Christine Han is telling us about the two best ways to light food (front or side). There’s a shot of single-serving macaroni and cheese in red pots glowing cheesy gold with just the right amount of disrupting crust. It looks delicious. Then there’s another shot, one with more of a story, with bites taken out, and now we feel envy and hunger.
Ms. Han is a food, lifestyle and wedding photographer, but two years ago she was an academic advisor at Parsons. She’s teaching a workshop on food photography as part of Offsite’s recent food hacking themed adult summer camp.
Offsite is a multi-disciplinary weekend of creative workshops and activities that beckons city-slickers out of their normal habitat to an idyllic location hours outside of New York City. The brainchild of Margaret Raimondi, a veteran of MoMA’s public programming, and Ari Joseph, a creative community builder, this July’s activities took place on Clawhammer Farm. Owned by Becky Mumaw and Nick Westervelt, the story of Clawhammer Farm reinforces the ideals of many of the weekend’s participants: four years ago Mumaw and Westervelt were urban New Yorkers trying to reconcile adult plans with a poor economy. They went with Plan C, leaving everything familiar and buying a farm.
Food hacking (big question mark)? As the current Education Coordinator at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education, I work directly with the chef-instructors. Prior to this event I didn’t even realize that there is a burgeoning food hacking movement. I couldn’t wait to see what this meant.
On the second day at Clawhammer, I helped butcher a pig (guided by Farmer Nick who initially learned from Youtube), made plans for a tree house (taught by Eric Lind, a New Orleans-based furniture maker and small house enthusiast), and drank some pretty tasty moonshine (from a workshop taught by the Hackett, an activist-hacker, and Brownen Densmore, a librarian).
There’s a lack of rhetoric in the workshop-classes. We were learning from people who speak plainly about something they’ve learned because it was a hobby, obsession, passion, interest, curiosity or any combination of the preceding. And it was fun. The approach is in contrast to the refinement of what is part of my daily life as someone who works at a culinary institute. There are no chef jackets, kitchen hierarchies—there’s no wrong or right way to hold a knife. This is learning from the gut, more intuition than institution, and gleefully past stylized and set learning designations. You’re not learning from field experts, but you’re getting a learning environment that supports curiosity. And you get to take home the cheese you make.
The only requirement to attend is detailed on the site: No Experience Necessary. Among my fellow camp dwellers are a former Page 6 gossip columnist, a writer/strategist from IDEO and a program director from Friends of the Highline. The experience wasn’t always neat, but it matched our temporary lifestyle of clammy tent sleep, few, if any, showers, and breathing in the fresh country air perfumed with livestock, manure and the occasional slaughter.
The next Offsite will take place this October. Sign-up for updates and information at takeitoffsite.com .