July 2015

If you are anything like me when putting together a dish, you have a pretty keen idea as to how it looks on the plate. We're always told that the customer eats with their eyes first, so presentation is at the forefront when pulling flavors together. We want to see colors dancing across the canvas that is our plate. We want our message to draw in the customer. I love to look at other peoples plates when they come out of the kitchen while I'm perusing my menu. Seeing the plate of a menu item I was considering can make my decision easy, one way or the other.

So, when we take a few days to do some photography of my recipes, it's an exciting experience for me. Usually Furmano's uses these pictures on various point-of-sale materials, our website, media advertising, or whatever but the truth is, I just like seeing someone "foo foo" up my recipes and make them enticing. Recently we did a photo shoot to get ready to roll out our newest product (spoiler alert), Seasoned Pinto Beans (Borracho Style). Here are some shots and thoughts from the day.

Here's the preliminary shot for product label. Its difficult trying to represent a product as the customer would expect to see it, and still highlight what makes the product itself special. Once the beans and peppers were properly placed, we needed to place the sauce to give the beans their appropriate sheen and show how the sauce is full of flavors (cilantro and chipotle). Here's a shot you'll see superimposed on our cans in the very near future.

That was our simplest shot of the day. It's very straight forward without a whole lot of need for propping or lighting adjustments. We also wanted to have the option to feature the product as it will most likely be used... a side dish. A shot like this takes a little more time and energy to put together. It's not as simple as whipping up a dish and plating it. A lot of time and energy goes into deciding what plate to use and accompaniment to feature with your dish. Much like the shot above, this shot is made to really feature the beans at their best, just done a bit more artistically. Here's a pic before the lighting and angle were adjusted:

and here is after:

You can see the effort it takes to really make the beans the "Star" of the dish. The other elements of the dish are more subdued in the background, but still bright enough to make it way more inviting than the lone plate shot from before. I felt it was importat to show the veratility of the Seasoned Pinto Beans and include a shot using them another way, not simply as a side. For this we put together a popular composed dish, the burrito bowl. I've seen this very concept take off with Chipotle and expand on menus across genres. I also like that it helps me parade out one of my favorite recipes, Barbacoa (shameless plug: http://www.furmanos.com/recipe/barbacoa My neighbors were happier than ever that I made it for the photo shoot and served the extra at our 4th of July picnic.)

Here's the intricate placing of the beans on the bowl... yes, we use tweezers, and no they haven't been used for their "intended" purpose.

Here's a shot on the computer screen... (I can't imagine doing this before digital photography!)

And now we build up the rest.

Notice the beans spilling to the front at 5 o'clock... that was actually a 10 minute discussion that lead to that decisions. And we build...

And then it's about the details...

And finally it's perfect!

It's funny; when you make it in the kitchen it looks beautiful in that instance, then it goes out to be enjoyed, never to be as beautiful again. In the studio, it gets immortalized forever, and requires hours of primping. It just goes to show you that everything can deal with a little extra TLC when it's time to shine... even beans!

It’s a question I hear pretty often when I roll out one of my more “unique” recipes.  There’s a small piece of me that loves seeing people’s faces register disgust to amazement (OK… it’s WAY more than a small piece of me. I enjoy it more than I should).  For those unaccustomed, I’m not talking about odd cuisines or things only Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain would try (I love those guys, but I just couldn’t).  I’m talking about how I work beans into one of the more unlikely parts of a meal: dessert.

When I began working at Furmano’s, our esteemed Board of Directors (in case any of them read this) thought it would be a good idea to have the new chef make them lunch when they met bi-monthly. My only instruction was that I was supposed to use Furmano’s products in the meal.  Those instructions were followed with the tongue-in-cheek comment, “We’ll see how you do with dessert.”  I took that as a personal challenge and every two months for 7 ½ years I’ve supplied them with a bean and/or tomato in their dessert dish.  I post a lot of them in my recipe section on our website if you’re ever feeling brave.

Black Bean Chocolate Mousse Recipe

But how do we get to that point?  When formulating any new recipe, how do we decide what direction we want to go?  During my restaurant days, I was tasked with coming up with specials every night and variant special menus for certain nights of the week.  I’d peruse recipe books and magazines for ideas, but often I didn’t have time or resources to make exactly the recipe I loved.  That’s where I found my muse.

In those books (and now the internet) were more than recipes.  There were concepts and techniques that could be used in different circumstances.  I started wandering through walk-ins, freezers, and store rooms, constructing recipes in my head.  Pulling from what was around me and on hand, I found my secret to recipes….the information in my head.  Now don’t get me wrong, I had A LOT of failures.  Experimenting needs to be seen as just that, a practice.  Sometimes you strike gold on the first or second attempt, but there are plenty of times where you have to decide if the idea really has merit or not. 

I think it is very interesting to push ingredients past where your expectations want you to place them.  Not every idea is a good one, but every idea is worth the mental experiment to see if it’s worth pursuing.  We can easily get stuck in our trainings, but remember that someone had to eat that curdled milk in the leather canteen (made from a cow’s stomach) to find out that cheese is freaking amazing!

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them.  They went out and happened to things” –Leonardo Da Vinci

 Mustard Bean Stuffed Pretzel Bread Recipe

Chef Paul, a Certified Research Chef, is a 2002 graduate of Yorktowne Business Institute School of Culinary Arts in York, Pennsylvania. There he was class valedictorian and received the Chef Michael Hostetter Memorial Award for Culinary Excellence. He is a member of the Research Chefs Association and the Refrigerated Foods Association and has over 15 years of experience.

Working in restaurants since the age of 16, Paul has spent most of his life working with food; a love he developed in family style restaurants, honed in school, and practiced in fine dining establishments. Never one to be defining himself with a particular cuisine, Paul explores the world's palate with excitement. "The world is full of people who have made incredible foods with what is in their backyard and we now have access to all those wonderful flavors and combinations," he says. That love and excitement for flavor he now brings to Furmano Foods.

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