Category Archives: Art

Bill Brady: Food Art

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Professional food photographer Bill Brady helps businesses sell a product or a lifestyle by creating a certain mood through his photos.  He writes, “Crumbs wants the public to crave their Crumnuts, T-Fal displays their perfect and dependable cookware, and the Quinoa Board must express that ancient grains equal a healthy lifestyle.”

With his new food art exhibition at the Martin Vogel Photography Gallery, he gets to do the opposite.  “Rather than objectifying food as an object of beauty and desire,” he writes, “food becomes integral in the play of color, light and composition. The result is abstract, sometimes beautiful, other times shocking.”

He adds, “Reducing foodstuff to its lowest common denominator, it becomes the raw material of expression rather than the end product.  Just as a traditional painter uses oils, watercolors and acrylics, I use condiments, sauces and food. Common objects like candy or frozen peas become an elevated mode of expression.”
To see Candyland (pictured above) and other pieces in the collection, visit Food Art from March 6 through April 29 at the Martin Vogel Photography Gallery at the Port Washington Public Library.  The opening reception is Saturday, March 8th from 2 to 4 p.m.  Bill will be lecturing on Monday evening, April 7th at 7:30 p.m.

Cool Food Blog

Daily Napkins is a very cool blog by sculptor and artist Nina Levy.  Nina has two adorable little boys, and for the past seven years, she has been drawing fun artwork on their daily lunch napkins.  These are not your average napkin doodles.  The napkins take two hours to create and depict characters her kids are interested in.

Day Trip: Cold Spring, New York

Cold Spring sign

Cold Spring, New York is a short ride (a little over an hour) on Metro North from Grand Central Station, but a world away from New York City.  Step down from the train platform and be transported.  This is a perfect place to go for the carless New Yorker.  The town is right off the train stop, and everything is within walking distance.  On weekends, this is a popular destination.

Welcome to idyllic small town America, complete with flag-draped gazebo.

gazebo 2
Known for its antique shops, Cold Spring’s main drag is the appropriately named Main Street, lined with cute storefronts selling antiques, flea market goods, gifts and more and many restaurants to choose from.  I liked The Country Goose, a charming shop with gourmet food products, soaps, children’s items, tea, products from the British Isles and more.  The owner is a charming woman who also makes gift baskets.

Cold Spring street

Not far from the train station is a the trolley stop where you can board and head to Boscobel House. There’s a little park here where a band plays big band music while people eat ice cream cones outside on park benches. The Village Scoop serves up ice cream in fun flavors like cannoli (made with mascarpone) and cherry pie.

cannoli ice cream
If you walk west toward the Hudson River, you’ll see the gazebo and the historic Hudson House, built in 1832 and one of only two accommodations in town.

Hudson

The accompanying restaurant has scenic patio dining.  The bread is of note–a popover with strawberry butter.

popover strawberry

I got the lobster and avocado roll.  I enjoyed the unique addition of avocado.

lobster avocado roll
Next door is the popular Moo Moo Creamery with creamy vanilla ice cream. The long lines are worth the wait.

Moo Moo vanilla
The nearby park has lovely views of the Hudson River and mountains.

Cold Spring mountain

Cold Spring mountain 2

What to Eat:  ice cream from Moo Moo and the Village Scoop, popovers and classic American fare from Hudson House, artisan ice pops from Go-Go Pops.

Where to Shop:  The Country Goose for gourmet food and gift baskets, The Gift Hut for unique toys for kids, Back in Ireland for goods made in Ireland.

What to See & Do:  The 1928 gazebo, the Hudson River view, Hudson House historic inn, Boscobel House and Gardens, Putnam History Museum, kayaking.

Artist Hong Yi’s 31 Days of Creativity with Food

Malaysian artist Hong Yi’s project 31 Days of Creativity with Food is what happens when an artist plays with her food.  A basic white plate served as the canvas for her food-art creations.  (This is making me think of copyright law, because I’m an IP nerd, but I guess the actual art would not be copyrightable, although her photographs depicting the art are.)  Check out what she does with Oreos; I want one of these!  I love the giant squid one.  These are so creative and cool!

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park are open.  Get your fill of cheer with numerous booths of local and handmade jewelry, ornaments, scarves and hats, housewares and more, including one of my favorites–St. Petersburg Collections with Russian ornaments.

skating rink

There’s the skating rink and the restaurant and lounge, Celsius, if you want to get in from the cold.

Celsius

This year, there are many food booths to keep the foodie happy.  There are plenty of artisan food purveyors here.  Have some gruyere grits at Daisy Grits.  There’s TopArepa with toppings to make your arepa sweet or savory.  Get a warm baked apple strudel at Strudels & Pies by Hans.

Max Brenner’s

There’s plenty of chocolate, including Max Brenner, Raaka Chocolate from Brooklyn and No Chewing Allowed.  Get a pickle from a barrel at Pickle Me Pete.

Pickle Me Pete

There’s also churros, Turkish food, vegetarian food, kettle corn, doughnuts, macarons, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crepes and artisan soft pretzels in flavors like cinnamon raisin or truffles and cheese.

macarons

Of course, there’s an apple cider stand. The longest line I saw was at Wafels & Dinges; no surprise people want a hot waffle on a cold night!

You can even find foodie home decor at Brazilian Home Collection.

fruit home decor

Cerealism by Ernie Button

Cerealism is a fun and interesting photography collection by photographer Ernie Button using cereal.  My favorite are the Lucky Charms shamrocks.

Are Recipes Copyrighted? and Other Legal Concerns for Food Bloggers

Everyone remembers the episode of Friends where Monica tries to recreate Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe only to find out it was the Nestle Toll House recipe.  Food bloggers are on edge, wondering if they are opening themselves up to legal action if they reprint published recipes or if they change an ingredient or two and call a recipe their own.  I suspect a lot of grandmas and aunts who were of cooking age in the years preceding the internet used recipes off food packages and from newspaper clippings and called them their own.  In the present day, we live in a litigious society where everyone wants to profit off of everything, so it’s no surprise people are worried that they will get a cease and desist letter for publishing grandma’s banana pudding recipe.  (Did Grandma get it from a Nilla wafer box?)

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright law doesn’t protect recipes that are “mere listings of ingredients.”  It says copyright protection may extend to “substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration” that goes along with the recipe.  So let’s say for example, a famous chef has a recipe for salmon in his cookbook.  The listing of ingredients—salmon, dill, butter–would not be copyrightable.  However, if he includes a paragraph about how he came to develop the recipe, his words may be copyright protected.  How he writes his directions may be copyrighted.  And definitely, a cookbook—a combination of recipes—is copyright protected.

OK, let’s get to the legalese.  In order for something to be copyrightable, it has to be original.  How many recipes really are original?  It’s the age-old question of where does pasta come from—Italy or China?  Just about every part of the world has some kind of food in a pastry pocket—think empanadas, calzones, samosas, dumplings, knishes….  Who came up with chocolate chip cookies or brownies?  What about pasta sauce?

David Lebovitz wrote for the Food Blog Alliance that “basic” recipes are “fair game” because the basics aren’t likely to vary much.  But how do you define a “basic”?  At one point, chocolate chip cookies were novel.  Now, they are a dime a dozen.  So are chocolate chip cookies “basic”?  Cake pops are all the rage, but is a standard recipe for cake pops “basic” (and a key lime pie cake pop or red velvet cake pop “original”)?  (An aside—is anything red velvet “original” given that it’s the most popular comfort food right now?)

When attributing recipes, Lebovitz outlines three food world rules to follow:  Use “adapted from” if you’re modifying a recipe, use “inspired by” if you used someone else’s recipe for inspiration or use the recipe as your own if you change three ingredients.  He mentions this last one with caution.

Steven Shaw, a lawyer, from eGullet, would like to see a system where recipe creators get licensing fees.  He thinks that “serious recipes really are a form of literary craftsmanship.”  I disagree.  I would say recipes that are online, in magazines,  in cookbooks and in newspapers are lists of ingredients followed by standard directions.  Unless you’re making quail in rose-petal sauce with the same emotion as Tita, I don’t see the literary merit in a recipe.  I don’t want to see the food writing/restaurant world become like the music industry.

From a professional standpoint, I have read that chefs often borrow from one another, taking on one idea, tweaking, adding to or changing it to make it their own.  I would like to poll chefs in the industry and see what their thoughts are.  I suspect most chefs would not want to copyright recipes because I suspect most chefs get inspiration from each other.  I think they would find dealing with licensing fees for recipes a nuisance.

Now, I think there is a different issue between recipes and food creations, that is, food as art.  Some chefs are protective of their creations.  I remember Francois Payard’s Payard restaurant and the lovely dessert creations in the front bakery.  Customers were not allowed to take photos of the cakes.  I’m guessing this was Payard’s way of protecting his food creations, creations that looked like artwork.  There are chefs like Payard that create edible works of art, like Jesus Nunez of Gastroarte.  (Chef Nunez was recently on Iron Chef.)  Can Payard’s cakes and Nunez’s food creations be copyrighted?  Not yet, but maybe they should be.  In order for the “food art” to be copyrightable, it has to be original and “fixed in a tangible medium.”  Unfortunately, because food spoils, it usually doesn’t pass the “fixed” test unlike other media that are used for art.

Before I close the discussion on copyright law, I do want to mention that copyright is one branch of intellectual property law.  There are also trademarks, patents and trade secrets.  Trademarks exist to identify the source of goods or services, and a trademark must be used for commercial activity or it will lose protection.  Food products, even the name of a recipe, can be trademarked.  As I mentioned in another blog post, the Doughnut Plant trademarked the blackout cake doughnut.  Trademarks also include trade dress, like the shape of the Mrs. Butterworth bottle.  Patent law protects inventions.  With the popularity of molecular gastronomy and food science, patent law does come into play.  Chef Homaro Cantu patented edible paper.  At his Chicago restaurant, Moto, he specializes in product development, and his patented inventions appear at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  The innovative chef appears on the Discovery Network’s Planet Green show Future Food.  Trade secrets are things that companies want to keep secret like the formula for McDonald’s secret sauce or Coca-Cola.

I think David Lebovitz’s guidelines are good ones to follow on your food blog if you are adapting a recipe from a cookbook or another food blog or if someone’s recipe inspires you to create something similar.  I wouldn’t worry too much about old family recipes, as I’m sure the same recipe for tuna casserole appears in every church and fundraising cookbook across the country.  Yes, there is a chance it comes from the back of an egg noodle bag.  As far as titles of recipes–titles are not copyrightable, and they can only be trademarked if they are being used in commerce, so chances are you could have a similar title for a recipe.  Photographs are definitely copyrighted, and I would ask permission to use someone else’s photo.

*This does not serve as legal advice.  For your particular situation, see an attorney.

Cool Food Blog

Paper and Salt is a very cool food blog for fans of literary history and food.  The latest entry is one of Henry James’s favorite desserts:  vanilla ice cream with brandied peaches.  I want to try Hemingway’s bacon-wrapped trout and corn cakes.  Great bits of history with fun recipes to try.  It would be fun to have a literary food history potluck.  Who’s in?

Make and mail a cake postcard

According to the cake postcard maker, these slices of “cake” can be mailed.  It seems like the post office wouldn’t let you.  Not sure I’d want to mail these, but they would be fun to make to keep for myself!

Food Photography for Your Blog

Food photography is a topic of interest to any food blogger who wants to make the photos on her blog look professional and stunning.

photo property of Bill Brady used with permission

Bill Brady, professional food photographer, addresses everything food bloggers and those who aspire to a professional career in food photography need to know to take great food photos in his new book More Digital Food Photography from Course Technology PTR, a part of Cengage Learning.

used with permission

I met with Bill over lunch at Madison & Vine in Manhattan to discuss his book and career in food photography as well as his hints and tips for taking professional-quality food photography for food bloggers.  Bill says he doesn’t mind giving away the tricks of the trade.  Each photographer has his or her own eye, called the point-of-view, and would all have a different perspective when photographing the same scene.

photo property of Bill Brady used with permission

Bill says the top two important areas in photography are light and composition.  When photographing food in a restaurant, he says, the best seat in the house is one near the window where you can get access to natural light.  “Food likes to be lit from behind,” he says.  Direct sunlight is not the best though.  “On an overcast day, the light is perfect,” he says. “Food likes diffused light not harsh light.  If you’re sitting outside or by a window, you have a better chance of getting a good picture.”  Bill’s biggest no-no is a flash.  “Artificial light makes the food look off color,” he says. He recommends purchasing a small diffusion panel–easy enough to fold up and carry in your purse–to use to reflect light off of.  Either that, or a white plate held in front of the subject as you photograph.

photo property of Bill Brady used with permission

Composition is the second area to focus on when photographing food.  Bill says to move the dish around to find what part of the food looks best.  He says if you’re photographing a roll, which he proceeds to do as an example, tear it to show its texture inside, put a pat of butter on a butter knife and lay it across the front of the bread plate to create more interest.  “What you’re doing is manipulating the surroundings,” he says.  Then decide what angle you will shoot from.  “If you want more drama, you shoot from below, looking up at the food.  If you shoot from overhead, it’s more graphic,” he says.  “You could focus on a particular area and something else becomes a background element.”  Bill adds, “Compositionally, the closer you get to the food, the better.”

I take a picture of my dish as I normally would, with a camera phone and flash.

Then I take one with natural light and a close up.  (We were seated in the middle of the restaurant, so the lighting was not the best.)

Bill recommends a point and shoot camera over a camera phone.  “A good digital SLR is not that expensive,” he says and will last you at least five years.

Bill shoots with a medium format camera.  It’s more expensive, he notes, but more professional in terms of the results you get.  He also likes shooting manually so he can control every aspect.  Starting his career in photography in 1994, he worked with a food photographer and learned the food photography business, which he began doing in 1999.  A trip to Italy solidified his interest in food photography.  “The food was amazing–the way they presented it,” Bill says.  So he shot food on his own and found his niche.  His first assignment was to photograph every category of food for Food Emporium.  In the last 13 years he has been photographing food, photography has seen many changes–most importantly, the transition from film to digital, and the ways in which that made taking photographs easier.

photo property of Bill Brady used with permission

I recommend checking out Bill’s very cool blog where he pairs his food photography with reader recipes.  Also, stay tuned for my review of his book as I start my adventure into food photography for my blog.