So, this month’s cover story was on chef and cookbook author Mark McCrowe, because the man’s on fire. Most food lovers are afraid to start one restaurant, and this guy’s running two — Aqua and The Club — and they’re both easily among the top 10 restaurants in town. He’s also just won The Food Network’s Chopped Canada competition, and, The Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here just profiled The Club on their TV show. If all that’s not enough, he’s got a fabulous cookbook about to hit stands.
Here’s the two shots we were considering for the cover this month. Mark’s holding a cleaver to play off the fact he won the Chopped Canada competition. I had the idea that maybe he could be swinging the thing at us, but it wasn’t working — it would’ve needed some kind of horror scene thing going on, or a big cheesy “just kidding” smile, and the space in The Club — where this shoot happened — was too nice for that kind of gag.
We went with that last one simply because, from a photography standpoint, it has everything going for it. Joel takes about 500 shots per shoot, and sends his favourite 4 or 5 to me (the editor, Chad) and Joel’s kind enough to let me make the final call, even though it’s his name on the photo credits. Just, the colours, the depth of field, the composition — the photo does everything a photo is supposed to do. And one of the perks of Joel’s patience to take 500 photos per shoot is that it let’s him catch someone sitting, leaning, and looking just the right way.
The cover shoot also needs some shots for the cover story inside. Check out the wicked meat grinder Mark refurbished himself. And in the second shot, that’s Mark and Sasha Okshevsky (also from The Club and also a photographer) because the two of them co-created a new cookbook, that’ll be out really soon, called Island Kitchen.
It was a pretty food’n’drink heavy issue, in hindsight. But the restaurant profile was more of a personal profile of Ali Al Haijaa, and the amazing story of his persistence in pursuing a dream of opening his own restaurant, against all odds, that takes readers on a journey from a war in Iraq, to a refugee camp in Jordan, and finally to the kindness of Julia Bloomquist at The Sprout Restaurant in St. John’s. Ali is so busy these days we couldn’t even schedule a shoot, we had to barge in on him, and he was kind enough to pop outside with us.
And last but not least the awesome guys behind Fixed Coffee and Baking have just launched a brand new bookshop and magazine store in their basement. And they also happen to sell some of the best coffee in Atlantic Canada. We were long overdue to have an independent bookstore in St. John’s again, and these guys are stocking a well-curated list of fiction, poetry, cookbooks, magazines, literary journals, and more.
It’s one of the funkiest retail spaces in town as well. And Joel managed to capture that in the photo. He’s a sucker for proper symmetry, constantly re-arranging things in a frame before taking a shot, and this wonderfully twisted, rugged space was all askew, so he worked with it, and damn would you look at the angle in this shot. Love it. We knew we had the shot, so we were all packed up and ready to leave, chatting with the guys about the Lawnya Vawnya festival, our hands on the door, and Joel whipped his camera out to take one more, a nice candid shot of Matt, Jon, and Greg.