Earlier this week my son Ellis and I attended the book party for Marcus Samuelsson’s new - and long awaited - cookbook, "Marcus Off Duty" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Ellis and a few of his buddies from the country are featured in the book, so it only made sense to leave my husband at home and take Ellis as my date. It was an exciting night for this ten year old.
There he was, the only kid in the room, swilling ginger beer out of a wine glass and scooping up every hors d’oeuvre that came within reach. His favorite was the mini hot dog garnished with shrimp salad and crispy shallots – apparently a Scandinavian thing – a combination that doesn’t sound like it would work but it does, big time.
This book is a labor of love for Marcus and for the folks he enlisted to make it come to fruition. It’s packed with a diversity of colorful, flavorful food, art and even cool music playlists. I loved working on the project, from talking over style and direction with Marcus at Red Rooster, to collaborating with chef James Bowen.
For my portion of the book, Eden Fesehaye really pulled it all together by wearing lots of hats – she even indulged the team by letting us capture her gorgeous cocoa colored hand and red nails grabbing a cookie. The sweets were dynamite but the browns, pinks and reds were super hot!
On most book projects I cook and style the food solely, but with James manning the stove I was free to style the plates and prop the shots, too. We tried to bring Marcus’ eclectic nature to the propping (have you seen the way the guy dresses?!) While working in his Harlem loft, I discovered that Marcus is not only a chef but a prolific painter. Inspired by the art and all of surfaces he painted on, I incorporated some of his art as surfaces or backgrounds in shots.
All of this, and the rest of the book, was beautifully captured by photographer Paul Brissman. The book is full of his glorious photographs. Here are a just few of my favorites that we worked on together.