Growing up a food photographer’s son


Thanksgiving at our house was different I suppose.

Some years there were two Thanksgiving dinners. One was for the camera for a magazine. And one we could actually eat.

The first table setting looked great.  But there was shellac brushed on the turkey so it glistened. The first turkey wasn’t fully cooked, but a blowtorch was used to brown the edges and make the bumps on the turkey shrink. A syringe would pump mashed potatoes under the turkey skin so it would look plumper. They sprayed something on the vegetables and certain other foods to keep it looking fresh. Small wood blocks would sit under a casserole so it appeared to be higher in the dish. Thin fishice 2ing line would hold up certain items. Acrylic ice cubes were in in the water pitcher than ran about 85 bucks for each cube.

Fabric protector was sprayed on top of the yams so the butter wouldn’t sink in. Hot wet cotton balls were on the other side of the hot food so they gave off more steam. Other items on hand: tweezers to adjust this and that. Hemoststats to pick up and move little crumbs and stuff. Toothpicks made certain things face the camera. A few exposures later they took it all away and it was time to eat the real Thanksgiving dinner. I guess these days they just Photoshop everything…

Below is one of my dad’s photographs for Chivas Regal.  By the way, the acrylic slipper was made by a model maker just for this shot and someone stole it along the way.

Of course by the time the real meal came around we were all starving. It looked just about the same to us kids.  But we didn’t eat until it was checked and double checked that this was the real dinner. And trust me we listened.

Take it from a guy that has eaten cereal with glue in the milk and brushed his teeth with Brylcreem that came out of a tube of toothpaste.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to say a prayer for those loved one’s who are no longer with us. Everyone enjoy.

~Mike

17 thoughts on “Growing up a food photographer’s son

    1. Hi Vanessa-

      Actually there’s a lot more to it than what is posted here. It can get really ridiculous but that was fine for a little blog post.

      I was there one day when they cooked 500 chicken pot pies and they only shot two. He had a quadruple kitchen in his studio. Four gigantic freezers. And about 2,500 square feet of dishes, cups, plates, cutlery and other place setting stuff. It was nuts.

      Love to see ya. Have a great Thanksgiving!

      ~Mike

    1. Hi Johnny-

      My father had a humungous studio on Park Ave. in NY and was one of the top food and still life guys in the 70’s and 80’s.

      At home we got yelled at if we turned on the overhead lights in the kitchen before we turned on the side lights because the overheads cast hard shadows.

      It was interesting. I never took an interest in photography until after he died. When I see ya I’ll tell you about it a bit more. Thanks my friend!

      ~Mike

  1. I loved this! SO PERFECT. My mom always used to tell me that the cereal on TV was made with Elmer’s not milk. That’s why the Frosted Flakes were so “Grrreat!” after five minutes when mine looked like oatmeal.

    1. Staci, what I’ve seen is really way worse than what I wrote. Back in the day (80’s), that’s just what they did…Your mom was right. Unfortunately I ate a sample batch in the kitchen.

      ~Mike

  2. I was gonna say that the blowtorch reminded me of Iron Chef and maybe Bobby Flay. I’m glad you always double-checked the food for realness, very funny.

    Though I haven’t been involved with my family’s traditional Philly celebration in years (b/c of logistics), I hear that is about to fall apart. 88 Year Old grandma, where the celebration always took place, is in a nursing home this year. She’s good and I’m saying a prayer, but 88 is old.

    This year, I’m taking the wife and kids to see Mickey. As long as “real” Mickey doesn’t approach my 4 year old, the long weekend should be fine. Any suggestions for some semi-traditional Thanksgiving feast in Orlando near there? I’m making a ham next Sunday just in case!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    1. Hey Rob-

      My post for Wednesday is about the important stuff. People who can’t be together on Thanksgiving.

      On a lighter note, I am working on getting you the name of a place in Orlando for Turkey day. I went with my son and my bro and SIL and their kids. Will get back to you my friend. It’s “something lodge,” but that won’t get you there.

      Be well.

      ~Mike

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