Fusion Gourmet Website | Food Photography

One of the best things about this job is the people I meet along the way.  Aside from doing what I love, it’s the people that I get to work with that really makes it worthwhile for me.  When I first set out to shoot food, I think I was only expecting to create images and be happy with it.  But it’s much more than that….it’s bringing to life the vision that someone has in their mind to reality and making it happen for them.  Contrary to popular belief, shooting food doesn’t mean you get to shoot it whatever way you want, any way you want to and however you like.  With every assignment and project, there’s limitations and boundaries based on the style the client wants, the look they are trying to achieve and the purpose of the shoot.  It’s critical to take into consideration how the client will be using the images and to create the correct “look” for their use.

I was really really fortunate to work with the wonderful folks over at Fusion Gourmet and for the past 4-5 months, we’ve been working on various images for their new website.  Though they had certain requirements and provided me with a lot of reference shots, we really got the opportunity to flex our creative muscles and pretty much did whatever we thought looked best for the product.  It was one of those really rare opportunities to shoot the way we wanted and how we felt best showcased the website.  Not only were they gracious enough to provide us with limitless samples (“Uh yes we need more products…..nomnomnomnom”) but they gave us free reign to really have fun at our own pace!

I’m really happy to announce that their new website has finally been launched and I hope you’ll get a chance to take a look at it in its entirety.  I should mention that their products are absolutely sensational (and I’m not only saying that because they are my clients).  They carry two delicious lines of products: Bali’s Best Candies and Dolcetto Wafers — so why not order some products while you’re visiting their site and taste for yourself how great their products are?  Tell them I sent ya.  You can really taste the quality of their ingredients and trust me, you’d wish you found out about them sooner if you haven’t already tried them before.  I was actually quite surprised that a lot of people have already tried their candies/wafers – which you can get at Whole Foods among other places.  My favorite are the Dolcetto Wafer Squares!  Believe me, once you taste your products, you can’t stop at one.

I don’t know about you but I already know what I’m getting everyone for the holidays!  Muhahahahaha. ;)

Styling by: Peilin Chen Breller

Homemade Oxtail Stew | Home Cooking Photography

I think every food photographer out there should love food…if they don’t, then shame on them.  It’s really this love of cooking, trying new cuisines and dishes that really started me to love shooting food.  I still remember how in 7th grade my Home-Ec project was to cook a meal for the family and document it in photos.  I made Chicken Parmigiana (yes really Chinese I know), set the whole table, the whole nine yards really….and when I began shooting it, I recall how much I adored capturing food on film.  Sure, it was merely red sauce and mozzarella cheese over a pan seared chicken breast but I can picture it in my mind like it was yesterday.  Love.

Home-cooking is a big thing for me.  I love to cook and I love to taste dishes out in restaurants and try to make them at home (though I should mention that it’s not always successful).  One of my favorite dishes stem from those westernized classics from Hong Kong style cafes – the Oxtail Stew/Stoup/Soup – call it what you like.  If you’ve never been to one, I encourage you to ask around for a good one and try it out.  I made my own version of it yesterday and wanted to share the recipe in case any of you are interested.  You can serve it with crusty french bread + butter, over rice, over egg noodles, with farfalle (bowtie) noodles or whatever you think would best suit the dish and your palate.  Just make sure that before you start, that you have plenty of time (say 4 hours) on your hand to make this – once it’s on the stove, it’s easy but you have to check on it from time to time and add ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • flour (enough to dust oxtails completely with)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 lbs of oxtail
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 1 brown onion (chopped)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes in juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • water
  • chicken bouillon powder
  • 4 large carrots (roughly sliced)
  • 5 ribs of celery (roughly chopped)
  • Maggi seasoning sauce
  • jalapenos (optional)

Also:

  • 1/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
  • 1 cup water

Ready?

In a small pot, bring 1 cup water to a boil along with a pinch of salt.  Once water boils, pour in pearl barley (be sure to wash and rinse barley first) and bring to low simmer for about 45 minutes or until barley is chewy but tender.  Set aside to cool.

While the barley is simmering on the stove, begin the oxtail soup:

  1. Mix the flour with a generous amount of pepper and salt – then dust all the oxtails in mixture and shake off excess.
  2. Heat up olive oil in large dutch oven or pot.
  3. Using long tongs, sear the oxtails on all sides until brown.  Oil WILL splatter so be careful during this process.  Sear all the oxtail in batches as to not crowd the pot.  Set aside all browned oxtail.
  4. While pot is still hot, add in chopped red and brown onions along with minced garlic and turn heat down to medium.  Allow onions and garlic to sweat for about 7 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  5. Add in red wine, crushed tomatoes and the browned oxtails.  Try to place larger pieces of oxtail on the bottom layer (if you can’t fit all the oxtails in a single layer that is).
  6. Add enough water to cover the oxtails by 1 inch and turn stove to high.
  7. Add 3 generous tsp of chicken bouillon.  If you don’t have any, add a can of chicken broth.  Add in bay leaves.
  8. Once contents of the pot come to a boil, turn down to a low simmer and cover with lid.
  9. Allow to boil about 2 hours.  Stir occasionally.
  10. Next add the roughly sliced carrots and chopped celery (larger pieces preferred so they won’t break down and disintegrate too much).
  11. Add in about 2/3 of the boiled barley into the soup mixture as well.  Barley will help thicken the soup naturally and is a matter of preference on how thick you want it.  If you want it thicker, you can add more.
  12. Simmer for another hour and stir from time to time.
  13. Then remove lid and without stirring up the pot – use a shallow ladle to skim off the layer of oil/fat that has surfaced at the top of the soup.  Try to remove as much as possible.
  14. If your oxtail has a good amount of fat on there, remove them from the soup at this time and trim off excess fat.  It should come off quite easily.  Please note that oxtail has a very gelatinous nature to it and sometimes the gelatin may be mistaken for the fat.  Once fat is trimmed, place oxtails back into soup.
  15. If you want a spicy kick to your oxtail soup, you can add in sliced jalapenos (without the seeds/rib) or add in some red pepper flakes.
  16. Allow soup to simmer for 1 last hour and stir occasionally. (Should be 4 hours in total)
  17. Season with salt, pepper and a few dashes of Maggi and cook for about 5 more minutes before serving.
  18. Depending on the thickness of your soup/stew/stoup – you can serve it a multitude of ways.

Though I made this soup with oxtail, you could probably do the same with beef shank, beef stew or other cuts that require a long cooking process.  Oxtail is just so incredibly tender at the end of the cooking process and the meat isn’t rough like other cuts.  The bits of gelatinous goodness really lends itself to create a delicious texture to the stew.  Even if you don’t eat the oxtails itself, the flavor of the soup is really delicious.  For those who dig that Hong Kong style-borscht (that I also make), this is quite similar but much more hearty.  I know the recipe looks long and overwhelming but it’s really quite simple – just needs some TLC from you.

With leftovers, if it’s too thick, just add some water, season and reheat.  The oxtail is even better after sitting a day or two!

Try it let me know what you think!  Hope to share more home-cooking recipes with you in the future.  Enjoy!

Fleming’s Stoli Bombshell Martini | Beverage Photography

People always ask me what it’s like being a food photographer.  I tell them that I’m a problem solver more than anything else.  Sure you’ve got to have the technical skills and an eye for food but when it all boils down, you need to deliver a final product and find solutions to obstacles.  No two shoots will ever be the same — not even if it’s a repeat client.  You’ve got to be prepared for anything that comes up.

Last month, when I was shooting for Fleming’s Steakhouse, we were given a last minute task to shoot their Stoli Bombshell Martini drink with a “pink” theme to support October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Our Art Director set out to local stores to find some “pink” props and came back with a plethora of goods ranging from glasses, bracelet, shawl and 2 clutches.  I don’t believe there’s an exact science to tabletop or in this case bar-top styling other than trying things out and seeing if it “works”.  We wanted to evoke a very “Sex and the City” mood while staying true to the Breast Cancer Awareness message but after trying several layouts, we felt something was missing to truly convey that campaign.

It wasn’t until my stylist extraordinaire and girl MacGyver, Peilin was toying with the unclasped bracelet and made it into the “pink ribbon” that everything then fell into place!  To make a very long story short, we took one of the satin clutches and then pinned the “faux” pink ribbon on there making it look like the clasp of the purse.  It was at that moment that we knew that was “it”!  To add some more dimension to the photo, we had a model stand in the back with the pink shawl and a personal item to give it the full effect.

A bit of glimmer, a bit of shimmer, so sassy and yet still sharing the message of Breast Cancer Awareness to all.  I love it.  So go try out the Stoli Bombshell and support the cause – and the fact that the martini is only 99 calories doesn’t make you think twice about keeping your girlish figure (even if you aren’t a gal)!

Drink & Prop Styling by: Peilin Chen Breller

Lee Kum Kee | Recipe Card Food Photography

Oyster sauce.  Hoisin Sauce.  Black Bean Sauce.  Surely you’ve heard of them before?  Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably eaten something made from one of those sauces – especially if dining in a Chinese restaurant.  One of the most famous sauce makers worldwide is Lee Kum Kee.  No doubt you’ve seen something from them on the table of a Pho restaurant or the multitude of jars, bottles in all shapes and colors flanking the aisles of 99 Ranch Market.  If you haven’t, just trust me.

I received an opportunity to work with Lee Kum Kee last November (yes I am THAT behind on my blog *weeps*) to shoot some images for their Vietnamese Recipe Cards.  We shot 5 dishes in total but am sharing the first 3 below (gotta save *some* content for later right?).  It took them awhile to produce these recipe cards so I really didn’t get to look at the final product until earlier this year.  The cards are in English on one side and in Vietnamese (not shown here) on the other.  I figured some of you may want to try cooking some of these so English uh, made more sense.  We of course got the opportunity to taste the final dish made from the hands of their in-house chef and everything was really delicious – especially the Vietnamese “Shaking” Beef.  You gotta try it.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Great, now I’m craving Vietnamese food.

Food prepared by: Lee Kum Kee In-House Chef

Food styling by: Peilin Chen Breller

Stonehill Tavern | Editorial Food Photography

Back in July, I went on assignment for Orange Coast Magazine to shoot at Stonehill Tavern in the St. Regis Monarch Beach down in Dana Point.  I got an opportunity to work with the very talented Chef Black and was blown away by his attention to detail for each dish that he produced.  They were all so jaw-droppingly beautiful and perfectly constructed with every detail in place that it wasn’t hard to get an amazing pic from the shoot.  Let’s just say, it made our jobs infinitely easier.  Anyway, I just quickly wanted to share some images with you all – I hope to be doing this a lot more often and showcase what I’ve been working on (even if I’m a wee bit behind on the posts).  There’s just a lot going on these days and it’s turning out to be a busy but great Fall season.  Please check back soon!

And to see which photo the magazine ended up using?  Check it out here!

Food Styling by: Peilin Chen Breller