One way and another I have done more and more writing over the last few years and I’m really enjoying having time to focus on this. I am contributing regularly to magazines such as the Caterer and Just About Dorset, but the blog is a chance to cover more diverse subjects – visits to growers, some of our travels, new recipes, occasional book reviews and some pieces about the work I am doing are a few areas I will be covering.
The guest blog section is where I prevail on friends and colleagues, most of them in the food industry, to share their thoughts, stories and experiences with us. Exciting, vibrant and diverse are words I’d use to sum things up on the guest blog and it isn’t all food related either!
I want to say a massive “thank you” to all those who have agreed to participate and I am sure that these contributions will be a big part of the interest in this website. Lots of these people have their own websites, blogs and books so please follow the links to see much more. If you are interested in guest blogging please email me at russell@CreativeAboutCuisine.com
We have passed some great milestones recently, not least of which is finding a publisher for ‘Well Seasoned’, the book I am writing and photographing with Jon Haley. Today, though, I can also announce that I have been chosen as a finalist in the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition!
I can’t reveal which image is through to the final but we will be attending the awards evening at the Mall Galleries on April 25th which is to be hosted by Jay Rayner. The overall award has been won in the past by some truly outstanding photographers and the judging panel is made up of a real ‘who’s who’ of the food and photography industry.
I am truly lucky to get the opportunity to visit amazing farmers, growers and food producers as part of my work and then I get to cook with their produce. My photography really is an extension of what I have achieved in the kitchen over the years even if it is a far cry from my early photographic work with film cameras 30 odd years ago!
One of our specialities is producing a range of content for various clients, right through from recipe development to final images. This is often a complete package with supporting editorial and tested recipes.
Shooting for the book is also a brilliant journey to be on at the moment and Jon and I are both putting our hearts into it. Seasonal living, the countryside, seasonal food and, of course, seasonal cooking are all things we are both passionate about. Needless to say, the process also requires plenty of eating, trips to the river, visits to the coast and discussions over the odd pint!
The Mall Galleries are hosting the exhibition of work from the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year from April 26th- 29th, well worth a visit.
You can stay up to date with the awards here.
Below are a small selection of images from recent shoots. We will let you know how things go on the awards night!
“Right, so you’re a food blogger writing about food bloggers writing about food? Well, er yes, but hear me out…” is how the conversation might have gone if I’d given Russell the opportunity to comment on this piece. But I didn’t. Thankfully, he’s far too busy doing real foodie stuff, so publish and be damned, I say.
I’ve been blogging about food for a little over four years now. If you’ve ever read the Well Seasoned blog you’ll know the story of our business, so I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that the ability to publish updates to our audience in an instant gave us a freedom that previous generations of entrepreneurs never enjoyed. Being able to tell our story, in near-real-time, and share the ups and downs of launching a food start-up, was a truly exciting and liberating experience.
Blogs, and social media generally, have democratised writing across the globe and in no sector is this truer than food. Once the preserve of a handful of lofty newspaper critics, food writing is now for everyone and, with the advent of sites like Tripadvisor and Squaremeal, everyone is a critic – literally. The internet is awash with people writing about ingredients, restaurants and cooking. Anyone with access to a computer can be published worldwide and for free – no need for a pre-existing audience or any demand for your work. Build it and they will come (provided you have the right Search Engine Optimisation).
The problem is that this democracy comes at a price. Critical oversight and quality control are the innocent victims of this bloodless (if you discount the black pudding) revolution. With so many authors churning out text and pictures, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find the good stuff.
Is anyone really interested in seeing a dimly lit, out of focus shot of your breakfast, with optional inane caption, such as “Mmmm!” or its brother-in-bore “Yummm!!!” (the number of exclamation marks usually being directly and inversely proportional to the quality of photo)? And yet social media allows you to spew it onto the net without any check on quality and certainly without the benefit of a watchful publisher saying, “Umm, are we sure we want to go with “scrummy” as an adjective again?”
We all crave affirmation – it is part of the human condition – but social media brings out the worst in us. Anyone who publishes a blog, has a Twitter account or a Facebook page will know (whether they admit it or not) the sense of satisfaction when a tweet is retweeted, a post Liked or a blog comment received, and it’s all too easy for our writing to descend into a quest for those validations.
That’s why a poor quality picture of eggs benedict and glib accompanying caption have become the all-too-common mark of the foodie affirmation junkie. It has the highest reward-to-effort ratio: Click/apply Instagram filter/Yummm!! = 5 undiscerning ‘Likes’. It’s the quick fix, high-sugar, low-carb snack of the social media world.
So, what’s the alternative to this blogosphere junk food? Naturally, it’s fine dining; well written, descriptive prose accompanied by high quality photography and recipe writing. If you post a shonky picture of your cherry cheesecake with the caption “I LOVE cherries!”, I might give it a passing ogle but I definitely won’t respect it in the morning. But write about why cherries are the taste of summer for you, of childhood memories and hazy, long evenings, and accompany it with a well-composed evocative photograph, then not only will I Like your post, I’ll check back tomorrow to see if you’ve written another one. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish recipe and he will feed himself. Give him a structured blog piece about how you caught that fish, what it smelled, looked and tasted like, and you feed his timeline for a lifetime (or his morning commute, whichever is shorter)“.
It’s a well-known (if not actually scientifically-tested) fact that 90% of cookbooks are never used and 90% of people who watch Jamie, Delia and Hugh cooking their way round Britain never actually make a damn thing they see. We like reading them and watching them and convincing ourselves we could live like them if we wanted, but we really don’t have time tonight so let’s just order a pizza. The same goes for blogs and social media feeds – the good ones sell an entire lifestyle, not just a snapshot. To me, food means very little unless I know its connections – Where did it come from? Who grew it? How did it end up on your plate? I want you tell me how you yearned for that dry spring day to forage elderflowers, how you enjoyed that fresh mackerel barbecued on the beach just as the midsummer sun set, or how your toddler wiped his bogies on the chocolate cake minutes before you served it to the vicar. It’s all part of the story and for social media to be interesting, the story is a vital ingredient – yet so often absent.
So, now time to put my elderberry-stained hands up – I’m acutely conscious that I need to heed my own advice here. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to amateurish efforts, poor photography and attention seeking. But I do try, and I do think we owe it to ourselves, as writers (of all kinds, whether professional, amateur, virtual or in print), to be the best we can in the time we have available. Before we next hit that “Publish”, “Tweet” or “Post” button, catapulting our latest musings into foodie cyberspace for the world to read, let’s make sure we’ve given it our best shot.
Oh, I nearly forgot. Here’s a picture of my breakfast. Yummm!!!!!
I’m a huge fan of social media and have seen the changes it has brought to the industry over the last few years. Back in the day, I was an avid user of online food forums, such as eGullet, which connected me to people across the UK and the world. Living in Cornwall,...read more
I have spent a lot of time on my photography recently but most of it has been food shots for various things; Dorchester Life, the new Dorset food magazine Menu and, of course, for the blog, so I thought it was time to upload a few new images to the galleries. We did...read more
This is proper home cooking. Comfort food, yes, indulgent, possibly a little, but more than anything really tasty! I have made this pie a couple of times recently and in part it was inspired by a visit to Walter Rose and Sons in Devizes, the butchers I use at Sienna....read more
I saw them in Waitrose. 1 kilo boxes of Seville oranges and it got me thinking; how long is it since I made marmalade? Ages, that’s for sure. It’s a big topic this year, helped in some way no doubt by the Paddington movie (I have always been a fan and loved the...read more
Books have always been a satisfyingly significant part of my life. To get lost in a great story, to learn, to switch off, to revel in the physical act of opening a new book for the first time; this is real enjoyment. That moment when you gently run your thumb down the...read more
This is something that is a rarity in our house! I grew up with the whole ‘roast every Sunday’ thing and, to be fair, when Eléna and I bought our first house together we still had a roast most Sundays. Relatively cheap, cold meat for later in the week, maybe some...read more
Russell and Eléna Brown, owners of Michelin-starred Sienna Restaurant in Dorchester, have announced that they will be running their last service at the restaurant on Saturday 25th April 2015, twelve years to the day after they opened. Russell said, “Our lease comes to...read more
Ben is celebrating his fifth anniversary at the restaurant this month, an amazing achievement. I ate at Ben’s last time we were down in Cornwall and had a genuinely excellent lunch. The ambiance, service, ethos and cooking all add up to a great package. I’m not the...read more
Cornwall will always hold a special place in my heart. I moved there when I was 12, met my wife there, lived there for over 20 years and I started cooking there. We moved away in 1998 for me to take my first head chef’s job in Dorset and from then on visits were...read more
It’s hard to know where to start on this post: I’ve just returned from a truly captivating work trip to the Austrian Tyrol. How on earth did this come about and can I really describe it as work? Back in January I had a call from Andy at ASL to ask if I would be...read more
Baking is certainly big news at the moment with a high television profile and baking shows becoming a firm fixture in the foodie calendar. Great British bake off with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, Eric Lanyards, Baking Mad, Rachel Allen, Nigella and Nigel Slater are...read more
I have had a fascination with chocolate for a very long time. I am not a chocolatier but for the last 15 years I have been making chocolates for petits fours as well as using chocolate widely in desserts. My knowledge has grown over the years through experimenting,...read more