Saturday, January 24, 2015

Creating Connections: Food Photography with Sydney Chefs

“Dario meet Kumar from Aki’s Restaurant.” “Kumar meet Dario from Milano Torino.” I spent the half day with Kumar and Dario in a private food photography session run by Chef, Owner and keen Food Photographer, Dario Milano at his restaurant, Milano Torino in Rosebery. Before today’s meeting Dario and Kumar had not met before and I was only too happy to introduce the two to each other.

Through my travels as a blogger, and food blogging being a key aspect of this, I have got to know many restauranteurs and chefs and was pleased I could assist someone else to leverage from my connections of people I’ve got to know from some of Sydney’s finest restaurants. These people, including myself, connect because of a passion for one thing … food. In this case, all three of us connected today because of a passion for food and photography … the process of ensuring what is cooked and prepared on a plate is captured beautifully in a photo, another form of art using a camera lens.


This meeting came about when I went to Aki’s Restaurant in Woolloomooloo for dinner where I took my family along as I wanted them to try what awesome Indian food tastes like … and they weren’t disappointed. I met Kumar Mahadevan, Executive Chef and Owner of Aki’s Restaurant in Woolloomooloo who asked me who taught me about food photography. I told him that I learnt from a chef/owner of the new restaurant in Rosebery serving Northern Italian food called Milano Torino. You can read my earlier post about the 3 tips I learned on food photography from Milano Torino. Soon enough, a custom food photography class was arranged for Kumar to meet Dario and I went to do introductions and also to further refine my skills of what I’ve already learnt on food photography from Dario.


Dario’s restaurant is beautifully set up. A rustic setting with lots of open natural light, which is perfect to capture the perfect food picture. On the backwall, Dario has a wonderful collection of antique plates and cutlery, which, putting aside practicality as eating utensils, do make beautiful styling props for food photography. There is a great place to get this type of homewares nearby, a few minutes walk from Green Square Station and its an antique store called Lunatiques.

It also so happens that Kumar loves Italian food and has travelled to Southern Italy quite a few times with his wife. His good friend, also a Sydney chef, Danny Russo, could have something to do with that.

“Dario, Milano Torino is about Northern Italian Food. Is there much difference between Southern and Northern Italian food?” I asked. Dario replies, “Oh yes. There are 18 regions within Italy and the culinary differences are quite distinct. The ingredients in each dish is very much determined by the climate… even the shape and taste of the pastas are different”. Food from Southern Italy is also spicier than the North and this probably has something to do with the South being influenced by the countries closer to it like the Middle East.

Upon further reading out of curiosity, I’ve discovered that while northern Italians love their rich cream sauces, polenta and stuffed meats, people in the south embrace flavours such as tangy tomato sauces, olive oil and fresh steamed seafood. Southern Italy makes the most of its abundance of olive oils. Olives grow beautifully in warm Mediterranean climates. Southern Italian cooking features the bright, lively Mediterranean taste that most people associate with Italian cuisine. Peppers, eggplant and tomatoes thrive in the warm southern Italian climate, and they form the basis for some of the region’s most-beloved dishes. Eggplant parmigiana, tangy marinara sauce and minestrone enlivened with fresh herbs are southern classics. The wealth of great tomatoes led to the invention of Italy’s most popular food worldwide: pizza.

With its mountainous terrain and its proximity to Switzerland, Austria and France, northern Italy loves the land and butter-based sauces rich with cream grace northern Italian tables just as they do in France is quite common. Stews and soups with the beef so abundant in the area are popular in the winter, but spring is for succulent veal. Thin breaded veal cutlets are as popular in Italy as they are in nearby Austria.

The mountainous terrain at the foot of the Italian Alps lends itself to pastures rather than fields, so cheese has been a staple for centuries. The sheep, goats and cows that graze there produce the milk that goes into Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, asiago and gorgonzola cheeses. With their variety of textures and tastes, northern Italian cheeses complement northern and southern dishes alike.

After a quick very smooth coffee that Dario made for us, we got started with the workshop.  In this custom food photography workshop, we spoke about things like:

#1 Food styling, quite an important ingredient for good food photography

#2 Lighting and how to get it or create it in dark restaurant situations

#3 Using grey cards to get the colour balance right

#4 Learning to use editing software like Capture One (awesome program by the way after using it for the first time today)

#5 Suitable camera lens for food photography

The important part of this course is the connection that was formed today by the Sydney chefs through food photography and sharing restaurant and food experiences…who knows, I hope to see a collaboration one day of something that combines food and photography or perhaps their amazing Indian and Italian cuisines...the sky’s the limit.

Here are a few shots I took today…


Dario's Restaurant: Milano Torino, 2/33 Epsom Road, Rosebery NSW 2018
Kumar's Restaurant: Aki's Restaurant 1/6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Wolloomooloo NSW 2011

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