It has been months and months since my last blog post and there is so much to catch up on. Something came full circle recently and I just felt the need to put it out there and write about it. Especially if anyone else out there had been struggling the way I had.
August of last year saw me feeling very tired and run down. True, I had been busy but there was no reason for me to feel as dismal as I did. After going to the doctors many times and having lots of tests done we realized that I had become highly sensitive to gluten. I didn’t realize that this naturally occurring protein was prevalent in so many foods and so I went on an elimination diet. This was hard but I was able to do it. Within two weeks I saw a huge change in my levels of energy, just feeling ‘clearer’ and being able to focus better. Incredible after so long.
On one hand I was delighted to feel better but on the other hand I was devastated about my change in diet. I cried. Literally. I was a girl who loved food. Grocery lists, markets and recipe books were a great way to spend a weekend for me. In Sydney I would spend hours at all the different markets we had nearby and in New York there was so much to look at and discover. I would come home from work and bake bread from scratch, kneading the dough into submission and filling the house with the aroma of fresh bread. Nothing pleased me more than getting a bunch of friends together and cooking for them. It’s always the simple things that make me happiest and food was one of them. Things were definitely not going to be the same. My mental adjustment to this was one of the hardest things I have had to face and I am still dealing with it.
At the same time as I was learning about my food intolerance – work went on as usual. I was requested to go into the kitchen of JAAN to do a profile piece on Chef de Cuisine Julien Royer and his team. The Honeycombers were running an article and needed me.
I remember clearly getting a short slot during their busy lunch period to do my shoot. JAAN is located on the 70th floor of the Swissotel and I had no idea what to expect from the kitchen side of things. I was warmly greeted by the staff though and I got to see first hand what goes on inside the kitchen of a fine dining establishment. Chef Julien Royer and his team were very accommodating and I got images that I didn’t expect to get. The article went live and I was contacted by the marketing team at Swissotel for me to come in again and shoot the team. When you take as much care as I do with other peoples businesses and images it is always so nice to be asked back, its something I value a lot.
On my second visit to the JAAN kitchen I had more time to observe as they allowed me to stay in the kitchen for hours. While I was there I was able to really see and experience what went on. Watching for some time allows me to be able to translate the ‘feel’ of things into imagery. Sometimes just one shot has to tell a whole story.
From an observers perspective, everything that happens in the kitchen at JAAN just flows. There is a rhythm and pace with the team that speaks volumes for Julian Royer and the way he helms the kitchen, a true gentleman. The service was busy as it usually is however the order and deliberateness of everything was a joy to watch. In a busy kitchen there was a sense of peace that I had not observed before. Each person knew their role and it was like an orchestra of musicians that were playing their part for it to all come together beautifully. Even when the pace picked up during the busiest time there was no tension. It was such a pleasing experience to be watching a kitchen run at such a high level of precision, delivering beautiful dishes with fluidity and a sense of fun.
Fast forward to 2014 and I finally go back into JAAN for lunch. Since discovering my gluten intolerance, eating out had not been fun for me to say the least. I was always apprehensive but had been assured that JAAN would be able to cater for me.
I was joined for lunch by Andrea Lui of Frolik and Maria Kuvshinova and Andries de Vos of Clubvivre. All three of my lunch partners were food connoisseurs to say the least and I was in great company.
As I sat, took in the view and enjoyed the amazing courses put before me I felt I really had come full circle from a year ago. My appreciation was heightened even more as I had been in the kitchen and seen first hand what was happening behind the scenes. And I was still blown away.
The joy I felt was probably more intense as each of my beautiful dishes was completely gluten free and delicious. As a photographer, the plating was artistic and so visually balanced that I had to pause in mid conversation to let my eyes happily rest on what was in front of me. As a lover of food, the freshness of ingredients and the execution of each dish had a finesse that I wanted to applaud. Julien Royer had surpassed my expectations. I was surprised, happy and appreciative.
Chef Julien Royer and his team do an incredible job and the care that they take for people with food intolerances is notable. For many people with gluten sensitivity I am sure you see it as I do – that this level of care has sense of kindness about it. I, for one, was very grateful.
The whole experience starting a year ago has now put me back on track and I am revisiting my love of food. I am sure my friends and I will be back sooner rather than later.
So in sharing this with you, I will close with images my friend Andrea took of the meal. Enjoy.