cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cakes and Thanksgiving

Hello Codets. Just got back from a few cake deliveries this morning. Our cakery is severely growing. I even handed out business cards in an elevator while on delivery this morning. These babies take a lot of work but their turnover is fantastic. Biggest issue cropping up is enough space to make multiple cakes at a time and of I'm a nightmare when delivering cakes. Delivering cakes in the midst of Sao Paulo morning traffic is hell. I have to hold the cakes on my lap to prevent annihilation during the common event of slamming on the breaks for a rogue motorcycle or not-so-stealth lane changer. Sao Paulo drivers remind me of big dogs who live with small dogs; the big dogs act like the small terriers and try to get into places they really shouldn't. Two foot gap? Of course my car fits. Perhaps who has it the worst during a delivery is H, whose every tweak of the wheal I curse at. I'm learning to relax, but cakes are precious cargo. For today at least, all our little cakes made it safely to their destinations.

Cakes aside, this Thursday is Thanksgiving.  I won't be doing anything special. We celebrated an early Thanksgiving last Wednesday (a holiday here) with a large group of our gringo friends. Giant turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, apple crumble, wine, wine, wine and i made cornbread stuffing, roasted balsamic pears and a pumpkin torte. The best part about a hot (meaning weather) Thanksgiving is that you really can pile on the ice cream. I am thankful to have this large misfit group of friends in Sao Paulo to act as my surrogate family. To fill in the void of like-minded ideas, gestures, customs that come with your own culture. Then again only a few of us were actually from the US or Canada. Perhaps we share these things simply because we are all out of place. My friends here come from everywhere. From Malaysia, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Argentina--but we all feel at home at Thanksgiving knowing that we made one of the largest cities in the world feel a little bit smaller. Well, that and getting a giant group of international hard core foodies and wine-enthusiasts together usually results in a good time. Happy Thanksgiving!

My cakes this morning were both small; about 15 cm in diameter. The Tiffany blue textured cake comprised of brown sugar vanilla cake (and was gluten free) and had two layered fillings of Irish cream chocolate truffle and Swiss meringue butter cream. So overall ten distinct layers. The outer frosting was traditional butter cream. The pink cake was a vanilla angel cake with two layered fillings of vanilla Swiss meringue and strawberry cream, also a total of ten distinct layers, also finished in traditional butter cream. viva la cake.

I have one final and quick announcement to any Sao Paulo residents reading this---please come to the SP Night Market in Jardins this Saturday, it is the final market of the year and is focused on Christmas shopping. I will be there selling Vietnamese pho (come at lunch time!) a few sweets and a few fun edible Christmas gifts that yes, will last until Christmas. see you there -and to the rest of you, have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


 Hello Codets. Don't be cross with me, i know it has been a while. But i have been swamped with work and had a nasty case of salmonella poisoning which left me feeble and whimpering on the floor in the corner of my bathroom. Not a pleasant time. In any case, i am sitting here today on a gray Sao Paulo monday with a sunburn on my legs for the first time in the four years i have lived in brazil to tell you about our adventures in the past week, particularly the Indochine dinner i kept going on and on about.... that was November 7th. I also need to report a few photo shoots, my cakery and how irksome cake pops are.

The Indochine dinner. Really there is nothing to say other than how stunned i was by the success. I am not trying to praise myself, but honestly there were no problems. Not one. The only hiccup was that one of the "guests of honor" arrived very late forcing my entrance to sit plated for longer than i had wanted. But that's it. No complaints, nothing broke, i didn't burn anything. It was like, magic. I went Gordon Ramsey on my crew maybe only once or twice, but everything went out quickly and the stew was served hot! 40 stews served hot! I even received a standing ovation at the end when i explained the meal with a impromptu speech. The whole event seems like a blur looking back, but luckily H was there to take a few phone photos.

What was the event. It's difficult to explain. I was hired by a social organization called SP Night run by a group of women in Sao Paulo. The organization holds various events including socials, markets and connection evenings. This was a connection event, meaning people with similar business interests were invited to "mingle" and treated to a three course dinner. The event was held at a private country club style house called Tofiq House located in undoubtedly one of the most glamorous and well-to-do neighborhoods in Sao Paulo. I chose the theme Indochine because i am most fascinated by Vietnamese cuisine, and to kick it up a notch for guests paying two hundred a seat we specified it to Indochine; meaning Vietnamese dishes influenced by French flavors or techniques. It was quite a challenge.

The menu took about a week to get straight. I have to thank, and give credit, to one particular blog that helped me beyond belief. I spent hours pouring over posts at The Ravenous Couple, a blog featuring beautiful Vietnamese and contemporary foods. Their recipes for bo kho beef stew, various banh mi sandwiches and instructions on glutinous rice balls gave me a concrete stepping stone to tweak into my own Indochine versions. So thank you Ravenous Couple!

The menu was as follows; a welcome cocktail featuring mint, tangerine juice and gin, a starter play of of the classic banh mi French baguette sandwich (i turned it into a bruschetta), main was a spicy beef stew featuring white yams and fresh herbs, and finally dessert included a pandan creme brulee and fried glutinous rice balls filled with banana and cinnamon served with a coconut cream.

I was nervous as hell going into it, but i got it done. and it was quite the thrill, a dream actually. I owe a lot of thanks to my team for helping, including my sous chef, two waitresses and two cleaners. Impossible without great help. I can't wait to do it again.

The day after the big event (i arrived home at about 2am) i had two large bakery orders to fill. When it rains it pours. I have been selling a lot of layer cakes kitchen is turning into a cakery. We had a baby's first birthday cake along with a cheesecake, cupcakes, cake pops, caramel apples and creme brulee to make the day after Indochine....i honestly felt like a zombie pushing my cart through the supermarket aisle. But the results were well worth the pain. We also got a quick photo shoot in of the cutie pie one year old. Making cakes is starting to be quite relaxing....i will take that back next week when i have two orders to deliver on the same morning but for now I still love looking at them.

This is my Sao Paulo life now. I have been waiting almost four years to be busy and now i am. And im loving it. I feel like i have my own purpose, my own space in this vast country whereas before i felt like a floating immigrant destined to teach for no merit other than birthright. The immigrant dream of being a "self made man" and turning nothing into something isn't the American dream; it's the dream of anyone starting from scratch in a terrifying and intimidating foreign land. Once you find your place you start living rather than floating. See you next week.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pandan Crème Brûlée

Hello Codets. Today we must celebrate. We must celebrate a Salty Cod victory. Today, the essence of this very post marks the first time since 2009 that we have managed to return to our once a week (four times a month) quota of posting. Indeed, three barren years of singular, double and triple appearances per month (not to mention the many months of absence all together). But today we break this barrier, today, on this loveliest of Halloweens, we sing a sweet song of victory. Codets! Sound the alarm! We be back yo.

Today is a bit grey in Sao Paulo city. I am glad though, feels more like Halloween. After a few English classes this morning in which we discussed the history of Halloween, i got to recipe testing flavored creme brulee. During my classes we stumbled upon a few articles breaking down Halloween costume popularity; among children the most common are princesses and super heroes. To this, my students questioned, why are there non-scary costumes? I never really thought about it. When i was a young child i was everything from a pumpkin to pooh bear, fairies to bumble bees. Kids don't think about being scary. Original Halloween costumes are intended to simply trick wandering spirits from recognizing you. I highly doubt many wandering spirits would mess with Tinkerbell. I much prefer cute Halloween to scary; reminiscing when my youngest sister at age one masqueraded as a purple Teletubby. I do think it is sad that Brazilian children don't get the fun and excitement of Halloween. Sure, people tell me it is "just like Carnival! dressing up in silly costumes!" but honestly, Carnival isn't much of a children's holiday...which in my opinion is a good thing. Halloween, for American children, is a liberating day. You smell Halloween in the air, you feel it coldly creeping through your too-thin fairy tights and leotard because you didn't listen to your mom telling you to wear a jacket, dinner? unlikely. It is the only day where you know you will have more candy than all other days of the year combined. I do feel lucky to have so many great memories from being a child; from being an American child. On that note i am pleased to announce that my baby niece on her first Halloween will be promenading around as a perky peacock!

Now, being that i am not into making ghoulish pasta or hot dog witches if  there are no children around (though I have a feeling H would probably like it) I decided to run through some recipe testing for pandan crème brulée that I am intending to serve with the dessert course for an event im working next week. The event is a connection social featuring a foie gras purveyor (apparently the lady makes her own foie, erm, in the backyard?) a live pianist, a breathtakingly beautiful venue, and a three course plated sit down dinner cooked by yours truly. The theme is Indochine, meaning Vietnamese dishes that reflect French influences. I won't divulge the full menu as i plan on doing that next week after i've either succeeded or failed miserably. The guest list is estimated at around forty. I have two waitresses and a sous chef to help plate in a timely manner. How the hell i am going to serve forty people simultaneously is going to be the biggest challenge of the event.

Returning; there is no frenchier dessert than crème brulée, so in order to twist its ankle out of cliché overuse at expensive sit downs, I decided to flavor it with something a little more Vietnamese. My first attempt was mixing shredded coconut directly into the cream mixture. The result was tasty but there was concern that "purists" might resent the change in texture (the shredded coconut turned creamy into fluffy) so i nixed the shredded idea. I had been concerned as well that coconut milk might not set as well as cream, so i combined cream and coconut milk together and the texture kept and set just fine. success. But then i kept reading about pandan waffles, pandan crepes, pandan this and that on Vietnamese food blogs. I'd never actually tasted pandan before, but now i wanted it. Pandan extract is very strong, very condensed. much more potent than vanilla. It smells like mossy almonds. very unique. i was worried mossy almond might not translate very well in a creme brulee, but the result was really refreshing and still very much a traditional crème brulée. I tried to mix coconut flakes in with the sugar for the burned cap, but it burned too quickly and tasted like carbonized coconut. so don't do that.

For the dinner event the crème pots will be served on a plate along side miniature banh cam, fried glutinous rice flour balls filled with a sweet and spicy paste and rolled in sesame seeds. Mine will be filled with bananas and cinnamon and be sitting on top of a puddle of coconut cream.

Pandan Crème Brulée
Yield: 10 miniature ramekins or 5 large ramekins

5 egg yolks
300g cream
100g coconut milk
1/2 (American) cup sugar
a small dash of pandan essence (i mean small)
green food coloring

Mix absolutely everything together in a bowl.
Divide mixture evenly among ramekins
Place in a ban marie (casserole dish filled with a few cm or water)
Bake on medium low for roughly 45 minutes
Let cool in fridge until set

 Yes, you are right. Pandan cremes have absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. They're green, mysterious and sweet. So maybe...just maybe. I don't want to ruin the mood, but you could tell your kids that they are slime pots if you really want to get into spirit. These might be a big hit at next year's St. Patrick's Day party though, so keep that in mind.

I will close off this delightful victory post by thanking you, all of you, who are reading this. Salty has been through so much, the world of blogging and particularly food blogging has changed so much since 2007, but it's nice that you are still here. Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Wedding Cake

Hello Codets. It's a hot October day--perfect for a rooftop wedding party. We delivered this 25 pound cake this morning to a rooftop wedding party in Jardins -- I know very little of the clients other than that they are a Dutch woman and French man and are modern enough to choose flavor over cliché fondant. A wedding cake can be anything you want it to be. White, tiered fondant is not the only "cake" you can have at a wedding. A wedding cake should be more personal than that; it should show off a bit of your personality. Or, it should probably just taste good. Yeah. If you are going to be spending the kind of bling most people do on a wedding cake, you should at least get the best damn tasting product out there. 

This cake is comprised of four layers of (real) strawberry cake, three layers of dark Irish cream truffle, three layers of a strawberry cream and is covered in a vanilla butter cream. Yeah, it tastes good. The decor atop the behemoth, as always, includes fresh flowers. No one eats sugar paste or fondant flowers anyway, so why not just use real ones? They can last in the fridge for days. The bride requested the cape gooseberries specifically as she had seen them on my display cake at the last Night Market i participated in. They taste like unripe cherries, but are beautifully unique as they come in their own crispy, slightly rustic foliage. Where the wild flowers are.

We haven't posted a recipe here are the Salty Cod in months, so since we are talking about cake, let's discuss our recipe for our Irish cream chocolate truffle. I have made over 10 batches of this in the last month alone, it's pretty damn popular. Usually i serve them on the dessert table at catering events, but the same recipe is versatile enough to be converted into a cake layer. If you intend to use this truffle recipe for a cake layer, please note that i use a form (such as acetate plastic used in the Momofuku cake method) secured around the cake in order to make the truffle set evenly.

Irish Cream Chocolate Truffles

200 grams dark chocolate
1/3 cup cream
3 tablespoons Irish cream liquor (like Bailey's)

1) Chop chocolate into manageable pieces (unless using chips) and melt in a double boiler set up (or place a pan inside of a larger pan with water).
2) Add the cream and liqueur and whisk really well until all chunks are melted.
3) For truffles: pour chocolate mixture into a dish and refrigerate until solid to the touch. Roll Tbs size balls in dark cocoa powder.

The watercolor effect is quickly becoming our signature style. I feel it to be the most refreshing and easy on the eye. For information on how to order a cake in Sao Paulo, please contact me through my professional website.

For the rest of you, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Sunday Lunch

Hello Codets. I am trying to think of something very witty to tell you. but i feel very dull at the moment. It's Monday, nearly noon, I have an appointment to get to soon in Liberdade, the Japanese district of Sao Paulo. It's pleasantly warm outside. Cotton candy clouds, wispy breeze. my dog is sleeping on the couch. There are some very noisy birds attacking the amora tree outside my window. People think amora berries are blackberries, but they aren't because they grow on trees. and blackberries grow on bushes. obviously. The stuffed birds then fly to the foyer of the apartment building where, to the dismay of the building manager, they drop violet colored bombs on the stone tiles.Other than that it is fairly quiet.

I came by to share with you yesterday's luncheon. It was a great success. Less stressful as it was only for 15 people, but still around three days work. Our strawberry lemonade cake ended up looking like a giant candy corn, unintentional i should add. But it was very delicious. The appetizers were well received, though they ran out faster than i had expected. Vietnamese spring rolls are always the hit of the party here. The main dish was pad Thai, shrimp pad Thai. I have to admit that i think pad Thai is an very easy dish to prepare-- what is difficult about it is serving it. You can't let pad Thai sit around. after a few minutes it gets gummy. So i made two batches--two full wok loads. One mistake--i hadn't planned on plating (i was going to serve it family style) so when the party host asked me to plate it i went too fast and handed out larger than expected portion sizes so that i could quickly get the next round started in the wok. Not the best idea. Instead of reaching 15 plates i only reached about 10. People shouldn't have to wait around while others are eating. Thinking toward the future, pho is much more practical noodle dish for large groups as you can make it large enough to serve twenty plus without having to make a second batch of anything. Waiting time aside, the whole event went extremely well. I even managed to clean my kitchen before leaving for the party. That is a definite first. I think im starting to get into a rhythm which is making the whole process easier. as is the case, with almost everything in life.

This week we are working on a wedding cake and next week we are presenting a tasting menu for a large sit down dinner themed Indochine. Pretty damn nervous about that one.

It doesn't feel like October anymore. I think i am starting to forget what October was like. I always loved autumn. Leaf rot. End of summer. Dark evenings. Changing seasons allow you to feel and see the progression of the year. Climate wise that is what i miss the most about the northern hemisphere; the dramatic change between all seasons. We are slipping into summer in the south. Hot days are ahead.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

For The Love of Cake

Hello Codets. I thought I would stop by to show off a bit of last weekend's October photo session with our friends over at Sophie & Theo's Cupcakes. They are offering quite a few new products this month for Children's Day (October 12th) and of course Halloween, which isn't really celebrated in Brazil (at all) but is celebrated by many in the expat community (and in the ceramics department at pao de acucar, an upscale grocery chain). Anyway, we also focused the shoot on their wedding options. There are many ways to have cupcakes at your wedding! In jars, little glass domes and inside cute wooden boxes (made by the fabulous Photographer, Fabi, over at Caixa Florida).

I had a lot of fun with this shoot. How can you not have fun photographing a cupcake? Is there such a thing as a sad cupcake? Well, i think a bright blue tall hat frosted nightmare with rainbow sprinkles might be a bit sad. Anyway, IF you are in Sao Paulo, everything you see here is available upon order at their online shop.

Aside from photos this week, we are working on a big lunch event for next Sunday. The menu is a bit across the board, featuring risotto balls, salmon lollipops, spring rolls, pork filled puff pastry, phad thai, creme brulee, chocolate truffles and a four layer cake. That's a lot you might say for a party of fifteen! But, according to my client, the lunch is for her mother celebrating a big birthday and she really wants to be a greedy piggy. Her words not mine. Since it will be a lunch i am counting on some nice hopefully, hopefully some event shots for a change. The cake will be a small 4-layered strawberry and vanilla cake with peach-colored ombre frosting on the outside. It's good practice because i have the same cake (on a much bigger scale) due in two weeks for a wedding. Lot's of cake. I'm really glad people are starting to turn away from fondant back toward flavor. Buttercream is way more attractive and appetizing (i think) than fondant. Well, we can talk more about that later. Until then --

Oh by the way, if you haven't done so yet, feel free to "like" of our Facebook Page.  Yeah, i know, sorry sorry. But who doesn't use Facebook?

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Real Thing

Hello friends, I thought I would stop by and report how the catering event went last weekend. What event? I mentioned it in the last post. Didn't read it? well, fine. The event was a lovely in-apartment 40th birthday party for over fifty people. The menu included hot and cold appetizers and overwhelmingly large bread plates. How did it go? Well, it was fantastic.

Unfortunately I didn't get any photos, i didn't even take my camera. I had my friend, Rita, who i hired as my waitress get this shot with my phone. It shows a few of the cold appetizers set out on the table. The food was really well received--especially the hot appetizers i served throughout the five hour party. The sesame salmon lollipops and the fried spinach and gouda arancini di riso balls were a big hit. I did all of the prep work at home; made all the spreads, cheeses, bruschetta mixes, rolled a billion shrimp and pork  spring rolls, mixed a Vietnamese green papaya salad in a large plastic tub (party size!) and rolled and breaded all the risotto balls. Literally it took the entire day Saturday morning and most of Friday. I was in a bit of a freak out thinking that i hadn't gotten enough done by the time i left for the event at 6h30pm. I was nervous. I admit. Extremely nervous to the point where i hadn't eaten anything since my breakfast egg. But once i got there, set up the plates, met my kitchen helper and started prepping for the hot items I finally started to relax. I arrived at seven and the first guests didn't arrive until after nine. I staged the hot food so that there would be something served at about 20 or 30 minute intervals. The apartment was a gorgeous venue--multimillion dollar open floor plan which allowed me to watch (and be watched) the party and see what was getting low on my table trays. I hired a good friend to be my waitress and offer the hot appetizers around the room, but in reality she turned into the wine-wench--my client took cake of the wine but fully expected my waitress to keep the guest's glasses full at all times. And jesus christ did she. She scurried into the kitchen to open a new bottle of white every five minutes. The crowd was drunk off their asses after the first half-hour (crowd age-range was a respectable and classy middle-age). It was a real bacchanal. Most of the guests were very pleasant, courteous and had very nice things to say about my food. The crowd, I knew, would be welcoming of non-Brazilian food, which was in fact the case. My favorite critique of the night came stumbling off a whiskey soaked tongue complimenting the food as "telling a connected story, and, and, and so spicy!!"

Honestly though, no one even considered talking to me until my client pointed out that the chef tonight was American. Then i had everyone cosying up to the breakfast bar stools to watch me cook and ask me questions. A truthful side note: all non-native English speakers love to practice speaking English at any possible moment, especially when tipsy. Though, Sao Paulo being the international city it is, many among my kitchen company were foreigners from far off distant lands such as Montreal, Portugal, Rio de Janeiro (awk awk) and the East Coast. A person cooking at a party in Brazil isn't so exciting. But an American cooking at a party in Brazil is pretty exciting. As stupid as that may sound to you, it is an advantage I tend to run with.

The biggest part of the night was that I learned that there is no way i could do a cocktail party this size alone. Meaning, without my waitress or kitchen helper it would have been impossible. My client had her maid stay throughout the party in order to keep the kitchen clean--and she did. The second i dirtied a spoon it was clean and put back on my station. She was a machine. She also helped me assemble plates, assemble tartines and bruschetta--literally she did anything i needed an extra hand with. It would have been hell without her. I really regret not getting her telephone number so that I could hire her for my future events. Rita, my waitress, was also indispensable. Large parties like this definitely require a competent team. So i'm building my team. Oh, and not to forget-- also on the team was dear H who helped with the prep (i don't think he will ever want to de-pit and chop olives again), delivery, and stayed up until 2am eating crappy order-in pizza waiting to collect us from the event at our beck and call. So, go team!

Our next event isn't for two weeks, it will be smaller, a fifteen person lunch. The menu isn't set yet but when it is, hopefully i will finally get some bloody photos!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tasting & a Market

  Tasting. Early last week i was contacted by a client, actually a former boss here in Brazil. She knew i was into different food and asked if had any gigs yet for exactly two weeks out. I didn't. Great! Her cousin needed a caterer for her 40th birthday party for seventy people. Luckily, standing room cocktail. I cannot cook dinner for seventy people, but i can do appetizers. The only requirement was that I offer a tasting of all the possible choices. Tastings make perfect sense, especially when you are going to be spending a lot of money on large quantities. I know tastings are common place, but for a cocktail party--less usual. But i saw it as a perfect way to try and really impress. Dinner-time cocktail parties should offer at least ten appetizers per person along with non-numerical snacks. So, projecting ten different appetizers, i decided to offer fourteen during the tasting. It will be easy I thought, i only need to make two of everything. My appetizer ark, however, turned out to be quite the task. 

The tasting was last Thursday at 9pm. I started prepping my menu items that morning around 9:00. My tasting menu was split down the middle between Asian flavors and more classic Italian. To bore you with a list I presented: green papaya salad with fried plantain, tandoori chicken in mint sauce, curry tea sandwiches, Vietnamese pork spring rolls, tomato bruschetta, tartines with homemade ricotta, honey and bacon; spinach and gouda arancini di riso (fried risotto balls), sesame salmon lollipops, zucchini panzanella, fresh pea salad with apple and mint, creme brulee, dark chocolate truffles and a few other things that are slipping my mind. Damn it is a lot harder to create two of each in one day than i had thought it would be. I am continually underestimating how difficult it is to prepare such a variety. The greatest thing about this tasting was that literally it was a "run through" for the event, which give me more of an idea the time needed for each component.

I admit, I was extremely nervous when i arrived at the tasting (the venue of the party - a gorgeous apartment in one of the fancier districts of Sao Paulo). Luckily, my lovely clients offered me a glass (or two) of wine. Getting two women to eat fourteen small dishes in a timely manner after 9pm proved to be somewhat a difficult task. I felt like an Italian grandmother shoving pasta down their throats. Eat this one now, it's hot, stop looking at it, eat it! I jest, we took our time. The tasting lasted two hours and though i was exhausted, i was thrilled. They loved each and every dish. We decided they would look over their notes and decide which dishes to put on the party menu by Monday. Fabulous. They chose seven of the fourteen and I will be serving them this Saturday night. I also took charge of the party rentals - no paper or plastic forks at this gig. Ceramic plates, forks, wine glasses and serving trays. I will be hiring one waitress to serve the hot appetizers throughout the party - yes things are getting serious! Let's hope it all goes as planned.

The day after the tasting I had to start preparing for my third run at the Sao Paulo Night Market which was held on Saturday from noon until 9pm. I usually make savory food for the market as i honestly believe it sells better than sweets, however, this time around the market organizers asked me to do sweets since there were already three other food vendors and only one dessert vendor. I took it as an opportunity to advertise dessert tables for parties, so i set my display as top priority. I made a 4 layer ombre cake, creme brulees, cheesecake squares, brownie cake pops, Irish cream chocolate truffles, sandwich cookies and chocolate chip cookies. All of this in one day? Let's just say my kitchen was a sticky, sugary disaster by the time i left for the market. 

I didn't sell out. The creme brulees did sell out though -- torches usually draw a crowd. Usually not selling out isn't a problem as i view the market as more of a publicity event than anything else, so i usually just aim to cover my costs. Unfortunately this time the registration fee to sell at the Market was more than double the usual price since the event was celebrating it's one year anniversary and offered free admission to market goers. Was a bit more of a stretch to cover the costs. But on the bright side i've already been contacted by two possible clients i met at the market, so definitely worth the investment. And! i won a giant basket of New Zealand kiwis! Random? Yes. But so is a Sao Paulo market organized by gringos. My caipirinhas are set for the week. 

That's all we have for now, I must be off to bake white fish for dinner (St. Peter to be exact, which is in the tilapia family. Did you know there are more than three hundred types of tilapia? Now you do.) We hope to be back here promptly with the results from the cocktail event this Saturday -- hopefully good results. Until then, wish us luck. à bientôt.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Hey guys. Yeah, I did it again. What can i say. One month. But i really tried this time. My post was ready last week. Two weeks ago actually. But unfortunately the subject matter sat in my mouth like a stale dirty peanut. My catering business finally had a big event a few weeks ago, an event for someone we didn't know (for a change!) a baby birthday party with nearly three hundred little tea sandwiches (more difficult than that sounds!) and a ton of cupcakes! Sounds like the perfect subject for a blog post, no? A triumph finally for our new company here in Sao Paulo. The problem was not the food, my food was well received both in flavor and presentation. Great feedback on that front. The problems arose from the fact that i offered both of our services at once--meaning both catering and photography. Yeah, i shot the party as well. Sounds a bit odd but really the catering was make and deliver only--no presence during the party. When consulting with my client she mentioned that she really liked my photography and asked if i would shoot the party as well. Now, let me say that i really wanted this catering gig. So i offered to photograph for less than a quarter of the market price as a way to entice her to go with me for catering. She accepted. Big. Dumb. Move. on my part.

We had a thorough catering consultation with dozens of emails back and forth. The party was for a one year old baby and there would be no other children at the party, only around fifty adult guests. easy. After prepping the sandwiches and cupcakes for an entire day, i woke up very early on the morning of the party to assemble everything. As per usual i went through the "im not going to finish!!" crazy freak out, but of course everything was packaged two hours ahead of schedule (thank you husband sous chef). The party was a big hit. It was beautiful, the decorations were stunning for a Brazilian party and the baby was awfully adorable. The entire family was beautiful, and my food was very well received. It was a hit. So I relaxed and started photographing; the job that i'm used to.

That night H and I went out to dinner where i beamed over a steaming plate of ribs how i pulled off a big catering event, and how i took some pretty good photos with flash (i usually am terrible with flash). Overall, i was beyond happy. Then the next day happened.

My client emailed me early the next morning asking for the photographs. I thought it was a little funny, as in, oh it's cute, she has never hired a photographer before. I sent an apologetic email explaining how it wouldn't be possible to send her the photos right away, nor within the next few days. Professional photographers almost never deliver within the week because photo processing and editing requires a lot of work etc. She explained how she was so anxious to see the photos so i gave in and spent nearly the entire day monday selecting and editing photos for her. I had them uploaded by 5:30pm. Success?


Later that night i received an email from client telling me how much she loved the photos, how the lighting and style were exactly what she was hoping for. Then came the line---the line i have heard other photographers complain about and dread---the line that goes---- "can i have the rest of the photos now?" boom. Finally happened to me and i kicked myself at that moment for not having had "you will not receive all photos shot" signed in a contract. I explained, as professionally as i could that i do not give all shots to the client, that i select the best that are non repetitive. She wasn't having it. Long story short i received a series of very angry emails telling me how she expected (because it is common in Brazil) to receive all photos, because everyone has a different eye for things. At that moment i began to feel professionally insulted. To tell your hired photographer that you would like to view the raw images because you have a different "eye" is an insult to the artist. in any country. I then wrote an apologetic email explaining my reasons and that i would not change my policy. I told her i would go through the photos and send her more photos that i deemed acceptable. Which is a big concession i might add. So two days later i went through and edited another one hundred photos (mostly repeat scenes) and uploaded them. Job done. Closed. Bad experience over. Was happy I handled it well.


Late afternoon, middle of a cupcake shoot for another client, hands covered in buttercream--i receive a call. It's the client. What on earth could she possibly want now. What happened was the most disgusting, utterly rude and inappropriate interaction that i have ever had to go through in my professional life. My client called for no reason other than to lecture me. To lecture me literally by telling me how i "just got off the boat" and do not know how things are done in Brazil. How, while my photos were good, i did not deliver the amount she expected. How i didn't hand over all raw, unedited photos, how i took too many photos of the baby and didn't get candid photos of every guest drinking a beer and a shot of the front door. I'm not a mind reader. I was told that in Brazil, photographer are expected to hand over all photos for the client to take and get edited. I will tell you, after living here four years, working and conversing with other photographers this is a complete and utter lie. It is absurd to even think any photographer in any country would do this. I was beyond insulted. I was insulted as a photographer and as an immigrant. The treatment was that of a bourgeois speaking to their maid about a subject they clearly were completely oblivious to. It was disturbing behavior and honestly it shocked me. Who would treat someone they don't know in this manner? It was very puzzling and disappointing.

I listened to her ten minute lecture while saying very little. When she finished i told her that unfortunately i would still not change my policy and to have a nice day. I then hung up. Obviously it hit me. I was very upset. I was so proud of the event, so proud of the service. I couldn't wait to post all the photos here on the blog. But afterward the sour taste wouldn't leave my mouth. I decided not to post any pictures on the blog nor to even talk about it. I just wanted to move on with my next projects.

Now don't get me wrong, i'm not a photography saint. Not everyone has to be pleased with my work and I am not perfect. Yes I should have taken a photo of the door, yes more photos of guests drinking beer. but I didn't. and I can't go back in time. At that point the only thing to do is to apologize for disappointing them and move on. That's exactly what I did - I apologized and it should have ended there. but it didn't.

After speaking to three different Brazilian party photographers (born, raised and schooled in Brasil) i was reassured that this client was out of control and wrong and severely misrepresenting Brasil.  Looking back i feel a lot better, calmer and am actually quite happy with how i handled the situation in a professional manner even though i was insulted in every aspect possible. Talking with fellow photographers here, i know it is imperative to have the clause of not receiving all photos and of accepting what the photographer gives in the contract. My big error here was thinking that this party was a small, inexpensive event that wouldn't require the precautions as say a wedding shoot would require.

Lesson learned.

Moving on, we had a huge photo shoot last week with one of our favorite clients, Sophie & Theo's Cupcakes and are currently working on a big cocktail party two weeks out! Do you think we can manage over 700 individual cocktail appetizers? At the moment i have no idea...but we think we can. And what after? Already booked for a luncheon! So we had a bad experience, but it taught us a lot. And we are prepared for the next event. Hopefully you will stick around to hear about our next adventures!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bakery Shoot

So a week ago i shot photos for a bakery feature in an English travel website My Destination Sao Paulo. The bakery was beautiful--classic and quaint. I shot all of the sweeties on a table next to the front door with a curtain pulled around my back. I loved it. It was so nice getting back to on-site shooting for publications. Something i really missed (remember, no you don't, but pretend you remember when i worked for those magazines back in 2009). I felt alive again. And the hot chocolate you see in the photo---damn! it tasted like a s'more. I doubt any Paulistas read this blog, but if there are any of you out there, go get some of this hot chocolate.

Sorry to watermark the photos (i hate watermarking the photos) but they were shot for the travel website, not the bakery, so unfortunately i have to protect them. But you can still get the vibe of the photos.

You can see the rest of the photos and read the article about the bakery over at My Destination. And if you haven't yet (shame) visit my photography website already. Sheesh!