Behind the Scenes: Huck’s Menu Shoot

Find out what goes on at our food photography shoots, and how we created the American dream for our new Huck's menu.

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Here at Center Parcs we are constantly updating and upgrading the menus in our restaurants. It begins with research carried out by Group Executive Chef James Haywood and our Food and Beverage team, who scour the nation’s eateries for the best new trends and developments.

Brimming with ideas, they come together to formulate the new menu, figuring out which dishes will excite our guests the most, and refining them until they are perfect.

Once the dishes are chosen, it’s time to take some mouth-watering food photography for the new menus. The latest Huck’s menu has some old favourites like ribs, wings and steaks, alongside some new star contenders such as original burgers and a range of authentic American foot-long hot dogs!

It was a misty November morning at Elveden Forest, where we were shooting…

But Huck’s is all about living the American dream – big flavour and even bigger portions – so it was strictly sunshine on the menu and on our minds.

We took over the kitchen at The Venue and chef James Haywood set about rustling up the first dishes of the day with his assistant.

Our photographer Claire styles and shoots the food herself. She makes sure that every dish looks as appetising as possible, setting up shots with the right angle and lighting, making sure everything gleams and glistens just as it should.

Claire says: “The burgers were my favourite Huck’s dishes to shoot as they have lots of great colour and texture and some impressive height.”

There are lots of stories about food photography being faked, the food being made out of carefully painted polystyrene or the cheese out of putty. There were no such shenanigans here: “There’s no faking it with a shot like this, it’s just about making the food look delicious. You do that with the perfect squidge of ketchup, fresh crisp salad, a juicy burger and a char-grilled brioche bun.”

Just like it is when it comes to your table in Huck’s!

“I think this is my favourite shot (left), a lovely chock-full mushroom and Swiss cheese burger.”

Claire builds and brings her own props to shoots to give life to the dishes. “I painted up some wood to look like a Mid-western red clapboard barn to fit with the classic American theme.”

It was the perfect backdrop to some crispy and gooey mac ‘n’ cheese!

Lighting is so important with food photography, and usually the tricky part is making sure you get your shots before you lose all natural light – especially in November! But for the Surfboard Platter, we purposefully waited for the sun to go down to show off the fantastic neon light, and to give the feeling of a cool New York City bar.

This was a particularly tricky shot for Claire to set up: “There’s so much on the platter that it was really hard to get it all in shot. But as this was the last dish on our list, as soon as I took it we tucked into the tortillas with hot cheese and spinach dipping pot – it was really moreish.”

Another of Claire’s favourite dishes to shoot was the Southern Fried Chicken with Coke Float – “I loved the full-on American look of this one against the red clapboard.”

“The bucket o’ wings combo was a great shot too, they look great against the old black wooden background with the fresh green lime. We ate a portion of these too – just for testing purposes of course! They are delicious and the spicy ones have a real kick.”

After a long day of cooking, styling, tweaking, shooting, hand modelling and snaffling testing, it was time to pack up the equipment, wipe down the kitchen and head home. Next, the shots were passed to our design team who created the brand new menu themed around an American road trip.

We think it’s our best Huck’s menu yet. Take a look at it here and tell us what you’re looking forward to trying!

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Maddy Potts

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Maddy Potts

As Marketing Executive at Center Parcs, I’m lucky enough to hear all the amazing stories that come from our guests, our Villages and the wider travel industry. I’ll blog about the best ones, bring you some fantastic competitions and update you on all the exciting new activities and goings on at Center Parcs.