Most of my food photography projects in Las Vegas take me to the high-glamour celebrity chef driven restaurants on The Vegas Strip, so when Chef Daniel Ontiveros asked me to photograph his new menu, during the development phase for the forthcoming Therapy Restaurant located on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, I wasn't sure what to expect. I often tell people my favorite style of foods to photograph are simple comfort food dishes; comfort food isn't pretentious, doesn't need styling and simply looks inviting by its simple & proverbial composure. Chef Ontiveros' take on American comfort food dishes are exactly the food photography projects I like to tackle.
[ If comfort foods were to star on the silver screen, I have no doubt Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart would play their true life counterparts. ]
The construction and build-out of Therapy restaurant was quite extensive, as its previous decades-long tenant, a five and dime store, did not possess any of the necessary commercial kitchen elements needed for a modern eatery. Our initial Las Vegas food photography session was done in a private home in order to produce some pre-opening media shots to release. Arguably, the private kitchen used was as well appointed and complete as any small restaurant could wish for. Test kitchens are always best for menu development and tastings since the distraction of front of house operations (guests dining) become non-detractors.
Once Therapy’s kitchen was approved for commercial use, Chef and I reconvened in the finished space where I was able to capture many of the slick proprietary design elements. Unique surfaces are always the first attribute I look for when photographing food. Background is always the last since I believe food photography should be all about the food and not what’s in the background. My approach is, if you love the venues space then capture that in a wide-angle architectural restaurant image. I often see food photography images where both elements (food and architecture) are fighting for the viewer’s attention. Let it be about one or the other, but not both. In film production, there’s a reason why directors call for establishing, wide, medium and close-up shots. The same rules should apply to photographing restaurants and the food they serve.
In addition to the Chicken & Red Waffle Sliders pictured above, I particularly enjoyed photographing Therapy’s “Big Sexy” Burger, Super Mac-n-cheese and Charred Street Corn con Husk, which can be found in the main food photography gallery.