Pressed Fresh Daily

Great news.  Prospect is up and running, and officially, doors open tomorrow, for all the public.  The PR campaign has been hot and heavy, and I am lucky enough to have a photo grace the front page of the Daily Candy San Francisco.

Check out the quick article if you like.

The bar at Prospect greets the patrons as they enter. The space is clean and modern, as is the food and drink.

The Correlation of Personality Characteristics and Pastry Chefs

For my university “senior project” (which in essence turned into a Master’s length thesis), I created a survey to sample the “Personality Characteristics of Marathon Runners.”  As the title implies, I wanted to see if there was any correlation between runners and their personalities.  For example, did someone who ran more than 5 marathons a year fit a certain profile, say, an introvert with an average age of 38?

Elise Fineberg - Prospect's Pastry Chef

Turns out, (for my study anyway) that I didn’t find any correlation between introverts and extroverts versus their running distances, races, etc…  This could have been based solely from my findings, or it could have been that I called my professor from Mexico on a pay-phone (after sailing down solo) from the old section of Puerta Vallarta to see if I had enough credit to pass, even though I wasn’t completely finished.  He said C, I took it for Sí, and that was that.

A decade later A few years hence, I found myself with another personality question. What is the average disposition of a chef? With the quiet seriousness that’s floating around Prospect right now, you might think they’re all biz and no fun. I tell you, it’s contagious. Walk into the kitchen, and the conversation and laughter that were bubbling out of your mouth quickly become muffled.  You don’t even have to look up before you round the corner to know it’s game time.  I was sort of walking around on egg shells for the past few days, trying not to disturb anything.

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Dinner First, Then Dessert

I know it sounds crazy, but when I entered Prospect a few days ago, it was almost surreal that meals were cooking on the plancha, bread crumbs were toasting in the oven, and ice cream was stirring with the freshest ingredients.  I was a pretty happy camper.  Reason A:  I would get to photograph the food in a few days.  B:  I would get to eat that food in a few days.

And since the test meals have been prepared, photographed, and eaten, here’s a sampling of what’s to come…

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Guest Blogging

Whew, it’s been a hurricane of activity around here!  Orders, shoots, and new clients are just filling up the time, but I have been writing too, just not for myself.  I recently posted a little comment on a Grub Street article and interview with the team at Prospect, and was asked by LiveSoma blogger Jeremy to add a little bit of inside knowledge for the local community.  So take a look and enjoy.  Also, I love the title, but sadly, did not come up with it on my own.

See you down the road.


Flames, Eco-Matting, and Sexy Scaffolding Surfers

Yes, it’s been a long time – I am in Spain – and like all good Spaniards, things always seem to get done tomorrow.  I am about to return state-side, but wanted to post a virgin attempt of a little stop motion project for Prospect.

I posted this video on Vimeo. Just over a thousand frames.  People, torches, and eco-matting – all good stuff.

Take a look and enjoy.

See you in a few…down the road.


Made in America – Forging Ahead – Part 2

It’s all about the rivet.  It takes a beating,  holds structures together, and stands up to enormous amounts of tension.

Holding Strong.

As lovely as the metal is that has been pounded and formed via Augustine and Nick’s skilled craftsmanship, it’s nothing without the rivet.  And I think one of the coolest facts about the guys and their approach to making these chandeliers has been the use of traditional techniques.

Nick adjusts the cutting blade as he makes the raw rivets.

Oil keeps the metal and saw blade from overheating and seizing up.

Obviously modern tools are used for many steps, but much of the hard work is still finished via ‘big old hammer’ and lots of muscle.

Starting out, Nick cut down a bunch of pieces of steel slugs that would become our rivets.  Using the metal saw, a light touch and five minutes later, we had our first round of soldiers.

A few last-minute measurements.

Augustine took a few last-minute measurements to verify all the holes lined up, and then he took over the frame to be drilled.  When metal meets metal, an enormous amount of friction is created, and the surfaces get very very hot. To prevent overheating, you need to cool the surfaces somehow.  Water isn’t good enough to cool the metal, nor is it a material you want to inject into raw metal either.  Thus, a combination of a few oils are used.

Drill baby drill. You can see the steam coming from the drill. The bottle is the oil.

Water + Metal = Rust. So an oil is used to lubricate and insulate from that poison of poisons, O2.

Firing up the torch.

Once the holes were drilled, we were ready to pound out the first set.  Firing up the torch, Augustine would heat the rivet up to the point where it became red-hot and malleable.  A quick, “Ready?” was shouted, Nick answered, Augustine backed away, and Nick began the pound down with his hammer.

Ready? Hammer away!

The hammer strikes don’t just land perfectly over the rivet head – nor do you want them to.  To make the rivet, you have to upset the head and flare it out so it will hold.  The same thing goes for the tail as well.

A good strike captured. You can see the red-hot slag falling to the floor.

As the rivet is beat, the metal inside the bored hole will expand, and thus, hold it in place.  So as you can see in some of the photos, the hammer comes down at different angles to produce this effect.

Augustine, working on a rivet.

Pretty amazing.  Rivets have been around since the bronze age, and they are still used today to hold together items from buildings to the airplanes that make travel so convenient for you and I.

I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by on this project.  The chandeliers are approaching completion, as is Prospect.  Summer is almost here, and I tell you, I can’t wait to get a few bites when the doors open.

Next up are the finishing touches.  A screen will wrap the perimeter of the chandelier, radiating a nice, soft, warm light once it’s all said and done.

See you down the road.


Portraits – Prospect At a Glance

Deciding to go play with my new Alien Bees strobes, I stopped by Prospect for a portrait session.  When I walk in with a few bags no one seems to take notice. The minute I get out a 5 foot soft-box that stands 9 feet in the air, everyone is interested in what’s going on.  Comments such as, “Whoa, shootin’ a commercial or something,” or “You ain’t gonna photograph me with that thing,” or just plain old, “Damn,” spill out of the guys’ mouths.  I tell them it just looks fancy, but I don’t really know what I am doing – I only brought them to make me look more professional 😉

I had a location all dialed in.  I spotted a cluster of work bins with a clear area. It was gritty and raw.  Chains hung over the metal, scrap lay about the floor, and exposed concrete dotted the background.   I returned to my gear, and heaving my bag on my shoulder, I started to walk to my spot, mulling over ideas in my head.  But in that time, a crew had moved into place, and started working in the very spot I had wanted to photograph.  Quickly realizing these guys are not going to move for a photo session, there’s only one thing to do: Deal with it and move on.

Standing tall at 6 feet 8 inches, Kevin sees it all and doesn't take lip from anyone.

Back near the entrance, the only other spot that seemed worthwhile stood by the front door.  The background was high quality plywood that had a nice grain, and I thought it would handle the lights relatively well.  Not a lot of glass for flare or reflection, and it would give a nice warm quality to contrast most of the other images I have, which are quite hard and gritty.

Firing off a few test shots, I was up and running pretty quickly.  First on the chopping block was Kevin.  He’s the head guy on the floor.  I will venture to say his official title is superintendent, but I could be wrong.  Chatting with him during the shoot, I learned that he surfs, and we instantly had a little talk about breaks, boards, and good sessions of days gone by.

He’s got a son who’s beginning his first year at Cal Poly SLO, my alma mater (ipso facto e pluribus unum…)  Heading in as an architecture major, he’s got his work cut out for him, but it sounds like he’s ahead of the curve.  Having CAD on his computer at home, he plays with it and will be ahead of most of the incoming students, and possibly some of the outgoing as well.  Jeez…I feel dumb.

Tommy Knows Construction.

Next up was Tommy.  He has been a fixture at Prospect with his sense of humor and hard work.  Something of a camera buff himself, I got a few questions on light, aperture, and other technical issues.  He proved an excellent subject, and was willing to try a few ideas.  Thanks Tommy!

Michael, aka Mark Twain, chewed on his stogies while laying down the eco-mat. All around nice guy.

As I walked through the building, I looked over and knew this guy was my next victim.  The Mark Twain of Eco-Mat, Michael had the mustache and cigar to complete the package.  I asked him quickly if I could take a few images of him, and then he could get back to it.  No more than 2 minutes.  I think I took a total of 7 shots and that was it.  Got a great look from him.

Taping drywall isn't easy at all - even though Marin makes it look silky smooth.

Marin is helping with the drywall, and although he was a bit hesitant at first, a few jokes from me and his cohorts allowed him to open up a bit.  Lucky guy is getting married soon, and I am sure the food and festivities will be amazing, as it’s going to be a double wedding with his cousin!  Never heard of that before, but hey, two parties into one?  Sounds amazing.

I know it's been a rough day, but don't do it man!

And finally Ravi.  What can I say that hasn’t been said.  Chef extraordinaire, business partner, construction foreman… the list goes on and on.  That being said, when he picked up the hammer, I wasn’t sure if he was wielding it as a tool or weapon?!  If a weapon, I think he was looking for some self-inflicted pain.

Food Rock Star - he'll never tell you that - but taste his food and you'll understand.

More to come!

See you down the road.


The Cowboy and Concrete

There’s a sticker on the big metal carts that the tradesmen bring to house their tools while at the job site.  It reads, “Honor Labor.”  Hell yeah.  For some reason, I feel like the American Dream has been a little tainted this last decade.

The trucks arrived with a vengeance, and soon after they were pouring.

We’ve gotten to where people don’t want to put in the hard work it takes to accomplish a difficult goal.  We want our desert, and we want it now.  Here, take this pill to magically get rid of your fat while you sit watching the latest celebrity fall from grace from cocaine or an extra-marital affair. (Now that’s livin!)

But when a line of trucks appeared, cresting over the hill and rumbling their way down Folsom towards Prospect, I knew I was in for another day of good old fashion labor.  Why concrete, and why so late in the game?  The original floor plan that was cast needed an augmentation or sorts.  The kitchen floor was recessed from the rest of the restaurant, and it required a lift for many reasons.

I really had to watch where I stepped. It was easy to get tangled in the wire re-bar.

As soon as the trucks parked, bam, the guys jumped out and prepared the piping to run the concrete inside.  Tools such as floats, 2×4’s, wrenches, and shovels made their way in as well.  As the truck’s cylindrical mixer rotated slowly, the sloshing aggregated material waited to become part of something more than itself.

Let her go!

The signal was given to release the concrete, and after a little “tickling” of the pipe, the stuff poured forth.  Out came the newest, viscous, and very permanent addition of Prospect.  Watching these guys do their thing proved pretty amazing.  When you dump three trucks of concrete onto a floor, you better have your plan already formulated.

Once it starts flowing, you better be ready!

Out of all the people to photograph, one stood out – The Cowboy.  He also happened to be the lead man, and a little surly as well.  I suppose you have to be when leading a team.  He barked orders, but he stood in the thick of it too, literally.

The Cowboy, doin' his thing.

Standing tall.

Watching these guys baby a material that looks lumpy and stiff, into something buttery smooth and level – in less than a few hours – was pretty amazing.  And as they finished up, a little stiff themselves, sweat and exhaustion coating their faces, they looked back at their work and smiled.

Smoothing it out to some buttery goodness.

Honor Labor

See you down the road.


Seaport Stainless

Ahh, ever since my days on the sailboat, I have had a love affair with stainless steel.  I know you are just shaking your head at me, wondering what the hell I am talking about, so let me explain.  Stainless Steel = Amazing.  Understood?

From left to right, Ryan, Ravi, and Ray discuss logistics and answer any final questions.

When something is exposed to the salty elements of the ocean, wind, sun, and waves day after day, year after year, and ceases to rust, well, to put it lightly, “You had me a hello.”  Thus, I (and you as well!) can appreciate the craftsmanship, knowledge, and specialty of Seaport Stainless, builders of shimmering, custom-made, kitchen equipment for the food service industry.  Translation:  They are outfitting Prospect’s kitchen with any and everything stainless.  Which is a ton of stuff.

Father and Son, standing in front an expensive "toy."

These guys do it all.  And when I say guys, I mean father and son team Ray and Ryan Doving.  Ray started the business, and completed their first major job in 1977.  Like any son, Ryan went off to experience his own life for a while.  After graduating from UCSD with a degree in Computer Science and working three years as a software engineer, he eventually migrated back towards the shop (where I am sure he spent his earlier years welding things he wasn’t supposed to, or taking the dogs on long walks).  Now he actually gets things done, as he is the lead CAD guy, manning the brains of their new $600,000 Bystronic CNC laser cutter.  Gulp.  600K.  That’s a lot of dough.  But hey, you gotta keep growing to stay ahead of the curve.  And ahead they are.

"Oh, what's that? You need an inch of solid steel cut by noon? No problem."

"Fine cuts aren't a problem either."

Ryan and Ray were kind enough to lead us around the premises, and show off all the cool toys and some of the current work.  Walking onto the shop floor, the first thing I noticed was how clean everything was for an industrial trade.  Panning left and right there were kitchen hoods and countertops in varying stages of completion.  It seemed as though everything had a “Prospect” written on it somewhere – including half the finished pieces in the warehouse.  We all migrated toward one piece, and Ravi asked questions about functionality, refrigeration specifics, and requested some minor alterations.  Smiling like a giddy kid on Christmas morning, his stoke is palpable.  It’s been great to watch him bounce with more energy now that the restaurant is really coming together.  I can tell you, all he really wants to do is get back in the kitchen and make amazing food.

A few more questions about the goods.

Hang on Ravi, your kitchen is almost there! These are actually photos of Seaport's first big finished job in 1977.

Heading around for a loop and back over to the laser cutter, we got a peek into the guts of this machine to watch it in action.  Under the hood of this thing is like looking into the future.  Glowing purplish blue, CO2, Helium, and Nitrogen are combined under a vacuum and pumped through glass tubes.  As they travel to the tip of the laser cutter, it’s hit with a high dose of voltage.  The result:  Freakin’ Laser Beams.  As the material passes under the laser, it’s instantly cut, and never really gets too hot.  It’s all very scientific.

Look! It's the internet! A series of tubes and pipes. Just look at all the information! Nope, just gas in a vacuum being combined and sent to cut inch thick steel.

Is that nitrogen, or are you just happy to see me?

If you could see this machine pump out whatever you want it to make, your jaw would drop to floor like mine.  Not only does the speed and efficiency startle you, but the astounding finesse of its accuracy will blow you away.  Once a sheet of metal is laid down and put into place, the mechanized dance begins – at a blistering speed.  The arm works its way back and forth, from corner to corner with a quickness that no human could ever equal.

Once fitted on the tray, the steel is ready to go.

The point where the laser is actually cutting the material is 1/8000 of an inch, and the super intense beam can blaze through up to an inch of solid steel.  Plywood isn’t an issue either.  In fact, this thing can cut through pretty much anything it wants.  James Bond wouldn’t stand a chance…unless it was Sean Connery…then just maybe!

At the helm, Ryan controls the progress of the cuts. For the lighting nerds out there, I was at F11 @200th with three lights. One up high and gridded tight for the guys faces. Once behind Ryan's head lighting the inside of the laser cutter. And the third camera right lighting the front of the cutter.

But in all seriousness, it was a pleasure to visit the grounds and meet a family run business.  They’ve been around for over 30 years, but you know, they still face challenges like everyone else.  It’s only through hard work, planning, and perseverance that Ray and Ryan have come through these times with more business than ever before.

My kind of people.

That’s what life is all about.

So untie the bowlines.  Sail away from safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.  –  Mark Twain

And don’t forget your stainless.

See you down the road.


Cuttin’ It Up

Rob saws through a few steel frames while throwing sparks at me.

Life continues to roll on inside Prospect.

Progress made has been great, and I continue to find amazing things to photograph as the story unfolds.  The inside structure is taking shape, and the idea is coming to life.

Sparks are flying and love is in the air!  Don’t know about that last one, but the latter is definitely true.

Foot steps, hammering, the rise and fall of the blade cutting steel framing – all of these reverberate throughout – and I am amazed to see the skeleton emerge.  I have to walk a little more tentatively now that work has started.  Dawning a hard hat, I peruse around and try not to get in the way of so many who are making this possible.

Rob, Kevin, Tommy… the list goes on and on.  They have started the story, and I look forward as it unfolds.

Today’s words are a bit short.  As I am feeling under the weather (boo) I don’t have much to say.

Maybe that’s a good thing?…

Please enjoy the imagery.

At 200mm, I was well clear of the sparks - unlike my 14-24mm lens that took a few to the glass - oops.

A worker installs some electrical lines.

Rob threads in a screw to pull it all together.

I am sure there will be a much prettier attendant at the front when Prospect opens her doors!

Always wear your hard hat, or you could end up like the unfortunate soul below...

This poor fellow wasn't with the unions and slipped through the cracks. Nah. Where else but San Francisco can you find a glittering skull in the trash?

See you down the road.