It seems that my life has always been connected to food.
My father was an international executive and the family traveled extensively, living in destinations like India, China, East Africa, Holland, Turkey, Denmark, Germany and Belgium. We learned about each country's food and the culture behind the cuisine through direct interaction.
When I was about 18 my father became a partner in a hotel chain in East Africa, and offered me the opportunity to become part of the management team. I had just graduated from high school in Switzerland and needed a base of formal training in the hotel business first, so I started a five year management program with the Savoy Hotel Group in London. My first year was spent learning to cook classical French haute cuisine in the same kitchen that Auguste Escoffier designed in 1889 and that was where the magic began.
In the end I decided to stay in the kitchen vs. a career in hotel management, and that led me from kitchens in London to other kitchens in Estartit and Cadaques in Northern Spain, London again, New York and finally to my own kitchens and my own restaurant group in Baltimore.
A decade later I was convinced to return to New York by Michael and Ariane Batterberry, where I headed up several great kitchens. Eventually a young and growing family needed more of my time so I moved off the line to segue into new product development for a major player in the retail foods industry. From there I went on to brand development, international business development in Europe and Japan and then into advertising and marketing. Writing for Michael and Ariane's new magazine, Food Arts, and a position as their culinary director also became a part of the mix. Perhaps it was inevitable that this blend of experience would lead me to the type of consulting work I do today.
My journey into food and beverage photography was accidental. It was just a way to catalogue the things that we developed. There was no formal photography school or an apprenticeship with a skilled photographer. I did work with great photographers and stylists, but as the client. Some of what I do now came through that by osmosis. The rest came by relating my culinary experience with the visual composition of ingredients and how texture, form and color work together on the plate. The missing piece was understanding light and that is something I am still working on.
Every shoot is a new experience, but what was a sideline has turned into a part of our business as our manufacturing, restaurant, hotel and retail food clients retain us to photograph their own products for media, communication and packaging. Sometimes you can have the best of both worlds.
Patrick McDonnell, 2012
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