Todd Selby: Shooting the Chef's Life

Determined to better understand the chefs he reveres, the NYC photographer captures unguarded moments at the stove and at home.
Photographer Todd Selby: Shooting the Chef's Life
Todd Selby says, "Perfect food photos say nothing about the person making the food. It's cool to look at a picture of a molecular dish, but it doesn't tell you the back-story of the chef. I try to cast a wider net." Photo © Danielle Sherman.

Todd Selby is known for documenting the homes of designers like Jonathan Adler. But "food is really my obsession," he says, so depicting the life of chefs was "a natural next project." For Edible Selby, a new column for the New York Times T magazine, Selby follows chefs from home to market to restaurant, shooting up to 4,000 photos a day. The resulting collages of images might, for instance, show baker Chad Robertson of San Francisco's Tartine rolling bread dough and also waxing his surfboard. Selby includes handwritten recipes and Q&As that might reveal favorite ingredients of Paris chef Inaki Aizpitarte (venison, frog legs, truffles). Ultimately, Selby cares more about creativity than Michelin stars. "It's great to do a mix of high and low, longtime masters and up-and-comers," he says.

Todd Selby: The Food Takeaway

Todd Selby: Fig Tart
© The Selby courtesy of The New York Times T Magazine

Exotic Ingredient

"The chef at Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico, introduced me to chaya. It's like spinach but poisonous if eaten raw."

Perfect Toast

"Chad Robertson at San Francisco's Tartine fries a thick slice of bread in a cast-iron skillet until it's crispy on one side." Left: Before shooting Tartine in San Francisco, Selby ate its fig tarts and bread all day.

Vegetable Juice

"Celebrities love Juice Press, a new healthy takeaway spot in NYC. My stomach can't handle all the nuts in raw food, but I found out I like kale juice."

Paris's Le Chateaubriand: Todd Selby's View

Todd Selby: Le Chateaubriand
Todd Selby: Inaki Aizpitarte

"Shooting chef Inaki Aizpitarte at home helped me understand the sense of humor in his food. His home is full of color, art and trinkets from his travels."

Photos © The Selby courtesy of The New York Times T Magazine.

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PUBLISHED September 2011

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