Get To Know Michael Paynic

Wedge kitchen supervisor
Michael Paynic is also the talented
photographer and food stylist behind
most of this newsletter’s images. Here
are a few more things you might not
know about him.

There’s a rumor that you have quite the prop collection,
is that true?

I probably have 600 or more, but it’s an ongoing thing, I’m
always on the hunt. I could easily add another 400 and not
be satisfied, but then I’d need a bigger house.

Where do you find most of your pieces?

Mostly thrift stores. Anyone can buy stuff from a company
but not everyone can have round vintage cooling racks.
You have to really dig deep into the piles and think about
how the pieces support your vision. When you see my
photos, that’s what I would want people to see who were
just coming over as my guests. Props can tell a story.

So you cook all the food that you photograph yourself?

Yes. My main points of being are cooking, gardening and
photography. I fell into cooking early on and just always
wanted to learn more. It’s the same with photography.
In 2011, I wanted to start a blog, so I bought a camera
and just started pointing it and pushing the button just
like anyone else. I had to really work to figure out how to
tell stories with pictures. You’re taking a 3D image and
translating it into a 2D space. You have to figure out how
to create depth and pull. Just the way you can’t make
meringues in August unless you have a perfectly controlled
environment, you can’t make chicken look good unless
you have the perfect lighting and composition. And even
then it often still looks like a piece of chicken. I prefer
vegetables; they’re so photogenic.

What did you find to be the steepest learning curve
along the way?

Cooking for the camera is a totally different process. You
want vibrancy, but you don’t want to fake it. Everything I
do is natural; nothing is inedible. I could eat it right after
I shoot it. I have to try recipes a dozen times before I’m
happy with them both aesthetically and in terms of taste.
But that’s the skill of a cook—to make beauty out of chaos.