Nader Khouri Puts His Spin on the Art of Plating
Nader Khouri knows what he's doing when it comes to food photography, which is why he was able to craft a photo that ended up gaining 25,000 likes on The Art of Plating's Instagram, one of the highest their account has ever received. For the photo, Nader found a clever way to photograph the Hassun, an elaborate set of small dishes within a centerpiece of seasonal florals—but that wasn't the only stunning visual that came out of the night, which involved a collaboration between The Art of Plating, Single Thread, and burgundy winemaker Olivier Bernstein.
What was involved in planning/preproduction?
The Art of Plating was looking for me to shoot imagery of prep and plating of all involved in this collaboration, the chef and his team along with the winemaker and sommelier. I knew the food was going to be extra visual so I made sure Chef was asked if we could shoot some dishes separately from when they were officially planning to prepare everything. We had a mood board and shot list put together and did a pre-pro phone call to talk about logistics. Video was also being shot so we talked about how we would work together and how we would share my overhead rigging system. We were shooting in a gigantic San Francisco mansion in Pac Heights in SF, but it was a private residence and I had trouble getting in there to scout. We were able to get some images to work from. I am really good at these kinds of shoots with food and people and I can make a production out of it and make the images feel polished, yet also make it feel genuine enough and real.
Can you describe the shoot?
On the day of I met with Chef Kyle and we talked about our approach to how we would shoot the dishes. I didn't have any images to go by for how the dishes would look, but I made sure to ask him about how the dishes look. Do they have height or are they flat? Is there any action happening as you finalize the dish like a pour of sauce or adding of garnish? Even though the lighting was really nice in the kitchen we were shooting in I opted to shoot with strobe. But, I got versions with natural light as well. Sometimes the natural light in places is so striking and I like to get a natural light version as an option. There were lot's of funny interruptions as we were shooting. The neighbor next door had a very vocal parakeet that was constantly whistling as if it was looking for love. The Blue Angels, an air force stunt team of airplanes was doing fly-bys every 5 minutes so everyone periodically stopped what they were doing to watch the jaw-dropping show. I think all the festivities helped lighten the mood and provided for a relaxed atmosphere.
Did you face any challenges with this project?
A big attraction to this collaboration was that they made this multi-course meal that included this wonderful centerpiece called a Hassun, which is an elaborate set up of small dishes within a centerpiece of seasonal florals. I knew it would be a big setup and I suggested to The Art of Plating that it would be a great shot from overhead, however that it would take extra time to set up. They liked the idea, but were a little worried it would be too much of a production to pull off. It ended up being worth it and the shot was one of their most liked photos ever on their social media at 25,000 likes.
What was your favorite part of the project?
Everyone's good attitudes and openness to work with my direction. Chef Kyle was open to all of my requests around the food plating shots I wanted to do along with the portraits I did of him and his wife Katina, who is an instrumental part of the restaurant and who manages the restaurant's farm.
Producer: Maria Nguyen
Food Stylists: Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Single Thread