This gives an entirely new meaning to the saying “You are what you eat.” In a project called MENU, we are treated to several striking portraits of a chef wearing his kitchen’s contents on his face. MENU is a collaborative effort between J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam’s cafeteria chef Robbie Postma and photographer Robert Harrison.
While unsurprising that such a creative endeavour is coming from an advertising agency, we certainly haven’t seen food photography done like this before. Chefs have long been known to divert attention to their masterful creations instead of their faces, but this was totally unexpected.
In the portrait series, Postma covers his face in every shot with the raw ingredients of dishes from a multi-course meal. From coffee beans and white chocolate, to a slab of prime rib and a glass of red wine, Postma and Harrison “takes the viewer back to the origin of a menu.”
“Through visual imagination and culinary flair, they evoke every step of a fine dining experience, but rather than focusing on the final, finessed dishes, MENU makes the raw, unprocessed ingredients the heroes. Served on the closest place you can get to a chef’s mind: on his face,” notes JWT.
“MENU is hand-crafted. Just like the best food,” added JWT. No photoshopping was done here. Every single drop and morsel were shot painstakingly over a year, “with most shots taking sometimes up to nine hours to prepare.”
“A good menu is a story with its own narrative arc,” Postma says. “That’s what we’ve tried to recreate in this project: We deconstructed a traditional menu into all its separate elements and ingredients and reconstructed it in a disruptive way—using my own face as the canvas to present our very own ‘MENU.’
“This project, in its essence, is about the quest for perfection and represents the importance of taking enormous amount of time and attention to create something beautiful.”
“The devil is in the detail, and that’s something we really took to heart when shooting the photography,” Harrison adds. “Each single ingredient was painstakingly hand-placed onto the face, resulting in literally hours of preparation for each shot.
“For us it was important to work in a very organic way, shoot everything in camera and use no digital manipulation at all. This attention to detail and technique, combined with the unexpected scenarios—I guess some would say downright disturbing images—is what has this such a compelling project to work on.”
“We love spending some of our creative energy disrupting the traditional client brief structure by coming up with stuff that nobody’s asked for,” says JWT Executive Creative Director Bas Korsten.
“Because it helps us to define ourselves. To take us to places we’ve never been before. Rob and Robbie’s project is exemplary of that. Two guys who just took an idea and ran with it. I love it.”
For MENU’s ingredient list and full team credits, click here.