Have you ever gone out to a restaurant and seen a chef slaving away in the back for hour after hour, producing one delicious dish after another, and asked yourself, “Do they even enjoy cooking once they get home?” Well the answer to that is “Yes!” and photographer Ben Sassani takes viewers behind the scenes (and refrigerator doors) of some of the top chefs around with his personal project Shoot My Chef.
The blog started with a pretty simple idea from one of Sassani’s friends: photograph the inside of chef’s refrigerators and show that they have the same kind of stuff in there that we do, then make a book out of it. Sassani says he was intrigued by the idea, but didn’t really know what to do with it. Unfortunately, his friend passed away before they had a chance to play with the idea more. “After he passed away, I knew I needed to do something with it,” Sassani says. “I was trying to figure out a name and what to do with it, when a friend of mine suggested I try shooting the chefs cooking at home.” Sassani shares that he was concerned that leaving it at that might make for less than ideal photos. “I thought that just shooting these guys cooking at home alone might be a little awkward,” he explains. “But then we started talking about showing the chefs hanging out with their family and friends; find out what they like to do on their days off and don’t force the subject.”
Sassani had some difficulty at first getting local chefs to bite (puns!) on the idea, until a fellow wedding photographer introduced him to her brother who just so happened to be Gabriel Medina (then) Executive Chef at Soma Sushi in Houston. “I met with him and did his shoot, and literally everybody in town saw it,” Sassani says. “People loved it and wanted to know what it was all about, so I started making more connections and getting more shoots done.”
After a shoot with celebrated Houston chef Randy Evans, things began to really take off. “After the Evans shoot the publicists started noticing,” Sassani says. “The more I did the more people started noticing, so now I have a mixture of me approaching chefs about being involved, and people actually reaching out to me wanting to be a part of the blog.”
There’s something fun (yet still intimidating) about seeing these culinary masterminds hanging out at home with friends and family and making great food that I would spend hours trying to recreate before giving up and making nachos... Some of my favorite shoots that Sassani has done involve him spending the entire day with chef, following them around as they do their shopping and prep. For me, photography is all about storytelling, and Sassani’s background as a wedding photographer helps bring a different view to the editorial style shoots, with every one topped off with a fisheye-refrigerator-selfie.
So what’s next for Shoot My Chef? “I want to do a book eventually,” Sassani says. “But not a normal photo book, something that tells more of a story along with the images. After that I would like to start looking outside of Houston,” he continues. “Go out to Chicago, New York, places like that.”
And yes, I know what you’re wondering, does he get to eat the food? “Oh yeah,” Sassani says. “Almost always the plate I photograph is the plate I get to eat.”
Images used with permission.