For years, photographer Todd Selby has been revealing a rarely-seen aspect of creative types from around the world--their homes. A staple for voyeuristic designophiles, his site The Selby casts an intimate eye on the abodes of notable people, capturing with precision their personality, aesthetic and ideals.
Subjects who’ve invited Selby into their place have included author Tom Wolfe, designer Phillipe Starck and his wife Jasmine, director Mike Mills, fashion designer Kate Spade and her husband Andy, and music impresario Pharrell Williams, all of whom have allowed their art collections, closets and curios to become the subject of Selby’s camera. More than just portraits or design spreads, his photos, which were compiled in a book in 2010, have been quite accurately described as the sociology of lifestyle.
Now Todd Selby has taken his people-revealed-through-space approach into the kitchen. Edible Selby is an exhilarating inside look into the kitchens, gardens, homes, restaurants, and worlds of innovative culinary creatives. In typical Selby style, the images, while totally sumptuous, are about much more than the food. They’re explorations of the artisans, their workspaces and their relationship to food.
Selby says he’s always been passionate about food. “I thought as a follow up to my creative people’s home book it would be interesting to switch the focus to creative people in the food world,” he says. Subjects were chosen not necessarily for their standing in the culinary world, instead “the people, the space and the food were all equal components. Plus a certain magic,” he says.
That magic often comes from the unexpected, the resourceful and experimental. There’s the authentic pizza and cheesemakers in Japan (Seirinkan and Yoshida Farm), San Francisco’s local fish and boar foragers (Sea Forager and Renaissance Forge) or a resto only accessible by boat or by climbing a fence (Sa Foradada). There’s the coffee devotee who roasts his own beans in a backyard over (Blue Bottle Coffee) and the Nordic Food Lab that incorporates raw materials like pine needles into its dishes. There’s the delectable, like Brooklyn’s Mast Brothers Chocolate or third generation baker Cake Man Raven. There’s the low-fi (Bethells Beach Café caravan or Rockaway Taco) and the gastronomical haute cuisine (Geranium, Next and Noma). And of course there’s the requisite rooftop gardens and bucolic vineyards to satisfy the hipster and vinophile alike.
SELBY’S SALAD PASTA
Do you like arugula? Do you like pasta? Make spaghetti. I like to make whole wheat. Right before the spaghetti is almost done fry up some chopped-up fresh tomatoes in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Throw into the tomatoes a giant handful of arugula for every person who is eating and let it wilt. As soon as its wilted mix it in with the al dente pasta and serve with grated parmesan.
The very first pages of Edible Selby are a treat. Rather than a bland listing of the 40 places included in the book, each restaurant is represented in the table of contents by a fetching little painting (some of which are included as fridge magnets). Alongside observational photos of chefs at work and the considered minutiae of their space sit Selby’s watercolor illustrations of his subjects. His hand-scrawled quotes and anecdotes from his conversations sit atop photos. And his trademark handwritten questionnaire--in which he asks his subjects to draw pictures, answer insightful questions and share recipes--add incredible energy to the book, complete with a rainbow of ink colors, scratched out words and pleasingly amateur sketches.
Says Selby, “I was trying to give the project a very intimate feeling. The combination of photographs, illustrations, hand done recipes and interviews combine to give it more of a diary or scrapbook type feeling.”
Designed by Mother Design, the book’s layout feels as effortless as Selby’s photos and takes its lead from his hand-drawn, down-to-earth aesthetic but adapts to the different personality that jumps from each set of photos.
“When designing the book, we wanted to maintain an overarching air of continuity, while still creating a distinct energy for each story,” says Michael Ian Kaye of Mother Design. “The design of every chapter reflects the unique character and approach of its featured foodie. For example, in the Rockaway Taco chapter, we used bright colors, rich textures, and a large variety of images to capture the influences the Mexican surf culture had on this Brooklyn establishment. In Captains of Industry, the spread is much cleaner, designed to reflect the company’s attention to detail. To give the questionnaires a more authentic feel, we placed them on pages that appeared to be torn from the same notebook and were laid over tablecloths specifically chosen to mirror the look and feel of each story.”
Part coffee table book, part travelogue, part cookbook, Edible Selby draws you in with the exquisite detail of its subjects’ spaces and the passion for their process and output. The book’s photos are likely to have you rethinking your own space (with heaps and heaps of envy, no doubt). Its pages are intended to inspire culinary experimentation with sort-of recipes as told by chefs (though Selby’s own disclaimer at the end blames you in case of disaster). And if cooking monkey-faced eel foraged off the shores of San Francisco is not your scene, at very least you’ll have some winsome magnets.