Seattle-based photographer Chona Kasinger specializes in editorial photography. When Bon Appétit asked her to capture Chef Melissa Miranda’s take on her beloved Filipino food, Chona, born in the Philippines, was all in. Raised between the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila and the suburbs of Seattle, she naturally shares a kinship with Melissa Miranda, a Filipinx chef and Musang’s owner.
I really admire Chef Melissa Miranda, and it was such a privilege getting to work with her and our amazing team to photograph recipes that were so central to my upbringing as a kid in the Philippines.
Chona received a call from the editors of Bon Appétit and was asked to photograph Melissa’s dishes for Musang, a community-driven restaurant focusing on the education of Filipinx cuisine and one of Seattle’s hottest new restaurants. While Chona had previously worked with Bon Appétit and Melissa on other projects, this assignment was special — the images would be published in a 6-page magazine article on the chef’s recipes.
I was excited when I got the call. I had photographed Melissa earlier in the year for an NPR article about adapting to life during the pandemic, and this felt like a nice little bright spot to end 2020 on.
The photoshoot took place at Melissa’s restaurant, Musang, located in Seattle’s Beacon Hill. Chona had visited the restaurant for dine-in service before the pandemic caused them to transform into a community kitchen with take-out service, and she loved the space. Since she had been there before, she was well prepared and had a general sense of potential shoot locations within the area.
I had been in twice before with my partner, so I had a little lay of the land in advance. The restaurant is located in a former residential home and has a super cozy and inviting vibe — just really great energy.
While at the restaurant, Chona and her assistant had the Bon Appétit team on Zoom to observe and easily give feedback during the shoot. During the video call, Michelle Outland, the creative director at Bon Appétit, also shared visual sketches of how she wanted the dishes to be styled. This attention to detail allowed Chona to capture the perfect shots and focus on creating a fun, collaborative environment.
Michele was able to sketch placements so we could see it live as we went along in order to nail every shot. It was incredibly helpful to visualize things in a literal sense — it almost felt like a football play sketch!
I, like a lot of photographers, have a little anxiety about the vulnerability of shooting this way, but this collaboration felt magical.
During the shoot, Melissa also cooked the crew a pancit canton lunch that they enjoyed while social distancing. Like the chef’s goals for the restaurant, the food served as a way to foster community and connection — and it reminded Chona of her childhood.
Holding space with other people feels especially meaningful now with the current state of the world. I was thrilled to be able to collaborate with the team to tell Mel’s story and work with her recipes, which included many dishes I loved growing up in the Philippines.
Food and Prop Stylist: Callie Meyer
Assistant Food and Prop Stylist: Francis Miranda
Creative Director, Bon Appétit: Michele Outland
Senior Visuals Editor, Bon Appétit: Michelle Heimerman
Photo Assistant: Erik Walters
See more of Chona’s work at chonakasinger.com
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