I asked Dana about her inspiration for this project, and how she pulled all the elements together. This is what she had to say:
"My inspiration for the menu came from Frida Kahlo's life and work. I decided to take the opportunity to watch the movie Frida (2002) again and found that the art, animation and colour in the film were amazing. The colourful culture and food of Mexico that Chef Jose and Steve have brought into Frida Restaurant, as well as one of the plates we sourced for the photography (shown in the guacamole shot) were also places I drew my inspiration from. Reena and I worked closely to style the images so that they would showcase the family-style nature of the items on the menu. I love Reena's 'deconstructed' way of styling food and wanted to feature one of these on the cover of the menu. The 'before and after' taco shot just makes you feel like running in and grabbing that last one before someone else does! The way she lights everything to create a really intimate, comforting, homey feel inspired the idea to shoot everything from above. That way the images would have the feeling of being laid out on a table, passed around and enjoyed. We wanted to create a menu that really communicated that this is restaurant quality food made with fresh ingredients, the same as you'd enjoy during a night out at Frida Restaurant."
Creatively, the biggest challenge I faced with this job was shooting a take-out menu for a fine-dining restaurant, without making it feel like an entirely different place. The most important elements we used to tie the two faces of Frida together, were colour and plating. We started with colour, which, for me, is essential in setting a tone and conveying mood through photography. We paired Frida's existing colour palette of vibrant oranges and punchy blues with a casual wood surface and mismatched dishware, creating images that felt warm, friendly and inviting without straying too far from the restaurant's fine-dining roots. Most importantly, we wanted the food plated in a more rustic manner but didn't want to lose Chef Jose's artful touch.
As with most of my photography, I'm always itching to tell a story, no matter how simple it may be. I wanted these photographs to draw people in and make them feel like they could pull up a chair and be a part of the meal. For me, when food tells a story, it instantly becomes more inviting and more appetizing. The more inviting a photograph can be, the more people will want to be a part of what you have created. In this case... the more people that want to pull up a chair to these tables, the more take-out orders for Frida, right?
When I asked Dana what her favorite part of the project was she simply said "drawing the sketch of Frida for the cover...and eating the food at the shoot."
Thanks to Steve and Jose for trusting in our vision of your food and for letting us tell your take-out story.