We obviously love to hear about the times when photographers help each other land gigs. For example, Bill Sallans recently completed a shoot with Top Chef winner Kristen Kish at her restaurant in downtown Austin, Texas, picking up the work thanks to a friend of his (and ours).
“I got referred to the job by my good friend [and WM member] Jody Horton, who was already working on another project. We shot at Arlo Grey inside the LINE Hotel.”
If you feel like you’ve seen Kristen on our site before, that’s because another of our members, Sandy Noto, did a summer shoot with her in Chicago (connections everywhere!). For that project, Kristen was sampling drinks and desserts in the Windy City. For this one, she was more in her element, cooking up a storm as Bill expertly negotiated an on-coming dinner rush.
“We had time with Kristen before service in the afternoon to do interviews, multiple environmental portraits, and cooking demo shots.”
“We also photographed Kristen and her team during live service in the kitchen that evening.”
The Season 10 Top Chef victor opened Arlo Grey — her first restaurant — last year. Here’s a description of the place, per the LINE Hotel’s website:
“Arlo Grey is the debut lakeside restaurant by Top Chef [Season 10] winner Kristen Kish. Kish’s culinary style melds precise training and technique rooted in French and Italian traditions with a nostalgia for dishes from her upbringing, her world travels, and her exploration of the bountiful ingredients of Central Texas. Arlo Grey serves breakfast, weekend brunch, dinner, and cocktails with sweeping views of Town Lake.”
Kristen is also the newest member of Holland America Line’s Culinary Council, hence the reason for the shoot. HAL, a cruise line and subsidiary of Carnival, came to Austin to introduce Kristen as a partner, giving Bill another chance to work with a talented restauranteur in one of America’s most vibrant food scenes.
“Living in Austin, I have been fortunate to shoot a lot of chefs and restaurants. I like shooting chefs and attempting to make images that are different from the cliché images we so often see.”
This shoot marked the first time Bill worked with Kristen and HAL. The openness of Arlo Grey was a welcome development for the Austinite, who put together a lovely tapestry of imagery as a result.
“In my experience, not all kitchens are as big or good-looking as the kitchen in Arlo Grey. A large kitchen with better looking backgrounds allowed me to get a greater diversity of shots than I would have anticipated.”
Even if the shoot took place in a tight space, it still would have been smooth sailing because of the people involved. Bill was quick to mention Kristen’s cooking crew, a “diverse and inclusive” group that made the commercial and editorial photographer feel right at home.
“Working with Kristen was great. She has obviously spent some time in front of the camera and seemed really comfortable and confident. Kristen was really fun for the whole shoot but really lit up in the kitchen.”
“The thing that stood out to me the most (aside from how cool and nice she is) was the team she had created at Arlo Grey. The kitchen and waitstaff were really great and made the shoot fun. They have a really diverse and inclusive staff and a really happy comfortable vibe in the kitchen. It was also cool to see how close [Kristen] was with her team.”
It’s clear that Kristen is an incredibly accommodating person, an attribute not often found in head chefs who are in the throes of a dinner rush. Even though Bill has never held a legitimate restaurant job (a life experience that many of our members have applied to their restaurant-based shoots), his previous work in food photography has given him a wealth of knowledge as to the rhythm of this kind of assignment.
“It is fun and challenging to shoot while the kitchen is doing service, as there is a lot happening all at once. You have to really pay attention because the staff works fast and the moments are fleeting.”
“Not all chefs are comfortable with letting a photographer in during service. Partly because there often isn’t a lot of room and you would literally be in the way, and partly because it’s a little distracting for the staff. It was really kind of Kristen to give us full access to the kitchen and plenty of time to work.”
“Chefs are usually very creative people, and I often find them to be good collaborators.”