Business: Dishing on Design, Fine-tuning Photography, and Abandoning Fine Dining

Business: Dishing on Design, Fine-tuning Photography, and Abandoning Fine Dining

Holistic Hospitality and Emotions in Hotel Design and Service

Will Blunt discussing the ins and outs of hospitality with Elizabeth Blau and Adam Tihany

Will Blunt discussing the ins and outs of hospitality with Elizabeth Blau and Adam Tihany

Let's face it, nobody goes to fancy restaurants just because they're hungry. A successful fine dining restaurant is equal parts food, service, and design. So began the business seminar on holistic restaurant and hotel design led by Adam Tihany, the Picasso of restaurant interior design, and restaurant developer Elizabeth Blau, whose work over the past two decades has redefined the culinary landscape of Las Vegas. Moderated by StarChefs.com Managing Editor Will Blunt, Tihany and Blau shared their experiences working with chefs, such as Heston Blumenthal and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and detailed the evolution of Las Vegas, which has transformed from a sand to sea gaming mecca and to a family-oriented outre-Disney World to "a truly vibrant American city," according to Tihany. Tihany and Blau opened up the floor to questions from the participants, including a group of design students from Parsons The New School, which generated lively debate on competing aesthetics in restaurant, hotel, and casino design, and the future of casino and hotel design in Asia.

From Plate to Picture: Mastering Food Photography

Food photographer Andrew Scrivani

Nowadays every Joe Schmo on the corner has a DSLR in their hands, and D-grade food photos just won´t make the cut anymore. Veteran food photographers Andrew Scrivani and Michael Harlan Turkell discussed the ins and outs of a good food shot during their Tuesday morning presentation.  Scrivani, who shoots for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek, among other news outlets, emphasized the need to view the plate not as food, but as art. “Sometimes as a chef it is hard, but think about how it will translate on the camera,” he said. Michael Harlan Turkell, the photo editor for Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn, shared insight into framing shots, describing his clockwork-like method for taking a series of the photos of the same dish. Both photographers suggested using a 50mm macro lens, controlling light using dark or white cards (to highlight or add shadow to the photograph), and downsizing the portion of the food to better frame the photograph. Among the final notes of advice from Turkell: bring the chefs mentality to photography. “You plan out a menu, you plan out dinner service, “ said the former chef turned photographer. “Plan out food photos, too.”

From Fine Dining to Fast Casual


Bill Kim shares his secrets for going from "Fine Dining to Fast Casual"

Bill Kim shares his secrets for going from "Fine Dining to Fast Casual"

After working up the ranks of fine dining, Bill Kim consulted with his wife and decided that he "wanted to have a life, and to have a cooking style that's my own." He wanted a restaurant that did three things very well: dumplings, rice, and noodles. The couple opened Urbanbelly in a strip mall eight miles outside of Chicago. "I'd never made noodles, but I knew what I liked." Thanks to glowing publicity and positive word of mouth from day one, he and his wife were able to open Belly Shack just 10 months later. Kim now has his sights on a retail line and is consulting for airport and college outposts. In Kim's mind, fine dining and fast casual aren't as far apart as many people think. He and his cooks go to the market nearly daily. Kim says, "People think about fast casual as slinging crap around, but we put as much time in our cooking as fine dining restaurants." Although the hours are pretty much the same, Kim prefers owning a fast casual restaurant to working in fine dining. "I didn't want to cook for 2 percent of the population anymore. Those 2 percent are coming to UrbanBelly anyway. Besides, now I get to make the decisions."

by Laura Curtis, Jessica Dukes, and Katherine Sacks