I like food, and I like to spend time with interesting, active, and passionate people, so when the opportunity came to photograph Beta, a pop-up supper club run by three chefs who worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, I jumped at the chance. (Apart from being a photographer, I’m also the photo editor for Edible Queens magazine, one of over 90 magazines in the US and Canada in the Edible Communities franchise that focus on local food community and sustainability. And when I find a story that really interests me, well, I go for it.)
Jackson Heights doesn’t have the international food vibe of, say, Astoria. But it does have ethnic diversity and a weekend Greenmarket. And it’s got a small, backyard “farm” in nearby Astoria that raises unusual, mostly Asian, vegetables. So the story had wide appeal to me—how does the farm-to-table movement translate to this urban setting?
To best tell the story I thought that going to the market and the “farm” with the chefs, and following them through the prep, cooking, and presentation would all be necessary. A backyard “farm” in Queens would not be what most of us think of when we hear the word “farm.” (And there’s no tractor.) So what would it look like? Pop-ups aren’t in fixed locations—they can move, and adapt to the space available, the season, the audience. In this case, the dinner was to be prepared and presented in the home of one of the chefs. And if you’re thinking of a designer or restaurant-type kitchen, this wasn’t it. The kitchen is a very basic 1950s-era kitchen, with a very ordinary kitchen range and limited counter space. But the chefs really made it work.
You can see Allie Misch’s story of Beta, and chefs Drew Shives, Matthew Taber and Amir Dholakia, with my photos, on the Edible Queens website. (And La Nueva Mesa, the company behind Edible Queens, is sponsoring a dinner by Beta on October 14, 2019, and you can reserve a spot here.) Even more photos from the shoot are on my archive site.