Engage your senses
We definitely had inspiration for today’s flank steak recipe! Last week, Nelson and I were lucky enough to get to meet someone we’ve both followed, and admired, for quite some time. Dennis Prescott is a rockstar, turned cook, food photographer, and cook book author.
We gained insight and inspiration from him on a Thursday evening at a free presentation hosted by Canon, at the Canon Creator Lab in Toronto. Dennis spoke about the journey that took him from behind a guitar to behind a camera; creating images that evoke emotions, and truly make your mouth water.
And he’s not just about beautiful photography, as we discovered three days later, at part 2 of Canon Creator Lab‘s presentation with Dennis.
On the Sunday, he cooked up a couple of dishes while he told stories, talked about how he composes and shoots his images, and answered questions from the overflowing crowd of people who squeezed themselves into Dish Studio, in Toronto.
All my senses were engaged during this live event. The aroma from the kitchen, the sound of food cooking over the flames, the colours in the salad, the textures in everything, and the taste… oh the taste!
We learned a lot from the few hours we were fortunate to spend listening to Dennis and being in a room of creative people. Here are our combined key take-aways:
- Food nourishes our body and soul, and brings people together. And, like Dennis, I know Nelson also feels a pure and sincere joy in bringing people to the table to share a meal and conversation.
- Great food photography needs three things: a story, a hero, and the human element.
- To create great photos that connect with people is to tell them a story. What story are you telling? Whatever your story is, that’s how you need to setup your shot.
- Then you need a hero – the element you want your viewer’s eyes to go to.
- And then the human element – or the drip effect as he calls it. That’s the thing we can all relate to, like the melting ice cream running down a cone. People can relate to the emotion of holding an ice cream cone on a hot summer day–licking the side of a cone just before the drip reaches their hand.
- You need to shoot for you — and not for the internet. Dennis encouraged the group to shoot often. Shoot everything, and challenge yourself to shoot in different light.
- And he told us about his streams of consciousness writing practice. He says to write everyday, about anything. Most is garbage but there’ll be a nugget in there.
Align yourself with a group of creatives”
What probably stuck with me the most was what he said about who you should surround yourself with. He said something along the lines of aligning yourself with a group of creatives that inspire you and push you forward.
People who encourage you–walk with you through the valley–help you up the mountain–and celebrate your successes. And I think it goes without saying that we must be that same person for others.
Fear is a liar
As with anything creative, sometimes it’s easy to feel stuck. You feel like your work is just not getting better, and doubt yourself on so many levels. You may even fear rejection and failure and feel like you’re not good enough.
Look, not every meal Nelson makes will be his best or favourite. Not every image I create will be my best or favourite. That’s okay. We have to loose the fear of trying something and failing, because as Dennis said, he’s overcome nothing without failure. As long as we do that, we’ll continue learning and improving ourselves, and discovering new strengths or interests that we wouldn’t know if we never tried.
If you ever feel stuck or doubt yourself, do what Dennis recommended, look back at an older version of that thing (a photo, a meal, a song you performed, a whatever)… look at it next to the newer version and find all the wonderful ways you’ve improved.
Because it’s pretty certain that if you’ve been working really hard at it (because it doesn’t happen without effort), you’ll realize that you’ve improved, that you are moving up that mountain.
Such helpful advice. I did that…and, what’s the saying, “you’ve come a long way, baby”. Yes, sometimes I’m not in love with an image I create… but yes, there’s definitely improvement and growth in my own work.
So remember what I said about continuing to learn, and how you might discover new strengths or interests? Well the pictures attached to today’s recipe were taken by Nelson.
Nelson does a fair bit of photography in his day job. Composing the meals he cooks, telling a story, and shooting food, has never been his interest or forte. But he was inspired by Dennis’ presentation and demo, and he listened to everything he said about setting up the shot to tell the story. Nelson wanted to apply what he learned, and not copy Dennis, but tell his own story. And look what he created.
You be you and tell your own story… and eat flank steak 😃
Nelson’s image is beautiful to me! It’s mouthwatering. It draws me to the hero – the flank steak – but keeps me on the image, exploring all the elements and attaching myself to the story.
To me, it evokes a happy feeling of being around a big table with friends, and we’re sharing food and building our own tacos or something like that. I hear laughter and feel the juices from my taco dripping down my hand. I feel the texture of all the elements. It’s a perfect evening.
Finding our own style
I’m so proud of Nelson because he’s trying new things (food photography) and applying what he learned while putting his own style and personality into it. Remember, it’s not about trying to do what someone else is doing. Yes, we love the dennistheprescott images because they’re awesome, but we don’t want to create images that look just like his. He’s already doing that…it’s his own thing…and it’s right for him. Nobody should try to be what someone else already is or do what someone is already doing; instead, we should learn from successful and creative people around us, but find our own style and tell our own story.
What story are you trying to tell? What are you working on? Whatever you do, keep at it. Hustle! As Dennis said, “The hustle never ends. The hustle changes.” Keep on growing, and keep on eating well, friends.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2.4 lbs or 1.1 kg beef flank steak
- 1 tsp kosher salt not for the marinade
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper not for the marinade
In a bowl, whisk together all but the last 3 ingredients.
Place the flank steak in large deep dish.
Pour in the marinade over the flank steak to cover the meat.
Cover the dish with shrink wrap and refrigerate for a day (see note below).
Preheat the BBQ to 450 ºF
Remove the meat from the marinate and discard the marinade.
Let the meat sit for about 20 minutes to raise the temperature.
Sprinkle the remaining salt and black pepper over the flank steak.
Place the meat on the hot grill and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes with the lid closed.
Open the lid and rotate the meat about 45 degrees and close the lid for another 3 minutes. This will create those beautiful crosshatch grill marks.
Flip the meat over and repeat the last two steps.
Adjust cooking times to suit your doneness preferences. We aimed for around 140 ºF, somewhere between medium rare and medium. Use a meat thermometer to test the temperature.
Place the cooked meat on a serving dish and cover/tent with aluminum foil to let the meat rest for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Slice the meat and serve hot with your favourite side dishes. Enjoy!
You can marinate the meat for as little as 4 hours or as much as a day.