"As with all my books, Jean-Louis: Cooking with the Seasons started with a smaller project that I then decided to expand into a book. ELLE Magazine had assigned me to do a story on Jean-Louis Palladin and his food. Jean-Louis, who at the age of 28 had become the youngest ever Michelin two-star chef, was already highly regarded in France and was now quickly making a name for himself as one of the pre-eminent chefs in the United States. After the article appeared, Jean-Louis sought to have a book of his food produced, and suggested that he and I collaborate.
When I approach a new book, I try to do so with an open mind and let the structure evolve from the subject. I considered Jean-Louis's food to be so unusual that it should not be photographed on the traditional plates, propped with distracting flowers, crystal, silver and other accessories. Jean-Louis suggested that we talk to his friend Jeffrey Bigelow, a nationally known sculptor who worked in acrylic. Ultimately, he produced for us a series of fascinating pieces, some solid, some laminated, and all in neutral colors. Each was a work of art in itself.
We never planned a day's shoot ahead of time. Jean-Louis would either arrive or not arrive around ten in the morning (only then did I know whether we were shooting that day) with produce that had been flown in from all four corners of the earth. As always with master chefs, it was the quality of this produce that would determine his menu. As he described what he planned to cook, we would decide which acrylic piece to use
Often it was early afternoon before the dish was ready for my camera. From that moment on I battled time. Under the hot modeling lights sauces would congeal, fish, meat and vegetables would change color, and ice cream would melt. Sometimes I had only a few minutes to shoot, and rarely more than fifteen. The challenges reminded me of fast-moving photojournalism.
We were told that no cookbook would sell without recipes. This sent Jean-Louis back to "Go". He had to pore over my images, trying to figure out "what zee hell did I do?" Each dish was one of a kind and invented by Jean-Louis on the fly. We had no food stand-ins and used no photographic tricks. If anything went wrong, we had to start over from scratch. Everything we photographed was fresh, seasoned and ready to eat. And eat we did!"