Bits & Bites: Friday, March 13

New and Improved, 10% Softer and Sweeter

bonapp1Last month in PDN Magazine, Bon Appetit’s Design Director Matthew Lenning said “I hate pretty food pictures.” I think that explains the past year’s visual jolt. Harsh, in-your-face, strobed-to-the-nth-degree, it was a radical departure from the previous look and feel and although visually arresting it became a huge turn-off to me. The food just didn’t look appetizing and hello, you’re a food magazine after all. After having received plenty of reader mail, I’m happy to see a softer side of the “new” Bon Appetit, slight edge maintained within the pages. Don’t get me wrong: I have friends that shoot for the new BA as well as friends at Condé Nast and I shall always be a loyal reader, but it was even a bit too much for me. Just being different for different’s sake isn’t always the smartest move, I think. Balance people, balance!


A New Site!
For the folks who know me and my significant other personally you’ll know that Adam prefers being away from any spotlight and camera lens. He’s insanely talented and really the perfect husband: if you need it he can do it. So he’ll have to forgive me for announcing to the world that he has a new web site, He’s an amazing food stylist and much of the food you see on mattbites is a collaborative effort (Obviously if it’s an ugly shot you can be sure I did it solo).  If you’re looking for a food (and prop!) stylist and are not intimidated by giant surly redheads covered in tattoos then he’s your guy. Children love him, actually. I do too!

What I’m Reading
booksI’m currently alternating between two books: Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows by Kathleen Collins and The Foie Gras Wars by Mark Caro. It’s fascinating to see how food television programming has changed over the years and quite a refreshing look at what it says about us. As far as The Foie Gras War is concerned, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut about this topic. I’m straddle the fence about it and it’s nice to read such a smart account on how foie gras became such a cultural food fight. I’m still undecided about it, though.

Photography Updates
3329156830_805245e578_oI was overwhelmed and joyed by the comments and emails about photography posts here on Mattbites. I’m working on some specific things to write about here but if you have anything you’d like me to cover specifically then feel free to email me! Coming up: Point and Shoots vs dSLRs, What Gear I Use (the refresher course), All About Light, and a few other things I’m working on for you.

Thanks to Elise from Simply Recipes for the photo of me. I’m missing you already, Elise!


I’ll Never Thing Of Avocados The Same Way Again
Earlier this week I toured an avocado grove just a few miles south of where I live. It was for an upcoming project I’m working on and perhaps some of the most beautiful land I’ve seen in Southern California. I’ve said it before here but it bears repeating: farmers and growers are a special bunch and deserve our respect. I work in my air-conditioned office and studio pushing pixels around all day while the true heroes bust their backs growing, tending and harvesting those tropical gems for us. If I haven’t said it enough, THANK YOU. You shall never ever hear me complain about the price of an avocado. Ever.


  1. says

    Matt – Please tell Adam that his new website is truly inspired and perfect in every way. I was beyond impressed by the imagery and styling, and love the simplicity of the site layout. You two are so incredibly talented; I’m rather in awe of your mad skills. If you ever think about teaming up to do a weekend course in food photography and styling for interested parties, sign me up!

  2. says

    I love love love avocados…It’s a pity that they’re not naturally grown where I live (midwest = lack of avocados)…Thanks for the book recommendation…I might have to jump into it.

  3. says

    I love Adam’s work. I just recently learned about him and I was instantly hooked. There is a balance between “rustic” and soft.

    Regarding Bon Appetit, I couldn’t agree more. I stopped reading it although I kept getting it in the mail. It “hurt” to look at photos. Food is supposed to look appetizing and to have food suspended in an awkward way up in the air doesn’t really turn people on. I don’t know, that’s just my opinion. If Matthew Lenning saw my photos, he would die I guess.

    And what I am most excited about, your post about gear and light. I hope that comes soon!

  4. Kayvie says

    Send my congratulations along to Mr Pearson, please. Great website! I’ve just developed my first roll of film from my brand new very old film slr camera, and by far the best (playing it fast and loose with the word ‘best’ here) pictures are of some wonderful savoy cabbage I had kicking about in the kitchen. The photos that both of you take are really great – very inspiring.

    I started this post trying to get my message across without sounding too much like a groupie, but I think I have failed in every respect!

  5. says

    Really enjoy your Friday bits and bites, Matt. It’s a nice way to wrap up the week.

    I’d be hugely interested in learning more about food styling – resources, tips, techniques, etc. Perhaps you can get Adam to guest post as well?

  6. says

    I am so jealous you have access to advance copies! I just put Collins’ book on my Amazon wish list. Thanks for mentioning it!

  7. says

    Oh, I am so with you on the Bon Appetit photos for the past year. Sometimes they just look GROSS. Especially the dessert ones, with all sorts of melted ice cream and other nastiness. They look like a culinary murder scene! But this month is better. That salad on the cover looks gorgeous AND it was delicious when I made it this week. Yay!

  8. Kerry says

    I’m so glad you mentioned the newer strobe-heavy look in food magazines — it’s been driving me bonkers! I feel less inspired sitting down and reading them in the past few months . . . glad I’m not alone.
    Adam’s site is so dreamy — checked it out last night after reading Lara’s blog that linked to it.
    As far as specific photograhy requests — would love your thoughts and tips on composition and how you arrange items in your shots to make them so arresting and interesting.
    And I’m totally with Phoo-D — a Matt & Adam workshop would be a dream!

  9. says

    Fantastic photos there mate. And Adam’s site. OMG. Just incredible. I just love his styling – so effortlessly simple looking, but I know it took an achingly long time to achieve – so natural, very clean and modern I just adore the first shot in his portfolio – the blueberry ensemble.

  10. says

    Everyone should have a husband like Adam, but I think God broke the mold when he made him, and you’re the lucky guy who snapped him up!!! (and vice versa)

    You’re both INSANELY talented!!!

    makes the rest of us feel…that we’re so glad we get to see your work especially when you work together!

  11. Jeanne says

    I couldn’t agree with you more about design direction Bon Appetit magazine took. Being involved in food and food styling I found the photography to be a visual and culinary offense…it was the reason I did not renew my subscription. I’ll take a peak at the new issue…

  12. says

    If you want to get Adam to come do a guest post on food styling, I wouldn’t mind! His site is gorgeous!

    Don’t get me started on Sandra Lee. I hate how she makes people afraid of real food. Her recipe for margaritas really sets me off — limeade, beer, sprite. What? A margarita has exactly three ingredients (plus salt) — tequila, lime and orange liqueur. How is adding all the crap making it taste better or easier?

    Sorry. Ranting a bit.

    Avocados look good too.

  13. says

    OF COURSE children love Adam!! A red-haired giant covered in tattoos? Its like he stepped out of a storybook!! License his brand to Disney – HURRY!!!

  14. says

    I completely agree with you about the new Bon Appetit. Only I wasn’t sure why I didn’t like the pictures, I just knew that I didn’t. However, I’ve been liking and using the recipes a lot more since the format change. But those pictures are just too tough to look at.

  15. says

    Wow, Matt – I read your post and it made me feel so good. I’ve been complaining for a long time now about Bon Appetit’s food photography to the point that I was really going to sit down and write them a letter and say, “hey guys – if you can’t get the food photography thing down, why don’t you start checking out some food blogs on the internet – there’s some amazing food photography out there that would put you guys to shame”. I couldn’t figure out why they had such bad photography – now I know! They wanted it that way! Thank you for posting this! I thought I was the only one. And I checked out Adam’s web site. Good God. Absolutely beautiful. THAT is food styling/photography.

  16. Mike says

    The avocado groves in Southern California are beautiful. I was actually lucky enough to visit a grove that represented each different growing area (soil/climate and stuff). The variation was surprising but the land the was breathtaking and the farmers were some of the best people I’ve ever gotten to meet.

  17. says

    Amen on the truth about the farmers who bring us our food! A lovely couple we buy regularly from will get up an extra hour early (at 3 instead of 4) to pick the fruit we need for our work – even if we call late in the evening the night before! Thank you!!

  18. says

    Funny thing, when I take a shot that’s overly contrasted know I think to myself, looks like a BonApp shot. I see the trend other places too (Oprah mag for ex). Good to know they are softening up a bit.

    Love Adam’s site! I want him to be MY food stylist. I wish there were a way that we could just take an injection of other people’s talents. I would sign up for lifetime supply of yours and Adams.



  19. says

    So that’s what happened at Bon Appétit. I had just started getting the magazine and couldn’t wait until the subscription expired. Off now to see Adam’s new site.

  20. Cameron S. says

    Love the site for Adam – really nice and the portfolio is amazing. Your photography is equally wonderful.

    I was intrigued by the foie gras book you are reading and have ordered it tonight. Thanks for the tip. Not sure if you read the owner of Incanto restaurants recent writing about fois gras. I saw this on Chadzilla’s food blog a few days back.


  21. says

    Adam’s work is really wonderful and the new website shows how talented he is. As for Bon Appetit, we appreciate the changes of style but they gone from glaring to boring. People who care about food care.
    Maybe you and Adam can write to them and get the next assignment, that would be a gorgeous magazine.

  22. says

    You and Adam are both so incredibly talented. What an amazing team you make!

    PS. Thanks for updating your old blog for losers like me who hadn’t switched my reader over yet! Yeesh….

  23. says

    wow, I’m speechless, sin palabras. Wonderful, magnificent, hermoso-delicioso el trabajo de tu hubbie. You two guys rock!!!

    p.s Bravo por los trabajadores del campo, (specially in US) donde la mayoria son latinos!. Felicidades por valorar el trabajo duro que mujeres y hombres hacen dia a dia.

  24. Dawn in CA says

    Matt – I’ve been an occasional lurker, and every time I visit your site I wonder why I don’t come by more often. Great writing, lovely photography, and just so much YUM. Well done. If Adam is doing your food styling, you are a lucky man.

    And Adam – wow. Wow. Your site/photos/styling are absolutely beautiful. Oh, and if Matt is making all the amazing food in your photos? Then you are a very lucky man, indeed. :)

  25. says

    absolutely beautiful site. i love that you present so much mexican food. my husband is mexican, we’re in chicago and I also feel that i don’t really know mexican food, even though I do know it- strangely enough I understand what you mean about living in CA and not knowing the mexican food in your neighborhood :-)
    Great site!!

  26. says

    As a girl who grew up in an avocado orchard north or you but now lives way up in Oregon, thank you for loving and photographing my beloved avocado.

  27. says

    I soooo agree with you on this. Modern food photography doesn’t have to be ugly. Just pulled my Oct. ’09 issue out of the mailbox and it’s worse than ever. Unbelievably unappealing. Tried to get past the photos to read the text, but too much of a turnoff! Ugh! No more. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest!!

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