Tasty bits — the art of the shoot

Walla Walla Community College culinary arts students followed an Asian theme in their recent work.

Walla Walla Community College culinary arts students followed an Asian theme in their recent work.


Have you ever had the desire to learn something new, but never had the time to do it?

As a professional photographer who has traveled the world I have had some things I would like to do if time ever permitted.

The two things I have always wished for are studying winemaking and learning the culinary arts.

Living in Walla Walla has given me the opportunity not only to learn these new crafts but to share them with digital photography.

In 2007 my wife and I moved from Ocean Shores to Walla Walla as I was beginning to retire from a very fast-paced life.

That’s when I met Stan Clarke, who was director of the Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology and Viticulture, who persuaded me to sign up at WWCC.

As a photographer, I was really interested in the world of winemaking and vineyard operations and wanted to understand how it all worked!

Sure I liked cabernet sauvignon and malbec, but I had no idea how they’re grown or made.

Thus in 2007 I launched into the daily life of classes and field trips and for two years I studied the colors and imagery and learned and photographed the many fine details of crafting wine from bud to bottle.

I even planted a small vineyard at my home and have made some wine thanks to the very talented instructors at the center.

Part of the Institute houses a kitchen where future chefs are taught the art of cooking and being curious I would frequently walk by the large glass kitchen windows and peer in to see the student chefs at work and view their creations.

Then one day toward the end of my second year I walked into class and noticed eight wine glasses at each student’s place.

This would be the day we would be pairing college cellar wines with the student chefs’ food creations.

For years I have heard people talk about food pairing but never really understood how it worked. At the school suddenly everything fell into place when the right wine is paired with the right foods, i.e., merlot and chocolate, etc. This experience opened up a new world for me.

Recently I met the new director/instructor of the Wine Country Culinary School, Dan Thiessen, and he asked if I would share some thoughts with his graduating class of chefs re: food photography, cameras, composition, etc. I was so impressed with his background and the professional talent he brought to the program that I enrolled.

The second thing I have always wanted to do is learn how to cook better and learn the art of pairing foods for better nutritional cooking. So meeting Dan was like meeting Stan and now I am in the culinary program!

I must say the culinary experience has been exhilarating as we just finished Asian cooking with Chef Jay Entrikin and I am finished up a second class on nutritional cooking with Chef Greg Schnorr.

The layered colors and aromas of the food in the kitchen are hard to describe as the student chefs are masterfully guided by the instructors.

Luckily I am able to capture the imagery with my camera and iPad.

As I have already learned that working with the chefs in the kitchen is a very fast pace so the camera lighting, angles, colors and composition must be adjusted rapidly!

As of six weeks ago I entered the Wine Country Culinary Institute full time (just completed Asian Cooking and Healthy Cooking) and this coming week will start Pastry and Food Pairings — a rather full schedule.

I am taking the full two-year course and presently shooting at least 1,000 pictures a week starting with the ingredients, preparation and final plating, thus building the image library for the Culinary Institute.

I did the same thing when I attended the Enology and Viticulture Institute from 2007-09.

I find the whole process quite intriguing working with very creative chefs!

This coming May I will be teaching two classes for Quest, “An Inspirational Journey” for those aspiring to use their digital cameras but have never read the manual, and “Visual Storytelling” for those who have a working knowledge of their cameras and want to take the journey to another level.

In future columns, I will be sharing behind-the-scenes experiences, from preparation to final plate.

Don Fleming can be reached at don512@me.com, and he will be teaching two Quest classes starting in May, ‘An Inspirational Journey’ and ‘Visual Storytelling.’


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