Twice a year we introduce a selection of new seasonal dishes at each of our restaurants, which means spending much of February and March thinking about what we want to eat once the sun eventually comes out and we finally no longer have to live permanently zipped inside a parka.
Once the dishes have been developed, they all need to be photographed so that we can display them on special seasonal menus in our restaurants. It makes for a busy day, with our chefs cooking up everything from pancakes to pakoras, and with dishes coming out of the kitchen as quickly as we can shoot them.
Here you can have a sneak peek at some of the summery dishes that will be hitting tables in Center Parcs restaurants at the end of the month, and find out what went on behind the scenes at the shoot. Hint: it’s a lot of eating.
We were shooting at the Venue at Elveden Forest, with a view over the very misty lake. Setting up right in front of the window means we could use as much natural light as Mother Nature was willing to give us on a cold and cloudy March morning.
On this occasion, the team was made up of Center Parcs’ Group Executive Head Chef James Haywood and Head Chef at the Venue, Andy Feenan, joined by their team in the kitchen.
Our photographer was Dave Guttridge, who has worked with Center Parcs for years, shooting everywhere from swish corporate event venues like this one, to the top of the climbing wall at Action Challenge!
From the Marketing department there was myself and Lee, our Senior Designer. We came ready to hold light reflectors, rearrange rocket leaves and, of course, taste absolutely everything. It’s a difficult job, but someone has to do it.
The first shot of the day was a fruits of the forest sundae for Sports Cafe. It came out of the kitchen looking perfect, with perfectly piped whipped cream, deep red and purple fruits and a delicately placed sprig of mint.
Dave made sure he found the sundae’s most photogenic side, directed the light just so, and snapped away…
Before officially giving us permission to dig in!
Some of the busier dishes, like the Huck’s combo platter, need to be carefully rearranged to make sure every element of the plate is visible in the photograph.
A couple of hours into the shoot, the chorizo burger for Huck’s American Bar and Grill came out of the kitchen.
“This is already my favourite shot,” said Dave. “The colour is great, the red mug looks fantastic.”
He used aluminium foil reflectors, seen in the photos above, the gently bounce the natural light from the window onto the front side of the dishes. In this shot, it was used to illuminate some of the darker shadows on the fries.
This was also one of our favourite dishes to taste! If you’re staying with us over spring or summer, make sure to pop down to Huck’s and try it if you’re a fan of smoky, salty chorizo.
The refreshing lemon mousse for Rajinda Pradesh was another of Dave’s favourite shots of the day. It’s the perfect light dessert for a warm summer day.
Its clean lines and elegant styling photographed really well and the glossy coulis on the raspberries looks fantastic on the finished shots.
The trickiest shot of the day also came from the specials for Rajinda Pradesh.
The tandoori mixed skewer looked phenomenal when it came out of the kitchen, with pieces of grilled chicken, lamb and huge king prawns suspended dramatically over a fresh salad, with pillowy naan bread on the side.
The difficult part was positioning each element of the dish so that a useful photograph, where the food fills the frame, could be composed.
In the end, we took the meat off the skewer to get a landscape shot.
With dishes for every restaurant to cover, there was quite a long shoot list – which meant those of us who had volunteered to hoover up every dish once they had been shot required some stamina!With dish after dish of delicious food coming out of the kitchen, my (perhaps unlikely) stand out star from the day was the homemade raspberry lemonade joining the menu at The Pancake House for spring and summer.
Sweet and sharp and packed with the flavour of raspberry, Head Chef Andy brought out a pitcher so we could all try it. He even gave us his secret (but amazingly simple!) recipe. I plan to whip up a batch when friends come over for a laze afternoon barbecue in the sunshine.
If you join us over summer, do order a glass to enjoy on the terrace outside The Pancake House. Bliss!
After a long day of shooting, tasting, fiddling, tasting, unsteadily holding reflectors, and tasting, it was time to pack up the kit and head home. But not before Dave got a cheeky snap of us stuffing our faces.