Paul Quitoriano Learns What Busy Creatives Cook for the New York Times

Sep 3, 2020
Photographer Spotlight

How many times did you come home after work (at least pre-COVID) and realize you were too tired to cook anything? It takes time, effort, and patience to put together a hearty, healthy meal that’ll feed you for a couple of days, and you need energy reserves that most people just don’t have after crazy long days on the job.

Still, cooking is one of life’s most essential skills, and one most people have to acquire sooner or later — never-ending takeout just won’t cut it. This reality laid the groundwork for a recent assignment completed by Paul Quitoriano for the New York Times Style Magazine. The Brooklyn-based photographer has worked with numerous other creatives to get a look at what dishes they whip up when they finally get a few moments to themselves.

I started working for The New York Times in 2014, and I was contacted by the editors after working a series on pastry shops for Eater. I felt like the assignments I've completed represent a resourcefulness in my photography — being able to tell stories through pictures of food can be quite challenging. 

Paul Quitoriano New York Times brisket cooked by Batsheva HayBrisket in preparation by Batsheva Hay

Paul, who also works two other New York Times publications, has gotten the chance to meet some incredibly interesting people through this work from all walks of life.  

I've worked with an array of interesting people from fashion designers such as Jason Wu to ballerinas like Misty Copeland. The shoots usually occur in the home of the subject, which sometimes can lend themselves to challenges in terms of space. Sometimes, the shoots will be in smaller West Village apartments, or a high-rise loft in Chelsea.

Not only can that smaller space present challenges, so can the dishes themselves. Take, for example, the handiwork of Aatish Sateer. The writer makes chicken biriyani, and the task of getting all the ingredients on a small cutting board gave Paul the chance to flex his creative muscles.

My favorite set up shot is definitely the raw ingredients from a shoot I did with author Aatish Sateer.

Paul Quitoriano NYT Biriyani

His kitchen didn't lend any counter space and the dish he was making, chicken biryani, had 16 ingredients and I was a bit lost on how to photograph all of them without any space, but we managed to work together and somehow fit them all onto a small cutting board.

Though the biryani accounted for Paul’s favorite shot, a different dish stuck out to him for taste-related reasons.

The dish that stood out to me the most, primarily because of my inexperience, was the noodle kugal made by Sierra Tishgart.

Paul Quitoriano New York Times tear sheet

I've never had the dish before and it tasted so comforting, like an entree and a dessert at the same time. Somehow, it tasted like home despite me never having the dish.

In case you’re thinking to yourself, “wait, did Paul get to eat the food, too?” the answer is a resounding yes. And it’s not like he packed some up and took it home with him. No sir, after shooting completed, Paul would sit down and enjoy a homecooked meal with his subject. How many photographers get to say that?

I usually spend about two hours with each subject and the format is the same every time. We'll photograph all of the raw ingredients, photograph the dish plated, and then finally get a portrait of the subject with their dish. Hopefully, by the portrait I've built up a good rapport with them to make the portrait feel a bit more natural. The bonus of all of this is, after we are all set with photography, I usually just eat the meal with them in a very personal setting that I feel like not many people get to experience. There is an intimacy in cooking and sharing meals and being able to try the dishes at the end is a real treat. 


Writer: Nick Marino

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