Coming up with new ways to photograph a chef can sometimes be challenging. Photographers are often burying their subjects in a variety of products or substances as it can be a graphic and playful way to illustrate a story. This image of Chef Robin Zavou was from a shoot I did for Tasting Kitchen (TK) magazine and Krug Champagne. The assignment was to make a set of photographs of six of Hong Kong’s premier chefs who serve as ambassadors for the House of Krug. Each year the House of Krug will present a challenge to their ambassadors to create a dish that pairs well with one of their champagnes using a key ingredient. This year’s ingredient was peppers.
The first thing I had to do was to get a hole cut in the bottom of a large wok. I actually already had the wok so I gave it our magazine’s managing editor, Joey Cheang, and she set out on a mission to find the right guy with the right tools to make a perfect hole.
The next thing I needed to do was to figure out how to make it look like the wok was sitting on a table. I thought about getting a large piece of plywood and simply cutting a hole in the middle of it but the logistics of moving a big piece of plywood around Hong Kong just seemed too troublesome. We were working in a rented studio so any props we needed had to be brought in for the shoot.
I decided to use a bunch of wood slats I had purchased from an angry old man at a lumber store in Macau. By staggering their placement I could fit them around the subjects neck thus making it possible to dump a bunch of peppers into the wok with few falling through.
The setup was actually quite simple. We positioned two tables side by side with a gap in between and then laid the wood slats over the gap. For this shot we used three Paul Buff Einstein strobes. Two of the lights were fitted with extra-small Chimera softboxes and 40 degree grids. A third light, not seen in the photo above, is on a floor stand and fitted with a honeycomb grid to provide a spotlight on the background.
I new that for this particular shot I would need a chef that was not only patient and could endure an uncomfortable position but also capable of providing lots of different facial expressions. I had worked with Robin before and thought he’d be perfect for this approach so when I presented the idea to him he was game to give it a try. Little did he know the torture he was soon going to have to endure.