Le Pigeon is one of those tried and true gems of Portland, which I've had the pleasure of photographing for almost two years now. It is considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the city and Chef Gabriel Rucker is constantly experimenting with new flavors and ingredients. When the menu undergoes a significant refresh, I'm called in to capture the new dishes and atmosphere of the restaurant.
Each shoot begins right before dinner service starts, when the kitchen is prepped and ready to start cooking. This gives me the best of both worlds. Beautiful food, thoughtfully plated before the rush begins, but also the active atmosphere of an open restaurant. Gabriel and I have a brief rundown of the evening's plan before we're off and running. Each shoot consists of 5-10 new dishes, which are a variety of starters, mains, desserts, and special items from the tasting menu.
Probably because they are one of my favorite things to eat, it's no surprise that I adore photographing desserts. Pastry chef Helen Jo recently stepped in from Little Bird, Le Pigeon's sister restaurant. Helen's desserts are whimsical and complex, deftly integrating a variety of textures and the best flavors of the season. And simply gorgeous!
After I finish setting up in the back for the food photos, I start photographing the action on the line. The chef's counter overlooks the open kitchen situated at the heart of the restaurant and allows me to capture a variety of visuals: the food, team, and guests in the background. Once the first dish is ready for photographs, I whisk it to the back and take a few moments to observe the plate and how best to capture the food. Once I have the 'it' shot, I head back to photograph the kitchen or dining room until the next plate is ready.
Things move fast in restaurants and I have to be on my toes to transition quickly between shooting food, servers moving swiftly around the room, and the kitchen team preparing dishes. While I love the excitement of discovering a new place with my camera, I also appreciate working in a familiar setting. I know the small nooks that I can back into for a few extra inches in the frame and the angles that work best from every corner of the room. And while the shoot location might be the same each time, so many other factors are constantly in flux: the light, the guests, the team, and of course, the food. I always look forward to each photo shoot at Le Pigeon and appreciate the opportunity to work with such a fun, welcoming group of people that create such incredible food.