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May 13, 2014

Eating with the Chefs

Celia Sin-Tien Cheng

Documentary photographer Per-Anders Jörgensen’s new book, “Eating with the Chefs,” offers us a seat alongside the chefs and staff of 18 of the world’s most creative restaurants as they come together for the ritual “family meal” that both fuels their daily work and nourishes their morale. Jörgensen captures the essence of each restaurant’s unique take on the tradition with fascinating, intimate photographs accompanied by lively descriptions and recipes that reveal the real people inside the restaurants’ often austere, seemingly infallible exteriors.

These family meals range from quick bites to sit down dinners. At Roberta’s in Brooklyn, the meal is often a delicious grab-and-go bagel or sandwich. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the staff at Chez Panisse enjoy a sit-down dinner. Southern European restaurants are rooted in a strong sense of family values, and the staff usually eat all together like a family. For example, at El Celler de Can Roca, the Roca brothers will bring the entire staff to eat lunch at their parents’ village bistro Can Roca up the hill from the restaurant — a tradition of going home and eating mom’s cooking. At Il Canto in Siena, chef Paolo Lopriore cooks the staff meals himself as a show of appreciation, a sacred ritual. In other parts of the world, restaurants encourage the staff to cook food that represents their diverse heritage — personal and emotional meals that trigger memories. At Attica in Melbourne, we meet Sunny, a former dishwasher turned junior chef who cooks his mother’s Indian food for the staff.

“Eating with the Chefs” gives the reader a sense of these restaurants’ values and what makes them tick. The book renewed my appreciation for what these great restaurants are contributing, not only to the world of haute-cuisine, but also to their communities, from the inside out.

Photo Credits: All photography by Per-Anders Jörgensen

Family MealStaff Meal