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A Class Above the Rest – ATFT Photography Workshop

by Simon on April 20, 2010

Billy, from the food blog A Table For Two and Masterchef Australia auditionee, recently conducted his first photography workshop, held in a private function room at the MuMu Grill. His skills when it comes to food photography within the Sydney food blogging community is a class above the rest, as demonstrated on his food blog on a weekly basis.

With ever a keen interest to expand my knowledge and experience in photography, when the opportunity to learn from someone with his photographic prowess came around, there was little hesitation in my mind to take up such an offer.

We take out places on a long table dressed in white; a platform that serves a multitude of purposes. Shooting surface, white balance reference, classroom desk, writing surface and dining table.

Throughout the workshop, Billy works through the class methodically and patiently, ever mindful of the mix of camera gear (from a basic compact point-and-shoot to pro level DSLRs), as well as differences in skill levels.

The class covers the basics of photography (exposure, white balance, composition etc.), some key aspects of processing the photos as well as dealing with SEO (search engine optimisation) and copyright. The pace of the class was very much informed by the attendees, skipping over the bits that we knew or were able to easily pick up from the handouts provided.

There were many an opportunity to put what we learned into practice, as food from the MuMu Grill kitchen was brought out from time to time for us to share amongst ourselves.

House Baked Bread and Dips. In hindsight, I probably should have checked with the MuMu Grill staff about what exactly was served, rather than relying on the menu handout to provide that info after the fact.

For now, it was freshly baked Catalan-style bread served along side a flavourful tomato based dip and one that seemed to be a chicken-based one. Then again, it could have been anything, as many things taste like chicken.

Olive Selection. The large green marinated olives were the ones most coveted, due to their pleasant meatiness and buttery flavour.

Jamon Serrano 15 Months & Catalan Bread. The freshly baked Catalan bread once again, this time served with a delightful 15 month cured Serrano Jamon. Quite nice as they may be on their own, slap two pieces together and you get a finger sandwich fit for a king! Or hungry photography students.

Grilled Chorizo with Eggplant Relish. This dish was initially introduced with the more European usage of the word eggplant, namely aubergine. Once the waiter observed a number of blank stares, he switched back to the more commonly used term, adding a smile and what I believed to be a bit of a forced inflection in his tone.

The chorizo were delightfully smokey. Though the eggplant was rather flavourful, the pastiness of it wasn’t to my liking when paired with the spicy sausage.

Asparagus with Blanched Toasted Almonds and Lemon. This was quite a good dish and one of my favourites of the starter dishes. The asparagus is cooked just to tender, still with a bit of bite to it. The toasted almonds adds a nice textural contrast.

In spite of their only being a few food bloggers in attendance, during the workshop everyone was a food blogger in spirit. The ritual that we food bloggers are accustomed to were quickly adopted by the other class participants, with things running far smoother than what I would have otherwise anticipated.

Food arrives. Ready cameras. Take a few photos. Wait til there is a pause in photography to reposition the food. Take a few more photos. Wait for the all clear, to ensure that everyone is done with shooting. Dig into the food. Rinse & repeat.

T-Bone Tagliatta with Duck Fat Potatoes. This is what I would probably now consider to be one of MuMu Grill’s signature dishes, considering the frequency that this appears on the menu whenever I’ve dined at the restaurant.

With good reason too. The steak is juicy and flavoursome, cooked to a wonderful rare or medium depending on which piece you get. The accompanying duck fat potatoes are sublime.

The duck fat roasted potatoes are rich in flavour, have a nicely crunchy exterior, with a soft, fluffy interior. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better way to serve roasted potatoes than in this fashion.

Steamed asparagus was also meant to come with this dish but we didn’t end up getting it in the end for some reason.

Dessert Selection. This menu item turned out to be a tasting platter of four different desserts, as well as being THE most challenging dish to shoot, from the point of view of setting up a nice composition.

Clockwise from the top-left, Chocolate Raspberry Mole Tart (served with ice cream and a shard of marbled chocolate), Brown Sugar Pavlova with Pineapple and Passionfruit, Fruit Salad, & Gingerbread & Mascarpone Sandwich.

The fruit salad in isolation was a rather sad affair, being little more than straight fruit pieces without any syrup. However, as all the other desserts were rather rich, sweet or both, some found it to be a welcome foil to balance out the other desserts. Others left it entirely untouched.

I left the workshop a little more knowledgeable and a little less hungry, with much to chew over. Though there was much I already knew, the few things I did learn had either given me a deeper understanding of what I’d already known or directions to consider to further develop my skills and streamline the pipeline I use to process photos for this blog. From that perspective, and the fact that the class is catered, it was well worth my time and the modest investment of $85 (at the time of this post).

Though there are no further workshop sessions that are currently scheduled, if you have an interest in improving your photography, I’d suggest signing up to a class when the opportunity presents itself. Keep an eye on the A Table For Two blog or follow Billy on Twitter for future workshop dates.

MuMu Grill
70-76 Alexander St
Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 9460 6877


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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

billy@a table for two April 20, 2010 at 8:09 am

WOw there are some mouth watering shots there! Love that olive shot, and the shot of duck fat potato is gold! I had a great time running the workshop and hopefully the next one will run just as smoothly as possible.

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Belle@OohLook April 20, 2010 at 10:06 am

Great roundup, Simon. I wonder if any non-foodbloggers will start blogging after this :)

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Simon Food Favourites April 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

that’s a great feast of food and knowledge. so will you be sharing some of the tips? i love mumu’s T-Bone Tagliatta. a must for anyone visiting. your photos are looking great. were there any point and shot compact cameras amongst the table like mine or were they all SLRs :-)

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Helen (Grab Your Fork) April 20, 2010 at 11:36 am

It was a fun workshop wasn’t it? Will be curious to see if more photo mosaics start popping up online!

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Thang April 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hey Simon, fantastic shots, looks like they come out of vogue!

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john@heneedsfood April 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Nice shots Simon. I’m booked in for the workshop this Saturday. Really look forward to it

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cafedave April 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

That photo of the olives is fantastic: the reflections off the surface of the olives – wow.

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Simon April 20, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Hi billy! Thanks dude! To be fair, part of the reason is due to what was picked up in your class.

Had fun with the class. Hope the next one is even better!

Hi Belle! There seemed to be a few fence sitters in the group so we’ll have to see… :)

Hi Simon FF! The best tip I can offer was one I mentioned in the post, namely see to getting yourself to one of the classes when they’re next scheduled. I’ll leave the rest for Billy to explain.

To answer your camera question, reread the post. The answer is there in both text and images. The only thing that people didn’t use was a camera phone.

Hi Helen! Not just fun but informative as well.

I don’t think that mosaics will be the only thing we’ll be seeing more of :)

Hi Thang! I presume you mean Vogue magazine, cause if not, I’m more hoping that they’d be coming into vogue :P

Hi john! Thanks dude! Turn up with a lot of questions about areas you feel you’re lacking or find difficulty with. Like with me, I don’t think that there will be a huge amount that you’ll learn but what you do will go to help you improve what skills you do have.

Hi cafedave! Thanks! Was rather happy with that shot :)

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Forager April 21, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Well well. I think some of those shots in this post speak for themselves! When’s your photography masterclass? ;)

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Simon April 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Hi Forager Probably when all of the shots in my post speak for themseves :)

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Tina April 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

“Then again, it could have been anything, as many things taste like chicken.”

So true… Great shots – I want to eat your chorizo photo.

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Anita April 22, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Great photos! Sounds like a very good idea – photography classes with food.

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Amy @ cookbookmaniac April 23, 2010 at 5:03 am

Hi Simon. I wish I could’ve attended the class. I’m very passionate about photography and I’m sure I would’ve walked outta their with some very good tips. I think people how much work goes into a blog post, I certainly didn’t think it was going to be so labour intensive before I started blogging.

Your photos are fantastic. I can smell the food through your photos :D

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FFichiban April 24, 2010 at 12:53 am

Boo, can’t believe I missed out on such a educational opportunity :( but experiencing through this post… I can feel its awesomeness :D

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stephanie April 24, 2010 at 9:10 am

Great photos Simon! it was definitely as you said a great opportunity to learn more about food photography! The class has certainly opened my eyes to the food blogging world.

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Ellie (Almost Bourdain) April 27, 2010 at 9:08 am

It was a great wrokshop. Fun filled and informative. Great photos you have here, Simon!

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Simon June 2, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Hi Tina! Why, thank you! The chorizo was so nice! Definitely work a look in if you ever go.

Hi Anita! Thanks! It’s a great idea. Informative and fun :)

Hi Amy! Thanks! If you haven’t signed up already, have a look into doing so. It’s well worth it.

Hi FFichiban! If you haven’t already done so, see to signing up :)

Hi stephanie! Thanks! Glad to see that it had that sort of impact.

Hi Ellie! Thanks! It was quite good, huh? The class I mean :)

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