Jaden Hair on Her Second Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, "Healthy Asian Favorites"
JH: Food photography is actually pretty easy. The affordable dSLR cameras out there these days allow almost anyone to take fantastic photos with just a simple formula: Automatic settings + natural light + good focus.
Now, if you want to take the food photography to the next level, then you'll need some food styling skills. This is the area where I've improved the most. The trick is to make the food look delicious (eat me now!) but effortless (easy to make!)
I have a collection of close to 3,000 different plates, bowls, cups, platters, forks, goblets, et cetera. In fact, I don't think I can ever walk out of HomeGoods, Marshalls, or Ross without picking up a prop!
My advice to others is to study food magazines: What makes that dish so enticing? How many different textures do you see? What direction is the light coming from?
JTD: How do you decide which recipes go on the blog and which go in the book?
JH: The recipes for the book were planned out in advance as I was designing the concept of the book and writing the proposal. This way, the recipe list is thought-out and cohesive, versus just thrown together.
For the blog, it's just what I feel like cooking for the week. My assistant, Cheri, comes on Mondays to help test recipes, then on Friday to help shoot video and edit video.
JTD: For this book, you worked with Ten Speed Books, which is known for its spectacular cookbooks. How was it different from working on your first book?
JH: My first book was with Tuttle Publishing, a very small and focused publisher (they do mostly Asian books)--which was really nice, because the publisher was very hands-off and let me do my thing.
Ten Speed has an entire team to support the development, design, and marketing of the book. They make it so easy to go from start to finish.
JTD: You and your family now live on a five-acre homestead. How has the transition been for the family?
JH: Oh, we LOVE it. In the morning, the kids go out and gather eggs for breakfast. In the afternoon, I'll pick some salad greens for lunch. When the kids come home from school, they'll pick broccoli or other leafy greens for dinner.
My husband has just started an aquaponics garden.
We've just planted eight fruit trees and our two ponds provide us with bluegill, big mouth bass, and tilapia fish.
It's peaceful here. There's no traffic, my neighbors are 10 acres away and yet we're only 10 minutes from the supermarket and school.
JTD: What’s your next big project for the homestead?
JH: The next big project is to digitize our homestead. Internet cam in the henhouse. Automatic watering of the garden based on moisture levels. Computer-monitored aquaponics to measure pH and nutrient levels.
Oh, and perhaps start experimenting in “duckaponics” with a family of ducklings!
Do you have a question for Jaden about her new cookbook? Share your thoughts in the comments below.