To take the portrait of Tom Aikens, the English Michelin-starred chef, for an editorial title. The portrait was to be taken at his eponymous restaurant on Elystan Street in London’s Chelsea neighbourhood. At the time of taking the portrait the restaurant held one Michelin Star but was to close it’s doors permanently in January 2014 (1* the restaurant is worth a stop, 2* it’s worth a detour to visit, 3* the restaurant is worth a dedicated journey).
Taking photography in a restaurant is like trying to take an image during a hurricane. From the minute a restaurant opens there is activity; cleaning, laying tables, staff briefings, food delivery, preparation and cooking, there is always a hum of activity and standards are everything (*I once had maître d’ ask to look at images I had taken of his place settings, only for him to call a member of staff over and berate them for not being precise enough). I arrived at the restaurant and asked to see Tom Aikens in order to take his portrait, only to be met with blank stares and told no photography had been planned that day; luckily chef Tom was located and confirmed it had.
With service being set up in the restaurant I jumped at Tom’s offer to view his rooftop garden and take his portrait there. The rooftop, in the middle of a summer day, had ample natural light while being an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of downstairs. Rather than in his kitchen or restaurant, the garden was also a point of difference while keeping a connection to food and the importance of fresh, local produce.
In total I took 25 frames of Tom; the weather conditions were near perfect and the roof garden itself was not in direct sunlight which meant no harsh shadows on Tom’s face. This frame was a compromise mid way between a wide angle and close up; the wide angle was too wide and Tom was lost in the garden while a close up would have meant little view of the garden at all.