The Other Side of the Lens—Subjects from Jeff Scott's Notes of a Kitchen
Forager Jenna Rozelle, and chef Zak Pelaccio.
July 8, 2015
JENNA ROZELLE | FORAGERI don’t even remember how we met. It had to have been through one of the chefs that I work with. It was two years ago, maybe a little more.
He was doing the grand tour of the country at that point, and we had never met in person until he flew here from Austin. He met me in Southern Maine, and we drove to Northern Maine together, which was a five or six hour trip. We spent most of the week up there. My mom was like, “Really, Jenna? Really?” But he had sent me the two previous volumes of the book, and he does pretty undeniably beautiful work. He didn’t really need to say much after that! Just seeing the caliber of his work and reading about the things he’s been associated with before, I trusted that he would do my work justice, and do the landscape justice, which I definitely think he did. Some of those photos are taken in places that are very special to me. I’m really happy that he was able to capture some sort of part of what I feel for them.
I was very nervous. I don’t enjoy having my picture taken, and I made that clear to him. I think the common ground that we had was that we were really excited to show people the landscape. It wasn’t about a portrait of me. It was about where this food comes from. That I felt comfortable with, candidly being in the photos. He did a really good job of not making me super aware that the camera was on me. When he wasn’t shooting, we would talk, but most of the time he was shooting. He took thousands of photos, and was always recording in one form or another, but he would take breaks and enjoy the scenery. Mostly the conversation revolved around the specifics of what I was doing or the project itself. The book, his vision...he was very obviously all-consumed by it, and right in the thick of it.
Jeff’s work stands out to me because it’s thorough. It’s not like a snapshot of something, it’s full immersion. I think with most people’s attention spans these days, that doesn’t happen all that often. Hopefully it’s not a lost art, but that’s what it stands out as to me. A really thorough look at something.
He’s a true artist. He’s obsessive, but not to a fault. He’s like a tornado with a very specific path in mind. Me? I’m like a boulder. Steady as she goes…
ZAK PELACCIO | FISH & GAME, HUDSON, NYIt was 2009, and we had just opened Fatty Cue in Brooklyn, and he came out to shoot. That’s when we first met. He rolled in—and it was really hot in the city that day—in this linen shirt, halfway unbuttoned, and called out, “Hey dude, do you have a cold beer?” He just came tumbling into my life. And it’s been that way ever since.
I thought it was great that he was totally into it. He was there, and he was ready and he wanted to be minimally invasive and be a fly on the wall. Except for when he needed a drink! We got along famously. I respect his work ethic and the way he approaches his life. He’s a romantic and he has a dream, and he has been self-publishing these books and going against the grain and struggling. It’s amazing to watch. He keeps moving it forward. He’s always spinning with ideas. While he’s working on one project, he’s getting an idea for what to do for the next. It’s a pretty amazing energy to see him move along at that pace.
I lived in New York City for so long, and had worked in the business for so long, that I think I was immune to the whole thing. People were always taking pictures of me, and putting me on TV. I was at a point where I was spinning out of it, and I think Jeff was really a reprieve from a lot of that shit I had to put up with. He’s disarming in the way that he’s very much himself, so you feel comfortable being yourself. It was easy, and that was important.
He wants to bring an emotive side to things. If he wants to impress upon you that you’re in the woods, he’s shooting his camera up in the air at the canopy and then down at the ground and back up to the canopy, trying to elicit that from the reader. He’s using his camera, maybe for himself as well, to document that time and place in a way that he hasn’t seen or felt before.
I think art is important. Art is reflection. It’s always important for us to look at ourselves through other people’s eyes, or try and understand what we’re doing through others. We don’t live in an isolated world. Everything in life that I’ve worked on, whether it’s a style of cooking or a dish, I realize in the midst of it that I’m not the only one doing it. What Jeff’s doing is part of a bigger wave...looking at food in that way, looking at the conscientious part of being a cook and being a restaurateur. Is there something that he’s connecting with personally? Or is he interpreting the individual’s relationship with their food?