Photography: Nino Franco Photo Contest

... and the winner is ...

Photography: Heather Gill

A Chef, A Photographer. A Storyteller.

Comfort Food Contest Winner

A Comforting Italian Trifle

Photography: Stuart Ovenden

"It's all about the details!"

Welcome Back Bord Bia - Irish Food Bord

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Welcome to From Plate to Page

Are you:

  • a food blogger who has been blogging for a while and feels stuck in a creative rut?

  • happy with your writing but feel your photography needs work - or vice versa?

  • tired of attending traditional format conferences where you are one of dozens of bloggers simply listening and taking notes ?

If so, then From Plate to Page is what you need!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Reinventing Myself as a Food Writer - Domenica Marchetti

Domenica Marchetti is the author of four books on Italian cooking: The Glorious Pasta of Italy, The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy, Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, and Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style. Her recipes and articles on Italian home cooking have been widely published, including in The Washington Post, Food and Wine, Fine Cooking, and online at Leite’s Culinaria, Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn, NPR’s Kitchen Window, and Domenica is a graduate of Skidmore College and Columbia University School of Journalism and a former newspaper reporter. She was born in New York and raised in New Jersey. Growing up, she spent her summers in Abruzzo, Italy, where her mother is from, and traveling around the Italian peninsula. She returns to Italy often for research and fresh inspiration. Visit her website at, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Glorious Pasta_Maccheroni Alla Mulinara

I never imagined I would write a cookbook, let alone four (with a fifth in the works). I am a newspaper reporter by profession, and after earning my graduate degree in journalism at Columbia University I worked at several newspapers, in New Jersey, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. This was before food writing was considered a serious pursuit (except if you were a restaurant critic)—before Michael Pollan’s books, before food policy was routinely front-page news, and certainly before food blogging exploded onto the scene. So I wrote about everything but food, it seems, from school board elections to bizarre suburban murders. I had a stint as a health and fitness writer in which I wrote tangentially about food by writing about nutrition. For a few years I was a senior writer at a biweekly newspaper called The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in which I wrote about the nonprofit world and profiled wealthy philanthropists.

I loved my work, but when I got home at the end of the day I always found myself flipping through cookbooks and playing around at the stove. Over the years, collecting cookbooks had quietly turned into an obsession and my collection had grown from a few during my college days into dozens, and then dozens more.

That I was so food-focused is no surprise. I grew up in an Italian family, and good food was as important as, say, a good education. My mom was born and raised in Chieti, in Italy’s beautiful, rugged Abruzzo region. My dad was born in the U.S. but both his parents were from small towns south of Rome. My mother had my sister and me shaping ravioli and cappelletti and other whimsical pasta shapes by the time we could see over the kitchen counter. We spent our summers in Rome and on the Adriatic coast of Abruzzo. My dad was a master at planning trips all around the Italian peninsula—and these trips always centered around finding great food and great wine. I still remember the first time I had ribollita in the Tuscan countryside, the first time I tasted inky-black cuttlefish noodles in Venice, the first time I ate handmade orecchiette in Puglia. These memories have stayed with me throughout the decades.

In 2001, when my kids were young, I left my fulltime job so I could be home for them. It was then that I decided, somewhat spontaneously and irrationally, to reinvent myself as a food writer. I had connections at various newspapers, friends and editors who knew my work, and so I pitched stories to them and began to get published. In 2004, after attending the inspiring Food Writers’ Symposium at the Greenbrier, I wrote my first cookbook proposal, for The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy. To my amazement (and delight), it was picked up by Chronicle Books, whose editor I had met at the symposium.

Writing cookbooks is my dream job, because it combines my love for research and writing with my love for Italian food, culture, and cooking. My biggest challenge as a writer of Italian cookbooks is finding something new and relevant to say about a subject that has already been extensively explored and written about. Think about it—people have been traveling to and writing about Italy for centuries: historians, artists, poets, archeologists, and of course, food lovers. When my publisher asked me to write a proposal for a book about pasta I was skeptical. Lord knows there’s been a lot written on that subject! But that’s the miraculous thing about Italy. This small peninsula has been trod upon by so many millions of people who have wound their way through the hilltop towns and ancient cities and up and down the coasts, and yet, there are still discoveries to be made, secrets and treasures to be unearthed.

Glorious Pasta COV

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: In 2009, when I was researching The Glorious Pasta of Italy, I returned to my mother’s native region of Abruzzo, and ended up in a small valley in a part of the region that I had not been to before. I was befriended by a gentleman who is something of a food authority in the area. He introduced me to an extraordinary pasta called macccheroni alla molinara, named for the wives of the flour millers who once populated in the valley. It’s a long, fat noodle that is hand-stretched and rolled into a loop that is 3 meters or more end-to-end. The stretched noodle is wrapped into a coil, cooked in a big pot of boiling water, and then dressed with meat sauce. My new friend took my family to a restaurant that specializes in this dish, and the chef kindly gave my daughter and me an impromptu lesson on how to make it. Incredibly, the original recipe dates back to the 13th Century and was a special dish prepared for royalty. In all my years of spending my summers in Abruzzo, I had never come across this kind of pasta before. It was eye opening, and inspiring.

I find that in writing my cookbooks I use my reporting skills every bit as much as I did when I was working at newspapers. It’s important to remember that the best food writing comes not from sitting in front of your computer screen waiting for inspiration to strike, but by getting out there, by talking to people, by observing them in the kitchen, by letting them tell their stories.

In fact, I believe this is one reason why my books have found an audience. There are other Italian cookbook authors who have bigger name recognition than I do. So I have had to find a niche in a crowded market. I think I’ve managed to do it because my books are personal. I tell stories in my head notes (the text that accompanies each recipe). I want people to know why I am including a particular recipe in one of my books. Take that extraordinary noodle, maccheroni alla molinara. Think about how much a reader or a cook would be missing if he or she did not know the story behind that recipe. I love knowing a recipe’s back-story, and I know many others do as well.

domenica (1)

The world of cookbook writing and publishing has changed, even in the last six years since my first book was released. Publishers are making less money; there is a lot of competition and there are fewer deals to be had. Authors have to work harder than ever to publicize their work and to stand out in a crowded field. The changes are coming fast and there is a lot of uncertainty in the business. I keep hearing and reading about the “demise” of the print cookbook in the face of apps and iPads and e-books. At the same time, it seems to me more people than ever are seeking— and getting—those coveted book deals. Some people grumble that there are too many cookbooks, and indeed, now more than ever, anyone who wants to can self-publish a cookbook. But in my opinion, there is always room for a new voice, a fresh perspective, whether it’s in a book or on a blog. I know this sounds na├»ve, but if you have genuine passion for your subject, it will shine through.

Something I’ve learned: Writing cookbooks is NOT a good way to get rich, but it has made my life richer.

Photo credits:

Author photo is by Olga Berman
Book cover is by France Ruffenach
Maccheroni alla Molinara is by France Ruffenach

Domenica Marchetti:

Now in bookstores: The Glorious Pasta of Italy. Author of The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy, and Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style, named one of the 25 best cookbooks of the year by the editors of Food and Wine.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Revolution in Food Photography by Alessandro Guerani of Foodografia

Milan-born food photographer Alessandro Guerani describes himself as a photographer who also loves cooking. He confesses that although he is "very precise and punctilious" on a photo set, he balances this out by being "terribly messy with pots and ladles" in the kitchen.  Here, he talks to us about the quiet revolution in food photography that he has witnessed over the past few years. 

Up until very recently, food photography was a branch, and not one of great importance, of the still life genre. The images had mostly a "technical" or a "documentary" approach, but nonetheless the overall style was very realistic without many trills and frills. The food image was created strictly to provide in a straightforward way the result of a published recipe or the appearance of the advertised product.

Only in the last few years, food photography has been raised to its own specialized branch of imagery. This happened because food in the mind of the audience has shifted from a mere means of nourishment to something that provides inner satisfaction, emotions and also social status. Food photographers began applying the various techniques used for years by fashion photographers to create and provide images that inspire these concepts in the audience.

If you examine a good quality, modern, food image you should notice how its setting, lighting and composition became of paramount importance in conveying emotions to the viewer. It's not that realism or supply of information about the subject are no longer important, it's rather that they aren't considered sufficient nowadays for a food image to fulfil its scope.

Beauty is as essential as information today. There has been a revolution in food photography and as with every revolution this brought about a complete upheaval within the food photography style, with Australia leading the race. A complete change of the working methods and the rise of the importance of prop styling has added a completely new approach to food styling.

The end result is that the modern food image sells a lifestyle, not just a recipe or a product. We food photographers are compelled to produce imagery that "stands out" in a communication world that is every day  more and more visually based and driven (Pinterest anyone?). Technical prowess is no longer enough.Specialization is now the key, as is having a good team with whom to work. Be very open to genre contamination and acquire a good knowledge of other visual arts. 

Blog: Foodografia

All photography copyright Alessandro Guerani 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Eating & Drinking in Tuscany - a peek inside a Plate to Page assignment

As we mentioned in our earlier post, we want to share with you some of the extraordinary work that our participants produce during the 2.5 days we are together for our workshops. Remember that our participants arrive at Plate to Page as total strangers from all over the world and from the very first afternoon they are thrown together to share living quarters, cooking duties and workshop assignments.  We feel that this is one of the most positive aspects of Plate to Page - the emphasis on collaborative learning and the wonderful synergy that can be produced when creative people from different backgrounds work together.  Rather than turning out little clones of the instructors, we hope that Plate to Page workshops produce alumni that have learnt not only from the instructors but also from working closely together with fellow-participants on assignments, and leave the weekend with a stronger idea of their own visual and written voice.  

Today we share a piece from Olivia Vasallo and Alexandra Asnaghi, two fabulously feisty Mediterranean ladies who attended  our Tuscany 2011 Workshop. The assignment was to write and photograph for an article titled "Eating in Tuscany" in the style of a high-end foodie magazine such as Saveur. They had to consider not only how the images would illustrate the article, but also the potential space for placement of text on the photos;  the tone of the magazine; and its target audience.  In doing so, they practically applied all that they had learnt about both writing and photography over the course of the weekend. 

We think they did a fantastic job - have a look and see what you think! 

If you are planning to visit Tuscany wait for Autumn: it’s time for chestnuts, porcini, truffles, freshly pressed olive oil and vino novello.

What fascinates me most about Tuscan food is its simplicity. Ingredients are picked directly from the earth and transformed, by the plump hands of Tuscan women, into dishes typical of this area. Whether its pasta, meat, or desserts Tuscan citizens have their secret recipe to produce simple and flavour some specialities!

Pici is an artisan type of pasta, characteristic of Tuscany. This is produced with a mixture of flour, water and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and worked into long pencil like strips of dough. Pici are generally served with a garlicky tomato sauce known as ‘sugo all’aglione’, but they surely also go well with wild boar or pheasant sauce.

October is chestnut season in Tuscany. Locals organise sagre to celebrate and pay tribute to the chestnut, this brown, oddly shaped, hard-skinned nut which is profusely used in the Tuscan kitchen. Chestnuts are also crushed into flour and in fact if you are in Tuscany insist to taste the castagnaccio - a cake made from chestnut flour, sweetened by raisins, enriched by pine nuts and spiced with needles of rosemary sprigs.

And then to liven your spirits don’t forget to enjoy a glass of vino novello! You can drink this wine young - however no research has proved that it will keep you so!

Does this sound like the kind of weekend course that your writing and photography skills would  benefit from?  Next Plate to Page workshop is taking place in May 2013 in Dublin, Ireland.