Written by Margaux Cintrano
Photos: Philippe Germain of Visions Gourmandes
The visual sensation of an artistic plate is as quintessential as its taste.
It has commonly been said, that “we eat with our eyes first” and while the quality of the products, textures, seasonal colors, contrast, elevation, placement, enhancements and food combining of flavors are the keys to success, the exquisitely beautiful dressed presentation and the products provided are running parallel in first place.
French Executive Chef Sebastian Lepinoy, at Restaurant L´ Atellier de Joel Robuchon, at The Landmark, stated that twenty years ago French presentation was literally non-existent. If you ordered Coq au Vin at the L´Atellier de Joel Robuchon, the French style of plating was to dress the plate by placing the ingredients side by side, setting them up in an order of vegetables and starches, next to the meat or fish and the main item of the recipe, stacked on a bed of potatoes. He further told us that clockwise placement at 10am, 14.00 and 18.00 were implemented along with cookie cutters, molds, paint brushes, liquid glitter, motifs on borders, garnish enhancements and elevation stacks, gold and silver foils, edible flowers, amongst some of the methods and culinary tools and gadgets employed.
The approach to dressing plates have changed considerably and the pressure of earning awards has empowered French chefs to implement their artistic design skills and watch their guests and their reactions. Chef Lepinoy revealed that “the art of dressage in plating dishes makes all the difference”.
On the rise, more and more chefs have been merging the Japanese and the French presentation techniques, focusing on the vision as the key factor.
Extraordinarily amazing photographer, charismatic Philippe Germain, had come to my attention with his photographic works, with his savvy, masterful knack for presenting the dressage of chefs´ plates, through a French chef friend of mine, Chef Julien Diaz, who I interviewed in May 2013.
Today, this international photographer provides well known French chefs and chefs from all corners of the globe with his media background expertise in the designing and food styling of plates, and his photographic and graphic vanguard visions of the gourmand dish.
There are about a half dozen words to describe someone who goes beyond the known to change things and introduce something new in the English language: innovator, discoverer, inventor, creator, renovator and reformer. Any of them could be perfectly applied to photographer Philippe Germain.
My idea, a 3 day weekend globe trot, over to Marseille, France …
Margaux: Philippe, you had briefly told me that you are embarking on a new chapter in your career. Could you tell us more about this.
Philippe: Indeed. 2013 is the year I had developed the idea and concepts of Visions Gourmandes. I had served as a member on numerous occasions on the French jury panel of major chef competitions, and I realized that the presenting of plates required further enhancement and development. So I decided to implement and document a proficient means , in which to permit everybody, with access to the secrets and the tools in this regard. It has begun with Visions Gourmandes, on the Red Social Networks. The second phase involves the development under construction at the moment of speaking, dedicated to this discipline. So, for the last several months, the drafts of Visions Gourmandes, dear to my heart, has been occupying most of my time and energies.
Philippe: I am based in Montpellier, in southern France. This is the 8th largest city in France, a very illuminated beautiful city, close to the Mediterranean sea, and is very interculturally integrated, and active throughout the year.
Philppe: When I was young, I often had fun taking photos with a normal film camera. Thereafter, I worked hard in the fields of communication and media, a Management Studio, where the graphic arts had come into play, and photography had been a very prominent media tool. This is when I started travelling and had discovered the pleasure of capturing magical moments on the streets, street photography, with a digital camera.
Margaux: I am quite enamored with what you visually capture with your photography. From what I have seen reviewing millions of restaurants over the years, most executive head chefs do not have the time to dress plates. Are you showing/coaching them and their teams how to do this? I have seen some of your amazingly beautiful photographs taken in Asia, for example. Do you have a dream trip ? Tell me about your most remarkable and memorable trips.
Philippe: Considering France has long been the land of high end gastronomy, and most of the expertisely trained French chefs have been dressing exquisite plates, we can also look to the aesthetics of Japan, which is very up to date in the art of epicurism and the dressage of food styled plates. The Asians, historically, have been masters in the art of presenting beautiful dishes. I would definitely choos Japan ! Inviting me to go ? LOL.
Margaux: Ha Ha Ha … Depends on the “perks”, Philippe ! Since you have created the concept of Visions Gourmandes, why not help fans of beautiful food presentations by other means of publications ?
Philippe: This is a great question. I have been thinking for a long time, and I am currently working on a project in this direction.
Margaux: From my viewpoint, your photographs show enormous talent, resembling an immense legacy of this great genetic artistic-ness of a totally extraordinary gamut of photography. Could you tell us what you encounter when preparing and watching a chef provide the base for your photographs, and is there a unique formula that you suggest, for example, instruments such as tweezers, pliers, edible flowers, and / or gold and silver foil papers ?
Philippe: The only rules that apply to the actual photograph are those that make beautiful photographs. Primarily, I oversee the observance of some of the basic rules of composition, enhancement options, colors, textures, volumes, and the illumination, lighting, shadows and reliefs. In terms of shooting the plate, it is closely related to food styling, and make up techniques and the embellishing of the plate. The real training, to serve as the base. The plate, or platters must be photographed as close to what will be presented when the plate is served to a guest. Finally, I remain vigilant of what will create a beautiful photograph, namely a readable picture, a photograph, in which light and contrast etc , shall all play leading roles, a “greedy” photograph; “as we first taste with our eyes”.
Margaux: What do you do for a breath of fresh air ?
Philippe: Photography is my passion. So I prefer to relax by shooting photos. However, in the streets, in the heart of the city, where there are people strolling, monitoring a wide variety of situations. At this point, I turn my eyes and I see the world differently, and I really enjoy street photography.
Margaux: How do you think you have changed personally since you had changed your career working in Media and Advertising to be and being in the public eye to being an authoring photographer ?
Philippe: I wonder if I have really changed my profession. Actually, I find in VISIONS GOURMANDES all the skills necessary for a my career in Communications. I have not felt a shift in my career, an addition perhaps, and Visions Gourmandes is personal, mine, and not of corporate strategies and financial budgets.
Margaux: Are there any executive chefs you would enjoy working
with and why ?
Philippe: I am far from knowing all the executive chefs around the world, however, I discover something new, daily. I hope to gradually have more objective view of executive head chefs in the real sense of creativity. Many varying styles and personalities are reflected in their achievements that I can see. I could of course include some leading chefs that I admire, however, there are so many.
Margaux: Tell us about the differences between your passion for street photography and studio photography.
Philippe: I love street photography because it is natural, fast, intuitive and the result is immediate ! The photo is great or it is not great. In contrast, or on the other hand, the studio level photograph is complicated, long and tedious. It requires sophisticated equipment, long hours of post production and the results are primarily technical. So I have awaited the invention of camera magic, which successfully can produce photographs the first time. Lol.
In contrast, Margaux, successful masterful food photography requires a lot of ingenuity to overcome any technical problems that could arise. It is an ongoing challenge that brings a tremendous satisfaction when the solutions are found.
Margaux: I can see this, Philippe. To move on, are there a couple of special cities that you enjoy travelling to ?
Philippe: Off the top, Paris of course and Bangkok, Thailand. Both, are invigorating culturally, historically and humanly rich, where surprises await you at every corner.
Margaux: Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup pour la partage, Philippe.
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