a grainy image.

So why would we ever use a high ISO? Like most things, there’s a trade off. Shooting at a higher ISO is the equivalent of using a longer shutter speed or a wider aperture: it increases the exposure.

So let’s say you have the perfect aperture, but your image is a little dark and you can’t reduce the shutter speed anymore because the camera will shake or the subject is moving, you can try bumping up the ISO to get the exposure where you want it.

So in the end, exposure is a balancing game between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. It may be a little complicated at first, but I have confidence in you. So what does all this complicated gobbledygook get you? Control. Manual photography lets you tell your camera how to get the image that you want, rather than settling for what the camera tells you you’re going to get. And that’s the beauty of shooting in manual.

 

face*This would be one of the exceptions to the no faces rule. And that just can’t be unseen.

 

By Morgan Perkins
Morgan is the author of Peaches, Please! a delicious blog that talks about recipes, food photography and more! She is a recovering attorney, that hails from a family of foodies. And yes, she LOVES peaches!

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How My Free Lunch Turned Into the Most Expensive Sandwich Ever

Posted on 19 February 2014 by Administrator

The most expensive sandwich I have had cost me $191. You must be wondering just what was in this sandwich – gold? Nope. It was a Kimchee chicken schnitzel sandwich. Nothing to it really, albeit maybe a little too heavy on the Kimchee. Why the high price tag? Because it was given to me under the guise of a sales meeting. When I factor in my time, consulting and travel, for this meeting, it runs the cost of nearly two Benjamins. This takes the saying, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” to a whole new level.

After countless meetings, I’ve honed my ability to spot those who just want to suck the knowledge out of my head. But every once in a while I get duped. And this was one such occasion. I knew the owner as we’d worked together on an event before and when he emailed me suggesting we meet because he’d like to talk to me “about your PR and Marketing services” I was pretty excited.

MostExpensiveSandwich

It takes me about an hour to get ready (I’m a girl, what can I say), an hour to drive to this location – city traffic, (31 miles one way), an hour for the meeting and an hour back home. That’s a huge chunk out of my day, but as a sole proprietor, I wear many hats, sales person being one of them.

As soon as I entered the store, he sat down with me asking probing question after probing question:

  • I’m thinking of opening up a second location, where should it be?
  • How do I fit in the market place?
  • How do I get a mention on Eater.com and local television stations?

Of course, there’s a bit of freebies in the form of expertise you have to give away so that potential clients know you know your stuff. But these were some pretty in-depth, complicated questions. I asked what help he needed with social media and pr. He just smiled and said “Oh I can handle all of that myself. I just wanted your feedback on some of this other publicity.” I left, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Did he really think the fact that he gave me a $7.49 sandwich justified what he did?

I didn’t write all of this just to vent, though it has been a bit cathartic. As we food bloggers keep up our craft, no doubt we will be pulled in different directions. Writing, photography, recipe development and maybe even social media expert. I write this to tell you this is a talent and your services aren’t free. So, don’t let these leeches get away with taking advantage of you.

You have worked tirelessly to get to be where you are and acquire the skills to do what you do. If you are being sough after, it is because you bring value to an organization or business. Don’t sell yourself short. Stick to your guns. I promise good things will come your way.

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4 Blogger Lessons from Sochi Olympics

Posted on 13 February 2014 by Administrator

sochi olympic fails

We’ve all seen the pictures from the Sochi Olympics – unfinished hotels, rooms with toilets installed incorrectly, homeless doggies wandering around and many more abysmal failures. It is a sad reflection on them. But we as bloggers can learn things from their issues.

Plan Accordingly
Had the Sochi people planned correctly, they would have had a timeline in place to get their rooms finished before people got there for the Olympics. Start using an editorial calendar so you don’t forget important holidays. Keep drafts of posts to jot down important ideas that you can come back and flesh out later.

Be Thorough in Your Work
In Sochi, a ton of money was spent to make the hotels beautiful. And they were…from the outside, but they got the smaller details wrong – ie putting toilets seats on wrong. Remember, that while a beautiful website or blog is important, if you have glaring grammatical errors or if you haven’t done your fact checking, people will grow impatient with your blog.

sochi toilets

photo credit: Twitter user Wylsacom

Budget Properly
Sochi spent about $50 billion, yes BILLION, on making their city Olympic ready, but all they will ever be remembered for is the pictures that people shared on social media of horrible hotel rooms and terrorist threats. When it comes to blogging, allocate your money and resources in a way that will benefit you the most, and that usually comes in the form of engaging content. Don’t spend a couple thousand on a fancy camera and be left eating ramen noodles for months with nothing to actually blog about.

Don’t be a Vladimir
While so many hotels remained largely unfinished, they all strangely enough were equipped with pictures of Vladimir Putin. While it is your blog, you can’t make everything about you. It is true, that you need to insert your personality into your blog writing, but don’t make every picture a selfie. People want to hear about your food experiences, so talk about chefs or family recipes and traditions. Sure, it is still about you, but not in a look-at-me-I’m-so-cool kind of way.

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Published Author: The Dirty Secrets No One Tells You

Posted on 28 January 2014 by Administrator

As bloggers, many of us aspire to be published authors. However, don’t expect to make much more than you do now. According to a new report, by Digital Book World most authors make less than $1,000 annually. Yes, you read that right, less than $1,000. Further, the study showed, that only 10 percent of traditionally published authors made more than $20,000 a year and 5 percent of self-published authors made more than $20,000 a year.

I’m not trying to discourage you from becoming an author, food critic or paid writer by any means. I love the respect that comes with being a published author. But you may be in for a surprise. What I never was told before I published my book, is that most publishing companies don’t help you promote your book one bit.

When I published my book, I did all the marketing for my book. I had to come up with a list of contacts to send it to for review. I had to schedule ALL of my book signings. One store was even so insulting as to tell me they would only pay for how many books sold. So, I’d have to bring them and see how I did.

My publisher did zilch to help me. Truth is, most publishing companies only promote their big name authors like Stephen King and JK Rowling.

Here’s something to give you laugh:

I make better money as a freelance writer. This is recurring, long-term income. If you can get contracts for monthly writing for a couple gigs, you could be making $1,000 – 2,000 extra per month. My advice is to pick topics you like to write about. I write about food (surprise, surprise), DIY and Kitchen ware. They are all things I feel passionate about.

Of course, you can always go the self-publishing route. Up until recently this was frowned upon. The myth that somehow having a big publishing house was much more credible. Perhaps, but why get paid in paltry royalties when you can self-publish and keep the full amount for your hard work? After all, you will have to market your book no matter which you choose.

With print on demand, e-readers and the ease of which it is to upload your book to a site like Amazon and social media promotion, it’s almost a no-brainer to go the self-publishing route. Here’s to your writing success!

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Interview with Beer Blogger and Expert, Ale Sharpton

Posted on 27 December 2013 by Administrator

Dennis Byron, aka, Ale Sharpton, knows everything about beer. IPAs, Porters, Pilsners, you name it, Ale, as he likes to be called, is the beer authority. Dennis began blogging about beer several years ago and has turned his love of beer and writing into a career. He now travels around the country doing beer seminars and has been featured on local tv stations and even the Weather Channel talking about beer.

1. How did you get started with writing about food / drinks?

When attending Cornell University, I took it for granted that I did so well in my writing and communications courses. It wasn’t until I finished my college career when I actually considered making journalism an actual profession. Since I have a long line of chefs and caterers in my family—we’re talking generations—I embraced that with my passion for exploring the world of beer. To add, Atlanta is such a great city for this, so it was a no-brainer to make that my focus.

2. What’s your favorite type of food?

I went with the simple formula: If there is a food I couldn’t do without, what would it be? Hence, I came to realization that I am a seafood fanatic. Specifically, baked or broiled salmon and crab (specifically legs and cakes). If beer was considered a food source, that would be first.

3. Where is your go to spot in your city where you know you can always have a great meal, whatever it may be?

Having a great meal in Atlanta is pretty easy to do, but having it balanced with a great beer selection is another story. So with that being considered, you can’t lose with Cook Hall, Georgia Pine, or JCT Kitchen for starters. I’m a Libra, so I am a bit indecisive. Sorry!

4. Tell us a little about what your career involves.

I thrive on informing my readers that there is more to beer than ratings and criticism. I cherish writing in my own voice what I consider great beers, breweries, gastropubs, restaurants, attractions, hotels and most importantly people to meet in any city I visit both nationally and abroad. With this framework, it’s virtually unlimited what I can write about.

5. What is something you wish you knew before you started blogging? Or something you wish you learned early on?

Truly, nothing comes to mind. Blogging is an ongoing learning experience and I cherish every minute. If anything, I wish I started earlier. It’s a fun challenge to build your identity as a blogger and candidly share your experience while broadening your audience.


6. Tell us what your 3 favorite tools or online resources are.

One, I enjoy tweeting because it’s my way of doing what easily could be a blog post in a limited amount of characters. Two, I love having the ability to research any beer through various reliable platforms including BeerAdvocate.com, RateBeer.com, BeerSTreetJournal.com, and BeerPulse.com. And three, in general, I love Google.

7. What do you do to stay fit?

I do 100 push-ups and 100 sit ups daily, run two miles every three days, eat small portions, no desserts, no soda, no breakfast, and only taste beef and pork. Oh, and three servings of quality beer. We can call that the Ale Sharpton diet. (DVDs are available.)

8. Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?

Do not be afraid of expressing your voice, but just do so tastefully…and factually. Also, do your best to know AP standards. This is a great framework to help structure your writing and keep things in check. People will be turned off by too many grammatical errors and unnecessary rambling. Last, know the difference between writing for magazines and Web writing. They are totally different fields. Oh yeah, besides having a Twitter account, being a great photographer surely helps too. Evidently, with all of these new apps, people like pictures!

9. Who is your hero?

My mother, Brenda. She was fearless, spoke her mind, loved teaching and was simply a downright genius. She made me what I am today. I miss her crazily.

10. What do you love most about blogging?

The ability to meet people, set your own deadlines, be your own boss, speak your voice, and explore the world due to the power of the pen—err…keyboard. Having a camera in tow to document your experiences and post your shots later is also very rewarding. I wish anyone reading this good luck.

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Shop Local This Holiday Season

Posted on 04 December 2013 by Administrator

Shop Local this Holiday Season
How does this happen each year? The holidays somehow sneak up on us. Before I know it, I’m in a panic to get everyone on my shopping list the perfect gift. The internet has been a friend of mine in recent years. Rather than fight traffic and other weary mall shoppers, I can do all my shopping from the comfort of my home via my laptop. This holiday season, I’ve pledged to do my shopping a bit differently. This year, I’m on a mission to shop and buy all my presents from local vendors, thereby supporting local businesses. Here are some ideas for shopping local this December.

Local Flavor
Add some local flavor to your gift giving. What is your city / state known for? In Georgia we have a prevalence of pecans. A little searching on the internet and I found local company that has all sorts of mixes: Sugar ‘n Spice Pecans, Roasted & Salted, Chocolate covered and more. These tasty treats make a great gift because most people wouldn’t splurge and purchase for themselves, yet appreciate them as a gift. You can bet I’ll be sharing these goodies with friends and family from afar and even have a little for me.

Pop-up Shops
These are locations that may “pop-up” as the name suggests for weeks, a weekend or perhaps just an evening. The goods for sale are only available for a limited time or are unique and may not be offered again. Perhaps the vendors would normally close early, but stay open later to cater to shoppers during this pop-up event. Search the internet for mentions of pop up shops and snag that unique gift you know your aunt, friend (insert hard-to-shop-for-person on your list here) will love.

Gift Cards
Gift cards are an easy gift. Gift cards don’t necessarily have to be for a national chain. As an added bonus, many local vendors are giving you an additional 20 percent as long as you buy $100 worth of gift cards. What a terrific way to introduce friends to your favorite restaurant and get a little something for yourself too!

When we support local businesses, we help to keep that money in our own communities. The money we spend with a local business is then used to buy goods or services from other local businesses, which strengthens local economies.

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Exclusive Interview with Chef John Besh on Cooking From the Heart

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Administrator

Cooking from the Heart Cookbook

Chef John Besh is the owner of many restaurants in New Orleans and the author of three cookbooks, the most recent, Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way.

Chef Besh was kind enough to take time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak with us about his everyday life, cooking inspirations and his take on food bloggers.

AoFB: Did you have any influencers growing up that got you into cooking?
JB: My grandparents and my mother influenced me tremendously growing up.

AoFB: What is your favorite kitchen tool or gadget?
JB: Large spoons that stir the pot. I love making jambalaya, etouffe, creole, stews, large one pot meals. I usually set the spoons right back on the stove after I’m done cooking because I know I’ll be using them again and again. And I love the Le Cruset cookware.

AoFB: Curiosity and the cook? Tell us a little more about that.
JB: That chronicles the time I spend in Europe in my twenties with my wife, Jenifer. Those were fantastic days. We visited so many little hole in the wall spots and had some of the most delicious foods. I learned so much about cooking from these places and tried such a variety of things, things that I wouldn’t normally have tasted. It really broadened my palate.

AoFB: You run restaurants. Your wife works but you have four children. How do you find time to balance work / family life?
JB: Yes, Jenifer quit work to be dedicated to the family so that has helped a lot. But it is all about the priorities you make. If it is important to you, you will do that so as busy as our lives are especially with the boys sports, we still make it a priority to sit down together with the family. That is what my book is about – bringing people and families together.

AoFB: Do any of your sons prod you to open a restaurant with their name?
JB: Ah! What was I thinking when I did that? My restaurant, Luke, is after my grandfather. I sometimes wish I didn’t do that. I get a lot of flack for it.

AoFB: In recent years there has been some controversy about food bloggers. What are your thoughts about them? Do they have relevancy in the industry and how you see them shaping the food world?

JB: I think bloggers are great and continue to influence and shape our industry. I have been very fortunate that so many bloggers and critics have given my restaurants positive reviews. However, I do think people are so quick to critique something instead of enjoying it for what it is and the experience. A meal should be about sitting down with those who are special to you. I think that young kids like 17 and below haven’t event developed their palate yet and they are already critiquing places, which isn’t right. Even my son Brandon writes a food column in his paper and he is so young.

AoFB: What is your guilty pleasure food?
JB: I’m a chef, pretty much everything I make is a guilty pleasure, isn’t it? Okay, I guess if I were to pick something I like French fries dipped in Mayonnaise

AoFB: I see the pumpkin Tian that you made on the Today show in your cookbook. The stars of the new movie, Last Vegas acted as your Sous chefs. What was it like directing Michael Douglas, Robert Dinero, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline?
JB: I had so much fun with that. Kevin Kline was great, and it was my first time meeting him. Robert Dinero Michael Douglas was terrific too. It was like being with friends because they have dinned in my restaurants before.

AoFB: What else?
JB: Check out my new book, Cooking from the Heart, visit BeshRestaurants.com as well for more information.

Here is a recipe from John Besh’s latest cookbook, Cooking from the Heart:

RABBIT IN GELÉE WITH CHANTERELLE SALAD
Makes 8–10 ramekins

Here’s one way to think about a gelée: individual ramekins used as molds to turn out little aspics with morsels of rabbit and diced vegetables. I like to serve this appetizer with a beautiful salad of chanterelles and cherry tomatoes to enhance the delicate flavor of the rabbit. Or serve it more simply, with a variety of pickled vegetables.

Ingredients
Young rabbit (about 3 pounds)
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 carrots, diced small
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
8 cups Basic Chicken
Stock (page 250)
Salt
1 cup diced celery root
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 packets (.25 ounce each) powdered gelatin
Freshly ground black pepper
About 2 cups small chanterelle mushrooms
A handful of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar

1. Combine the rabbit, onions, leeks, half the carrots, the thyme, bay leaf, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, cayenne, and Chicken Stock in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly for 1½ hours. Transfer the rabbit to a bowl.
2. Strain the cooking liquid through a finemesh sieve into a medium pot and discard the aromatics. Bring the stock to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until it has reduced by about half to 3–4 cups, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining carrots, the celery root, and the chives. Soften the gelatin in ½ cup cold water and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the gelatin to the reduced stock and stir until dissolved.
3. Debone the rabbit and dice the meat, then add it to the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and if you think it needs it, add more salt and pepper.
4. Evenly divide the rabbit, vegetables, and stock among 8 or 10 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, toss chanterelles and tomatoes with oil and vinegar and reserve.
5. To serve, place the ramekins in of warm water for just a moment to soften the gelée. Use a knife to release, invert and carefully unmold each onto a plate.

BASIC CHICKEN STOCK
Makes about 6 cups

Save the carcass from every chicken you roast—it’s the foundation of a great chicken soup. I always have a few in my freezer for just this purpose.

Ingredients
2 carcasses roast chicken
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1. Combine the chicken carcasses, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with 12 cups cold water and bring to a boil. With a spoon, skim and discard the foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until reduced by about half, about 3 hours. Strain the stock through a finemesh strainer over a large bowl. The stock is ready to use, or chill and freeze for future soups and stews.

—From Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing

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Behind the Scenes at Le Cordon Bleu + IACP Conference Recap

Posted on 05 November 2013 by Administrator

We recently attended an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Conference. The speaker roster included a well known Anthropologist who shared insights into the culture of food and what is means in our society for the past, present and future. Another speaker, well known author and James Beard award winner Shirley Corrinher, shared some cooking tips with us. We also got a behind the scenes tour of Le Cordon Bleu, where the conference was held.

Shirley Corrinher at IACP Conference

Shirley Corrinher is many things: a well respected chef, abiochemist and author of CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking. Corrinher also is the winner of a James Beard Foundation award. Here other book BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. CookWise explains how scientific principles can be applied to traditional cooking, while BakeWise applies the same theory to baking. She’s also a riot to be around. She spoke at the IACP conference and shared some cooking tips with us. Here are three gems Shirley shared with the audience:

  • Salt. Everywhere we turn nowadays we are told salt is bad for us. But did you know that a small amount of salt reduces the bitterness in foods?
  • Risotto. Want to make it extra creamy? Add an egg yolk to risotto to make it super creamy.
  • Searing meat does not keep juices in. Cooking it a consistent temperature is the way to keep the juices in. To avoid moisture loss make sure meat is brined. Meat that has been brined will lose only 15 percent moisture. Meat that has not been brined will loss about 30 percent moisture.

After our speakers were done and a scrumptious lunch (they do it up right!) we got to tour Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta, where the conference was held. I didn’t know much about the culinary tracks offered at Le Cordon Bleu, only experiencing meals from some of their talented graduates. It is quite an operation they have in their “classrooms.”

Classroom at Le Cordon Bleu

Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School Atlanta

We toured the numerous and neatly organized classrooms. I’m told chefs are spoiled by how elegant the appliances are at Le Cordon Bleu and have a bit of an adjustment when they get out into real world restaurant kitchens. Also worth noting is that many work stations have cameras mounted from the ceilings. During demonstrations, students can really see techniques up close. Cameras can also be used to review the process to help identify where mistakes were made. All in all we were pretty impressed with the operation!

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Interview with Go Eat Give Founder, Sucheta Rawal

Posted on 23 October 2013 by Administrator

We like to highlight bloggers who have become successful in their craft from time to time. Not only is it inspirational, but it is also a example of what you can accomplish with your blog. Even more, that there are many paths that come from being a food blogger. Here’s our latest interview with Sucheta Rawal, founder of the non-profit, Go Eat Give.

AoFB: How did you get started with writing about food / drinks?

SR: I was always a big foodie and loved to cook and entertain. My friends would call me for restaurant advice and cooking tips. One of them introduced me to a friend who was the editor of a SouthAsian magazine based in Atlanta. So I approached them and started writing their section on restaurant reviews. Thats where the food writing started!

AoFB: What’s your favorite type of food?

SR: I love anything made with fresh ingredients where you can taste real food (not the modified unrecognized version of it). Also, I like to experiment with a lot of different kinds of spices. Having said that, my two favorite cuisines are Italian and Indian.

AoFB: Tell us a little about what your career involves.

When I started doing restaurant reviews, it was purely as a hobby while I held a full time corporate job to pay bills. I started contributing to more magazines, teaching cooking classes, and finally incorporated a lot of travel writing. If there is one thing I enjoy more than food, it is traveling! As more friends encouraged me to share my unique voice on exploring countries, I created a blog called “Go Eat Give.” Here I wrote about restaurants, recipes, travel destinations, volunteer programs and culture. As the popularity of the blog grew, I started getting invited for speaking engagements and interviews.

Now, Go Eat Give is officially a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We have expanded our services from a FREE blog covering 40+ countries, to international cooking classes, monthly cultural awareness Destination events & volunteer vacation programs around the world. We work with partner nonprofits in Cuba, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Spain, Kenya & South Africa. I don’t spend as much time blogging now, since I lead some of these tours & coordinating the Destination dinners, but its been very exciting to see how the concept has impacted lives of people locally and globally.

AoFB: What is something you wish you knew before you started blogging? Or something you wish you learned early on?

One of the things I wished someone had told me before I started blogging is – have an intention for your blog and every blog post you write. Sure, you want to share opinion and keep your own voice, but when you are broadcasting sometime to the world wide web, it stays out there forever! Readers create a perception of you & your writing. If you want to write a journal, you can keep your posts on “private” setting, but if you want to be known as a credible writer, make sure your every post is well though out, meaningful and free of grammatical errors.

Another fact I learned from experience is that it is very time consuming to do exactly that: write a well constructed 500-800 words blog post, with properly formatted photos, linking back to website and sharing it on social media. It takes me average of 2-3 hours to complete a blog from start to finish. So if you are thinking updating your blog is something you plan to do after you finish cooking dinner and tuck the kids into bed, make sure you have allotted enough time for yourself.

AoFB: Tell us what your 3 favorite tools or online resources are.

Wikipedia: I always check facts before posting my articles.
Pinterest & Google images: Good for inspiration esp when I want to experiment with a new dish

AoFB: What do you do to stay fit?

I always start my day with a light meal (tea, fruit, eggs) so that I don’t have to deprive myself of anything rest of the day. When I’m not traveling, I try to cook healthy at home as much as I can, eating mostly vegetarian.

Yoga keeps me aligned physically and mentally when I’m traveling. It also helps with digestion (after those big meals) and back pains (resulting from long flights).

AoFB: Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?

I started my blog just as a means to share my passion for food and travel, but I think often times new bloggers think their blog would be their business. Selling ads and getting free meals is great. However, if you want to quit your job and follow your passion, it has to involve selling other skills that companies are actually willing to pay for.

Another common mistake I see with many bloggers is that when they start blogging, they are very enthusiastic about it, but after a few months you begin to see fewer and fewer posts, and eventually the blog becomes a grave site of some delicious reviews. While its discouraging to not see your Google Analytics skyrocket after you posted the recipe of your most raved about cheesecake, you must not loose hope and keep at it. Consistency and persistence are key to running a successful blog. It takes a long time and lot of hard work to build a strong traffic.

AoFB: Who is your hero?

My formative years were most influenced by my grandmother in India, who I grew up with. She would host travelers from around the world, and spoil them with her delicious food and generous hospitality. I also use to accompany her to do charity work participate in cultural events in our hometown. She was perhaps the most socially active lady in town, and still is at 80+ years!

AoFB: What has been your biggest accomplishment?
The powerful impact Go Eat Give has makes me feel very accomplished. After every Destination dinner or a volunteer trip, I see the reaction of the people who have participated. Some of them are deeply influenced by the culture or take back some learning that they had never imagined. Practically everyone who has been on a trip with me has had a life-altering moment. Also, when I see our attendees break into a group dance (be it Afghan or Bollywood) & have a fun time, I feel great about being able to create that positive experience for them.

Winning the “top 5 most influential cultural bloggers in the world” in 2012 was also a nice pat on the back.

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Social Media Rules: Ethics and Disclosure in Blogging

Posted on 13 October 2013 by Administrator

I recently read an article on SocialFish about FTC rules relating to publicists and social media managers and bloggers. Basically, it puts the onus on these publicists and anyone in social media representing a company to require that bloggers disclose an freebies. “The difference between honesty and sleazery is disclosure.” A good quote from the article, it goes on to say that it is all about trust and you can’t gain that if you don’t disclose that you as a brand have given something to bloggers for free.

But what about us bloggers? We have the responsibility as well to disclose when we get anything for free, whether the restaurant / manufacturer asks us to or not. I wrote about an experience where a company explicitly asked us bloggers NOT to disclose that we had gotten anything for free. It left me with an icky feeling, and the result is that I never wrote a word about t them.

Has this ever happened to you? You are approached by a company that says they will pay you to do put a sponsored post on your blog. There’s just one catch – they don’t want you to disclose that it was a sponsored post! The reason is of course they want it to appear as if you are truly endorsing this product, restaurant, etc. The other reason is search engines discount anything that is labeled as a sponsored post. But the fact remains, if you were paid, then you need to disclose that to your readers.

The bottom line is that besides it being ethnical to disclose freebies and sponsored posts, it goes back to trust and your reputation. If you fake it, your readers will be able to spot it. The best thing we as bloggers can do for ourselves is to protect our reputation at all costs and be as transparent as possible to our readers.

 

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