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an afternoon with a french chef

I recently had the pleasure of photographing Chef Daniel Pont, owner of Chez Daniel for the Restaurant Review feature in Sacramento Magazine.

I arrived at Chez Daniel on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and his pride was apparent as Chef Daniel showed me around his charming restaurant, while explaining he wanted his dinner guests to feel as if they were dining in Paris. The dining room is intimate, less than 10 tables and each set beautifully with white linens, gleaming glassware, and a vase of fresh red roses. French music was playing softly in the background and the intoxicating aroma coming from the kitchen was divine!

As Chef Daniel and I discussed the dishes he would be preparing for the shoot, my eyes were wandering around as they tend to do. As the sole cook for the restaurant, the kitchen albeit very clean, was in disarray and he requested I not take any pictures of it. No photographs?  The various pots with their goodness simmering atop the stove, single servings of creamy crème brûlée waiting to be finished, an enticing casserole dish of potatoes gratin destined for the oven, all added to the charm. But I honored his request and for a brief moment I lost focus (a little photography humor) and merely longed to pull up a stool and watch as he created his magic. Oh the things I could learn from this chef who for the majority of his 70+ years has worked in fine dining establishments around the world… but I soon came back to reality and got to work.

 

chez daniel vegetable potagevegetable potage

 

A table set for two by a window naturally lit by the afternoon sun was the perfect setting for the mood I wanted to convey. Although Chef Daniel was also busy prepping for the evening’s dinner reservations, he took the time necessary for the shoot and was wonderful to work with. He mentioned having worked with many photographers throughout his career and it was obvious he was experienced in preparing food for the camera. Each dish was perfectly prepared, meticulously plated and and smelled amazing! We discussed food and wine pairings with  to ensure each dinner setting was authentic and Chef suggested a “fabulous french white” which he brought from the cooler to be photographed with the salmon entree. We had our timing down perfectly — as chef was preparing an entree, I was  setting up the table for the shot, the entree came out, chef retreated to the kitchen, shot was composed then taken, table cleared and on to the next one. As we were nearing our final entree, I asked Chef if I could take his portrait. He paused for a moment, smiled ever so slightly, click click click and back to his kitchen he went.

 

chef daniel pont of chez daniel restaurantchef daniel pont , owner of chez daniel

 poached salmon entree from chez daniel

poached salmon entree

 

Chez Daniel Braised Rabbit braised rabbit with rosemary-mustard sauce

After we wrapped and I was gathering up the last of my gear, Chef Daniel came out of the kitchen, shook my hand and as I was thanking him for all his help and lovely food, he smiled and in his charming French accent replied, “Mademoiselle, I can tell you have been doing this a long time. Some photographers come in here and take picture, picture, picture. But you, you care about the food and that makes me happy.” and with a small chuckle he added, “Besides, I try to be extra nice because you know what they say about the French.”  I laughed and then bid this wonderful chef adieu.  It has been a dream of mine to visit France one day and while it may not be in my near future, it is nice to know I can get a taste of Paris a mere thirty-minute drive from home… now if I can just get a reservation!

chez daniel for sacramento magazine

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David - February 22, 2012 - 8:36 am

The cream on the potage is a great pattern – it really makes a difference when something is presented beautifully.

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