"It’s 768 pages, 12 pounds, it’s expensive, it’s obsessive, it matters — it challenges big ideas — it tells the truth — it’s a new vision for a new world in which quality in bookmaking and idea documentation still matters." So writes Jeff Scott, the photographer and creator of the Notes From A Kitchen book series, whose Volume Three was released last month. The limited-edition, massive tome sells for $125 in the United States and features behind-the-scenes, inside-the-minds looks at chefs Jordan Kahn, David Chang, Alex Stupak, Dominique Crenn and other inventive chefs. Zakary Pelaccio wrote the foreword. We recently caught up with Scott to hear about how listening is the most important part of his job.
What was the inspiration for starting the Notes From A Kitchen series?
I began this documentary series of books because there seemed to be no critical documents out there about who chefs are as people — as creative souls just trying to figure it all out. Not as the public may see them portrayed, but who they are on the inside, how they think, process ideas, what drives them to create a dish. This focus and perspective on chef’s daily humanity took me deeper into their private anxieties and dreams and also into their private notebooks, which are these truly beautiful and unique roadmaps to their subconscious — they’re a quiet look into their future, and also a way to decipher the codes to their behavior and thinking.
Describe the process of putting together Volume 3, part one, and how many parts do you envision?
Notes From A Kitchen is an ongoing series that has no end in sight. These books are an evolving encyclopedia about process and creativity, failure and success. These books are documents of life and experience that change through active listening and the recording of critical moments. My technique is one of almost complete quietness and arriving to the subject with absolutely no prejudgment of what might be captured. The process involves spending days or sometimes weeks with the subject and then just living life with them, hanging out eating, drinking and talking, recording them in the kitchen, at their homes or going out into the woods or ocean or out onto a private location that is special to them. Often it’s just driving through a beautiful region and simply talking together about what we do, then always recording this revelatory process.
What's the ultimate goal?
The goal is to record both time and evolving process and to really actively listen. Listening is the single most critical thing, either with my camera or my recorder, but usually by allowing people to say what’s really on their mind, without any filter. By not interrupting the ideas and pure thoughts of these chefs and foragers, I’m allowing the audience to tap into their natural rhythms, to feel and experience their personal obsessions and dreams and to learn from a flow of rather private ideas and unguarded moments being captured. I later re-assemble these ideas, images and words as documentary time captures, or pieces of time to place into a whole ( the book ), by using cinematic graphic design to create kinetic film sequences, allowing the reader-viewer to further experience a thrilling you are there emotional and revealing moment.
Where can people get a copy?
Signed copies of the Limited Edition Notes From A Kitchen Collection are available for $125 (including shipping in the U.S.; shipping is extra to Canada and overseas) at notesfromakitchen.com, and at Kitchen Arts and Letters in NYC.
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