Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aloha Spirit

Every company has a culture: a blend of values, beliefs, behaviors, systems, symbols, and habits. The culture affects the way people and groups interact within the company, with their clients, and with their investors. King's Hawaiian embodies the Aloha Spirit in all they do, an expression of caring and sharing that is an essential part of island culture. Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion and mercy.

I had the great pleasure of working with some of the folks from King's Hawaiian as well as some of the creative staff at the Buddy Group on several photo shoots. The Buddy Group is an interactive advertising agency, specializing in online marketing strategy, online video production, and web and user interface design. And what a team King's Hawaiian and the Buddy Group make! Both truly believing that collaboration and excellent customer service are the cornerstones of any successful business.

King's Hawaiian is known for its soft, fluffy, light, and delicately sweet bread and rolls. From its humble beginning in the 1950's in Hilo, Hawaii, the company grew. Because of it's huge popularity they expanded to Honolulu. Islanders and tourists alike sent loaves to family and friends in the mainland, and in the 80's King's Hawaiian came to Torrence, California, and opened a huge new bakery.

Today there products are sold throughout the US and their slightly sweet bread and rolls have become popular favorites. My 7-year-old great niece and 5-year-old nephew absolutely love this bread, and were thrilled when I brought them several loaves after the shoot. They didn't bother with butter, jam, or peanut butter, but ate the rolls right out of the package! Hmmmmm, I guess     
                                                                 there's something to be said for that!

On the set at the Buddy Group. Prop tables in the foreground. 


All photos copyright Alan DeHerrera 2013.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back in the Blogger's Saddle

It's been an incredible winter and spring! I've been crazy busy food styling between San Diego and LA since my last post, and I have a been a delinquent blogger. I've been working with long-time clients and many new ones, and finally I'm back in the blogger's saddle.

When I started this blog I assumed I'd write a post as soon as I got home for a job. But alas, by the time I get home from a 10 - 15-hour day, I pretty much collapse at my desk and try to catch up on the day's correspondence before drifting off to dream land.

I want to offer up big thanks to these companies, TV stations, and brands:

Good Day LA
Jenny Craig
Access Hollywood

Golden West Food Group
Harrah's Rincon Casino
San Diego Living TV6
NBC Universal 
Fox TVChef Ludo Lefevre
Harvard Common Press
Ferren Com
Chef's Press
Luna Grill

Pasta Mia
The Buddy Group
Groovy Like a Movie
Paul Martin's Restaurant
Flagship Cruises
Helene Beck
Flippin' Pizza
Malibu Winery
Pizza Express
Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
Mastro's Restaurant
Country Archer
Addies Cheesecakes
Direct Pack
King's Hawaiian
Chef Chloe
RSI Homes

And all the fabulous clients, photographers, and producers with whom I have the great pleasure of collaborating:

Erin Adams
Debbie Adler

Erin Adams
Debbie Adler
Joleene Armbruster 
Rob Andrew
Ryan Beck
Chloe Coscarelli
Keith Davis
Kaynisha Dawson
Alan DeHerrera
Virginia Downes
Karen Fadel
Tiffany Frowiss
Alecia Guarneros
Rob Hammer
Abbie Harrison
Mike Henry
Bob Hodson
Alex Karnib
Somany Koeung 
Carl Kravats
Amber Lussier
Stephanie Murphy
Kelly Musgrove 
Tim Mutrie
Jonathan Neubauer
Junvi Ola
Chef Jeremy Omer
Maria Pourteymour
Beatriz Sandoval-Maldonado
Anthony Smiljkovich
Rick Starkman
Kathy Strahs
Brenna Stillwell

A great big THANK YOU to all! 

Cheeseburger Before - Photo Copyright Carl Kravats 2013

Cheeseburger After  -  Photo Copyright Carl Kravats 2013

Good Day LA with Chef Ludo
Having fun with my assistant Maya

Sunday, February 3, 2013

California Dreamin' on the California Spirit

Back in the late 80's I worked as a chef on a private yacht, the Arcadia, in Ft. Lauderdale (oh-oh I'm dating myself). I could tell you a few stories that would curl your toes, but somethings are better left to the imagination. The yacht, owned by a Kentucky tycoon, was 100' long and decked out for a king. A few times a year the owner would fly down and cruise for a few days, but most of the time the yacht was chartered. The captain was a crazy drunk, making it a challenging work environment, but the guests were great.

Fast forward 23 years and I find myself food styling for Flagship Cruises.  Flagship Cruises and Events offer a magnificent fleet of luxury yachts, special events, and fabulous dining in the San Diego Harbor.

Since 1915 the  company has offered numerous services including, harbor tours, ferry and water taxi transportation, whale watching excursions guided by Birch Aquarium naturalists, fabulous gourmet prepared dinner cruises and bountiful buffet brunch cruises, yacht and boat charters and fairy tale weddings.

Tim Mutrie, Director of Marketing and Chef Brian Gist, the Executive Chef for all of Flagship, have created spectacular and memorable events and gourmet menus for their guests. I had the pleasure of working with them and Junvi Ola, the principal of Hospitality Content Studio on two recent photo shoots with photographer Rob Andrew.

Jumbo shrimp cocktail. Photo by Rob Andrew.

Refreshing salad with sugared walnuts, cranberries, and bleu cheese. Ymmmm! Photo by Rob Andrew.

Working with photographer Rob Andrew and his assistant Alex.
In the photo above you can see part of the dining room on the California Spirit. What a magnificent yacht - I just  have to share a few more photos to so you can get a feel for this luxury liner.

With nine outrageous food stations, the award winning Sunday Champagne Brunch Cruise is a fine way to experience this magnificent yacht. It leaves from 990 North Harbor Drive on Sunday. Boarding starts at 10:30 and she cruises from 11 AM - 1 PM.

Be sure to make reservations online or 855-955-9558!

Think Valentine's Day: they have a very special cruise planned!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mom's Cooking Naked

Ahhhhhh! Mom's cooking naked? Did I read that correctly?

Yes you did! Debbie Adler, owner of Sweet Debbie's Organic Cupcakes, cooks naked, that is without any refined sugar, dairy, gluten, nuts, soy, or wheat. I know the first thing you're thinking, OMG! How can any dessert taste good without at least some of those ingredients? But they do!

Debbie on the right in the bakery with one of her bakers
Debbie's son was born with multiple food allergies and finding any desserts for him was near impossible, so Debbie decided to solve that problem herself. As a  long time nutrition buff she was inspired to create desserts her son could enjoy, and a bakery where children like her son, as well as those with celiac disease, diabetes, and autism could safely enjoy nutritious and healthful desserts.

If you have ever cooked for someone who has special dietary restrictions you understand the challenge. With a raised awareness today for gluten sensitivities, we're not only seeing a much larger variety of products on supermarket shelves and many ancient gluten-free grains milled into flours. Teff, sorghum, amaranth, corn, brown rice, oat, and many other varieties are readily available today, and Debbie uses a variety of them in her baked goods. (Which reminds me of my visit and tour through Bob's Red Mill near Portland, Oregon, which is another story I promise to tell.)

The good news is that Debbie is sharing her recipes in a cookbook due out in fall 2013, published by Harlequin, and when that happens I promise to share some of the photos and recipes.

Debbie hired me as the food stylist for her cookbook, which I was thrilled to do! Carl Kravats, AKA the Delicious Photographer, did the photos. Since her audience is largely moms who have children with food sensitivities, Debbie wanted the photos cupsto be colorful and somewhat whimsical and playful. What could be more fun?! I'd love to share some of them with you, but no-can-do until the book is published. But here are some of the ribbons, ties, and fanciful paper cupcake cups we used.
We had a wonderful time we had creating the images; miniature tea sets and toy dump trucks came into play. Working on an editorial project, such as a cookbook, is one of my favorite styling jobs because it offers much more creative license than a packaging shot that must be done to very precise specifications.

We had a wonderful time we had creating the images; miniature tea sets and toy dump trucks came into play. Working on an editorial project, such as a cookbook, is one of my favorite styling jobs because it offers much more creative license than a packaging shot that must be done to very precise specifications. 

Fanciful trimmings
One of the prop tables

With Carl and I in his studio and Debbie joining us virtually we were quite a trio.  Part of the fun was Debbie's son who participated in all the calls and piped in with his two cents. It was a wonderful project! And Debbie is truly one of the kindest, most caring people I've ever met. She's a real gem! Keep your eyes open for Mom's Coking Naked this fall.
Cupcake cups and ribbon
Melting chocolate chips

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shortbread Cookies Extraordinare!

Photo by Rick Starkman

Just before Christmas, photographer Rick Starkman, and I did a photo shoot a bit outside of the norm. We actually shot for Quilt In a Day, an amazing quilting company run by an incredible female entrepreneur who started the firm 30+ years ago, when women's careers limited to nurses, secretaries, and librarians. She was way ahead of her time, but that's a whole different story that I will tell you about later.

Although my Mom did some quilting I never knew much about the craft, which indeed is quite an art form unto itself. Interestingly, there are a number of quilt patterns that relate to food: crab apple, cherry basket, sugar cone, squash blossom, memory fruit, cheese box, pork and beans, and hearts and gizzards (my personal favorite because I think the word "gizzard" is rather funny and it makes people giggle unless they are a chicken farmer).

Quilt In a Day's founder, Eleanor Burns, has written over 100 books detailing quilt patterns. For the most current book, she thought it would be fun to use a photo of the food referenced in the quilt's name along with its recipe on the page facing the quilt pattern. Since I did all the cooking for the shoot, I got to sample all the recipes, and her shortbread cookies, are BY FAR, the best I've ever had, and so simple to make.  They are, most definitely, Shortbread Cookies Extraordinare!

The recipe is courtesy of the Julian Tea Room.

Almond Shortbread Cookies

Yield: Will vary based on size of cookie cutter used

1 pound butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 - 2 teaspoons pure almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup almonds, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add almond extract and beat until well mixed. Stir in almonds. Roll between parchment or on a floured board to 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into shapes.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet or parchment-covered cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cookies should not brown. Cool on a wire rack.

If you want to decorate the cookies with sugar or sprinkles, decorate before baking. If you choose, you can dust them with powdered sugar when they are cool.

Alligator Pears

It's pretty simple to see how avocados got the name alligator pears, but what's even more interesting is how the word avocado made it into the English language. Those of you who know me realize that I am somewhat of a geek. I think etymology is fascinating (my high school Latin teacher is smiling in heaven right now). Another passion, food history, fascinates me because food plays such a huge role in every culture, revealing much about its social and economic structure. Consequently, you'll find me telling stories about food throughout history.
Returning to avocados, it's generally believed the fruit originated in central Mexico; the oldest evidence found in a cave in Puebla, that dates back to 10,000 BC. (How could anyone not find that amazing?)  The word "avocado" comes from the Spanish aguacate which in turn comes from the Nahutl word ─ühuacatl; Nahutl is an ancient language of Central Mexico spoken by the Aztec, and the word translates to testicle, because of the shape of the avocado. The Aztecs also referred to it as "fertility fruit" which makes sense based on its meaning. The word avocado came from the Spanish word for advocate, which is a folk etymology, meaning it is a replacement of the original word that has nothing to do with the original meaning. That's it for history and etymology for now.....(Aren't you relieved?)

Growing up in a small town in northern Ohio in the 50's and 60's, avocados were nowhere to be found on our grocery shelves, but in 1973 when I was 19 I went on my hippie journey and lived on a small  communal farm just north of Ft. Collins, Colorado, but that's a whole story onto itself. My housemates introduced me to this most divine fruit, and I immediately fell in love with its subtle flavor and creamy texture. Fast forward to 2003 and I find myself living in the Avocado Capital of the World, the great claim to fame of Fallbrook, California, about 50 miles north of San Diego where the Mediterrean climate is perfect for cultivating avocados.

Kelli and I smiling for the camera
Photographer Bruce Jenkin, who recently moved his studio from Orange County to Fallbrook,  contacted me about a week ago to see if I'd be interested in styling some food shots using avocados to present to a prospective client. We decided on an omelet and a salad, so I showed up with my kit, three dozen eggs, a half dozen  avocados, and a few bags of fruits and vegetables. Bruce has an amazing studio with a chef's kitchen and a huge collection of food props that spans the walls of the studio. Kelli, his wife, selected a few items for us to look at on set and graciously volunteered to help me in the kitchen, which made for great company and lots of laughs. Kelli has a charming sense of humor and spending time with her s always a real pleasure.

Omelet with Cheddar Cheese, Multi-Colored Peppers, Mushrooms, and Avocado
After making a few omelets, I chose the "prettiest" and proceeded to drape it around a folded taco shell so it would hold its shape and give me more room for fillings.

Bruce and I went through the shots and selected our favorites, then on to salads.
The photo on the right is just me playing with my new iPhone, and the real beauty is Bruce's below. Because it looks so colorful and luscious, I thought I'd add the recipe.

 Salad with Avocados and Mandarin Orange Vinaigrette
Because I'm not one for following recipes exactly unless I'm baking, and salads can be composed with a handful of this and a sprinkling of that, consider this recipe as a guideline and play with as you like. To serve it as an entree for two, you can add sliced chicken breast.

Yield: about four servings or two entree servings

1 bag spring mix, 5 - 8 ounces
2 tangerines, satsumas, or mandarins; or 3 clementines; or 1 can of mandarin oranges drained
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 large avocado, sliced 

Tangerine Vinaigrette
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup tangerine (any type) juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey or orange marmalade
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients to blend well. Drizzle over salad.

Variations: now for the fun part: 
If you want to impart an Asian flavor add 1 - 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
For a smoky flavor add 1/2 - 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
For a spicy flavor add a dash to 1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle
For a Mexican flavor add 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
For a subtle Indian flavor add 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's a Gaffer Anyway?

If you haven't been on location shooting a TV commercial, this might be a fun post for you. And for all the old timers who do this for a living, just turn the page......

A Gaffer is an electrician, sometimes head of the electrical department, responsible for the execution (and sometimes the design) of the lighting plan for a production. The gaffer's assistant is the Best Boy Electric.

To understand what a gaffer does, let's look at the entire crew and see how the players interface with one another. Did you know production companies often rent a person's home for a TV show, commercial, or film shoot? It's often less expensive than building a set for a production, so a Location Scout or Location Manager will offer the production company a number of properties from which to choose. Lisa Rothmueller, Location and Production Manager of San Diego Locations can find the best spot for anyone coming into San Diego. She's a spunky, can-do kind of gal who you can always count on.

Last week we shot a commercial for Kroger in this San Diego home to introduce a new line of organic products to their stores. (Out here on the West Coast we know them as Ralph's.)

I'm sure I had the best view in the house! I set up my kitchen on the second floor patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Not a bad way to spend a day on location!

I shared the patio with Chris Andrus Lighting and his crew. He's got a fabulous group of guys who make me feel special, even though they know they're not getting any of the food I'm making for the shoot.

Grips are the technicians who handle all the lighting and rigging.

They work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may even specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes.
The second main function of grips is to work closely with the
electrical department to create lighting set-ups under the direction of the Director of Photography. Often there is a Key Grip as well as an assistant, the Best Boy Grip.
Looking into the back of Chris Andrus' truck.

The DP showing the Food Stylist placement of the items on the grill.
There is also the DP, or Director of Photography, who is responsible for the overall look of the production and the translation of that look to the Gaffer.

With the camera fixed on the subject, everyone can see exactly what the "camera sees" by looking into the monitor, so everything and everyone can be strategically placed to best convey the story to the eventual TV viewer.

This is an extremely important part of production because our eyes will never see the set exactly as the camera does since we can't be in the exact same angle as the lens. Nor can our eyes capture depth of field (what's in focus and out of focus). Looking at the scene through the monitor also allows the lighting to be tweaked to insure there are no unwanted shadows or glare.

The Director is ultimately in charge making sure the entire vision of the production is carried out successfully. The Executive Producer is responsible for the overall quality control of the
production, and for ensuring that final product conform to
the project's specifications. The Producer is in charge of the overall shooting and post production of the commercial (or film, TV show, etc.). He takes  the job from concept to completion and has a
creative say in the project. The Producer may have a PM or Production Manager to assist him with the managing the crew. Ticking away madly at his laptop is the Production Coordinator who handles all the paperwork for the shoot: invoices, release forms, schedules, and anything else funneling through the office. Money matters are handled by the Line Producer who usually hires the key members of the crew and is the one responsible for every line item in the budget.

The Sound Designer does the sound recording during the shoot. He will also handle the interjection of music, voice overs, or special sound effects in post production.

We Food Stylists make all the food in the shoot look appetizing on camera. I had the great pleasure of working with one of my favorite Food Stylists, Heather Bowen. Now semi- retired, Heather comes into town for her VIP clients. Working with her is a dream. She's fun, thorough, highly skilled, and a brilliant stylist. (Can you tell I'm fond of her?)....and no, we
don't shellac the chicken, but we certainly doll it up with food-safe  dyes like Kitchen Bouquet, soy sauce, bitters, and other agents. 

The Prop Master searches out every single prop used in the production, and the prop tables are laden with a multitude of choices for the Director and Producers to choose from. For something as simple as a salad bowl there might be ten or more to select from: glass bowls, wooden bowls, round bowls, square bowls, large bowls, small get the picture. The Prop Master, wanting to offer the best possible selection for the the Director and Producers will have tables of props laid out for easy selection. So now image the huge array of props needed for a commercial where the set is the kitchen! Every gadget and gismo is on those tables.

Props and more props
The Wardrobe Stylist(s) and Hair and Makeup Stylist(s) dress the talent/actors. The Wardrobe Stylists come with racks of clothes, steamers, irons, and a bag of tricks to customize fit. The Hair and Makeup Artists have color pallets of eye makeup, foundation, blush, brushes, blow dryers, curling irons, and everything you can possibly think of to make the talent look fabulous on camera. They are also constantly making touch ups to be sure the actors always look their best.

And then there are the Production Assistants, or PA's, who do anything that needs to be done to make shooting go as smoothly as possible. They serve as the runners or go-fers of the production, and often work the longest and hardest of anyone on the crew. God bless all the PA's, because without them, life on set would be miserable. Sadly, they often get the least credit, so here's a big fat BRAVO for the wonderful, life-saving PA's! That means you Chris Speed!

By far the most beloved people on set are Craft Services or Crafty, as they're sometimes called. They feed us breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner, keep us caffeinated, hydrated, and energized with every possible snack imaginable, including the ever present Peanut M&M's. They have bandaids, gum, aspirin, and breath mints for the actors. They are the "moms and dads" who take care of all of us.

So now you know what the gaffer does, along with the rest of the crew. So when you see the credits roll at the end of the film you can say, "I know what that guy does!"