Into the Kitchen with the Selby
The hustle and bustle of a professional kitchen is a tough place for a photographer. In the introduction to Todd Selby’s new book, The Edible Selby, Chad Robertson, of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, compared the process to “walking into the jungle to shoot wild animals.” But Selby has practice shooting creative people in their natural habitats. Since 2008 he has been photographing artists and designers at home for his blog, The Selby, and his first book, The Selby is in Your Place. For The Edible Selby, which began as a New York Times T Magazine column, Selby travelled the globe in search of sustainable, creative, and spectacular food, and the visionaries behind it. AFAR caught up with him to talk about his favorite places and people along the way.
What is the difference between taking pictures of in a home versus in a restaurant setting?
Taking pictures in someone’s home a chill experience, just really casual. When you’re at someone’s place of work, it is much more intense. They’re working hard, so I worked hard to keep out of the way. But the process is the same.
You feature a wide selection of people and places in this book, from fishmongers to bakers, from shacks to fine dining. How did you find them?
It was a word of mouth. I talked to different chefs to find out where things were going on. I wanted it to be international with a lot of places and people that foodies wouldn’t have heard of. All the places came from either speaking to chefs or speaking to people that live abroad.
What were some of the most memorable far-flung destinations you visited?
I had a friend who has a place in Mallorca and they told me about this old man who has this restaurant. You can only get to it by taking a boat or hiking one and one-half hours to get there. When you arrive there’s a little cute house and he makes you paella over a fire.
I also met this really cool family in New Zealand that raises buffalo and makes buffalo mozzarella. They’re making cheese in such a beautiful setting, so I loved that.
And closer to home, what were some highlights?
A great spot was Cake Man Raven, a baker in Brooklyn. He’s most famous for his red velvet cakes but he makes really cool big ones as well, like a cake of the Brooklyn Bridge. He’s a funny, colorful character.
Cookbook, in Los Angeles, that’s a really cool place, too. Marta Teegan and her boyfriend, Robert Stelzner, run this perfect little grocery shop. I don’t know how else to describe the interior except to say it looks art directed. Every week they make a different menu from a different cookbook.
What was the best thing you ate while working on this book?
Probably the best thing I ate was at Relae, in Copenhagen. I had a grapefruit ice and monkfish roe dish. It was incredible.
What should people know about The Edible Selby?
The first page of the book has magnets that you can put on the fridge. So if you can’t go to [the world famous] Noma you can still buy the book and put a dish from Noma on your fridge. The kids like them.
The Edible Selby is available on Amazon.