While the delivery may be a turn-off for some, this actually proves to be a persuasive formula at times.
When it comes to Thug Kitchen, there will always be naysayers. Well, they can fuck off. Before you know it, they’ll want us to remove all intensifiers from our speech. Highly unlikely.
I’m often the first to reach for a well-placed expletive. However, to be perfectly honest, Thug Kitchen’s “tough guy” act becomes tiresome after about thirty seconds. If that. In particular, the language is jarring in comparison to the rest of the text, which is for the most part quite well-written and articulate.
I’m not going to lie, though. The ill-mannered culinary tirade does have its entertaining moments. For example, when faced with old vegetables from the back of the fridge, the resident thug suggests that we “roast those bitches.” And, just in case you were wondering, “I am not talking about some played out portabella [sic] burger that tastes like a dirty sponge.”
How’s this for an introduction to a post on garlic bread?
“This recipe has everything:
bread, roasted garlic.
“LET’S MAKE SOME MOTHERFUCKING SOUP”
You get the picture.
However, if you find that these jokes are already starting to wear thin, just imagine the monotony of five years worth of relentless raunchy recipe rants.
Thankfully, the Thug Kitchen’s in-house hoodlums are fully up to speed on nutritional matters. And while the chief goon is evidently suffering from a moderate case of Tourettes Syndrome, all that profanity-laced mouthing-off is just a sign that they care about your ass, see? Better living through badmouthery.
It also makes for a unique and instantly recognizable writing style. You certainly don’t come to Thug Kitchen expecting mealy-mouthed pleasantries. Instead, you find a series of healthy recipes spelled out in the most blunt terms you can imagine.
That’s all very well, but does the Thug Kitchen manage to speak with a similarly distinct voice when it comes to food imagery?
It’s surprising enough that thugs can even cook in the first place. However, even more shocking might be the fact that they evidently do most of their cooking in picturesque mountain cabins. Despite their rough exterior, a lot of the photos on Thug Kitchen are shot against rustic wooden backdrops. I think we can be generous and assume that these particular thugs are holed up in the backwoods, lying low from the law with cleavers at the ready rather than out of fresh ideas.
Aside from the repetition, Thug Kitchen’s photography is attractive and consistent. The lighting is invariably quite clean and commercial. Interestingly, over the course of the blog’s existence, its style has gravitated more so toward moodier and more directional lights, adding a notably greater degree of interest to many of the more recent set-ups.
Meanwhile, the food styling is often lively and palatable, suggesting the nice little narratives that help compensate for the otherwise standard lighting. Although the “old-crumpled-dishtowel-on-the-side” trick gets a little overused, Thug Kitchen’s way of working with props is generally very subtle and convincing. This adds to both the aesthetics and the narrative of the photos, without ever distracting from the star of the show: the food itself.
Does Thug Kitchen possess a clear and consistent visual identity? I think its fair to say that this identity is not especially remarkable. Yes, Thug Kitchen’s photography is perfectly conservative and mainstream. It’s just not all that unusual or distinctive and certainly doesn’t match the thug’s style written language.
If the blog does offer one notable photographic method that stands out, it’s the creation of dynamic and elaborate sets that imply a fun and friendly meal in full swing (despite being entirely void of people). These scenarios tend to be quite busy, with heavily-propped backgrounds. But the chaos is tamed by a very shallow depth of field, which keeps things from becoming too cluttered. It’s a simple yet effective method that we can all learn from.
The trick here is to set up a simple background that stands in for a wall. Then, place your choice of “table” surface up against it at a right angle. Now prop the scene liberally to bring things to life – as if the set were the corner of a tasty buffet. As long as you leave enough distance between the featured dish and background (and use a long enough lens or sufficiently wide aperture), the unfocused props will be just recognizable enough to suggest context without distracting from the main subject.
Away from the main recipe shots, there’s the occasional bit of clichéd, generic imagery on Thug Kitchen. We can only assume that the owners have an account with “Shutterstock”. Or worse – they’re influenced and inspired by mediocre stock photography. A shame, really. But, thankfully, these moment are few and far between.
Overall, the quality of Thug Kitchen’s imagery is consistently good (though far from groundbreaking). Making healthy food look more appealing to a wide range of people is already an achievement in itself. Perhaps a dominant and distinctive photographic style isn’t necessary if they’re able to attract an audience that would have previously turned their noses to vegan cooking.
“Promoting accessibility and community are important as fuck here at Thug Kitchen. We’ve got a big table and everyone is welcome to it,” the blog claims. That’s a sentiment we can get behind. Yet, it’s a tad disappointing that a quick look at Thug Kitchen’s comments section suggests that most readers are not in fact gat-packing street hustlers, but adolescent females with nice hair.
Indeed, about the only genuinely thuggish thing about Thug Kitchen is the repeated use of photos featuring chopsticks unceremoniously stuck into food as if they were shit shovels: in East Asia, this behavior is generally considered to be about as well mannered as stubbing cigarettes out on your plate would be at a Michelin star restaurant. Not a good look.
This minor complaint aside, it has to be said that Thug Kitchen is a great name. A great idea even. And while the relentless “fuck you” tone quickly becomes tedious, the imagery is consistent and appropriate for the mass market.
The food itself doesn’t look too bad, either.