Alton Brown's new cookbook, Alton Brown: Every Day Cook (Ballentine), is a book about home cooking, or specifically about how Brown cooks at home. In today's episode of the Eater Upsell, Brown reveals that the whole book will be photographed on an iPhone: no fancy cameras, no fancy lights. Why?
Every recipe gets a full-page photo that's shot on an iPhone
Brown: "My new book is actually as conventional a cookbook as I guess I'm capable of. It's one hundred of my everyday cooking recipes. But the book's arranged by time of day instead of meal. And every recipe gets a full-page photo that's shot on an iPhone. So I guess even then, I can't just do it like other people do." Brown says the iPhone is "the visual tool of our age, as far as I'm concerned." He goes on:
It's funny, it forces you — every photo in my new book is taken from directly overhead. I wanted to come up with a visual language that was more immediate. I'm making a book for the Instagram crowd, you know, and so why not use that tool? Why use fancy cameras and fancy lenses if I can use a tool, and find a new way to take advantage of that tool, and do what it's really good at, and stay away from the things that it isn't very good at. Then a whole kind of new visual thing comes out of that, and I like defining work sometimes by the tools. Instead of deciding on a style and finding the tools for it. I'll pick up a tool and say, "Okay, well, I'm intrigued by the tool. Let's style for it." So the iPhone seems to be the perfect thing to do. On top of the fact that nobody's ever done it. Another good reason, at least to try it.
Brown explains his Director of Digital Ops Sarah DeHeer, a photographer, is taking the actual photographs, is "actually pushing the button." DeHeer is responsible for all of the photographs on altonbrown.com. The man who taught us how to use science in the kitchen in the early aughts says he didn't want to take the photos himself because he wanted to be "the overall creative director," for the book and is "attacking [the project] the way [he] would a campaign."
"This time it's personal."
Unlike his previous books, Brown isn't presenting recipes as part of any specific cooking techniques or theorems — what he calls "applications." He explains, "This is... my cooking... The tagline is, 'This time it's personal. Because I'm not being presentational, this is my food. That's why it's arranged morning, coffee break, noon, afternoon, it's like, 'Here's when I eat it.' Even around to late night, and the last picture of the book is me laying in bed with a plate of French fries on the pillow next to me."
Brown's process is as much mad scientist as it is writer. He says these recipes mostly exist on "cocktail napkins, or I have these white cabinets in my apartment where I actually write things with pencil on the inside of the cabinet doors." One imagines a scene out of A Beautiful Mind, except instead of chalkboards and windows, the genius in question scribbles recipes on kitchen cupboards. Brown says he still has to translate all of these recipes into something fit for print, and that could take at least three months. Then he says the photos will take a few more months because "the photographic process, in our case, is long, because we're not just taking pictures of food, we're setting up tableaus and doing different things in the photos. We're only shooting about five photos a day, but every single recipe gets a photograph, so that changes the dynamic there." More details can be heard in the full episode of the Eater Upsell.
Alton Brown: Every Day Cook will hit bookstores in the fall of 2016.
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