Entries tagged with ““Eat Write Retreat””.

Beans! From humble to elegant, from savory to sweet, this ancient staple is an incredibly versatile ingredient for modern cooks. Food writer Kathy Hester has created 110+ diverse recipes using 15 varieties of beans for her new publication, The Great Vegan Bean Book. This collection of internationally inspired dishes traverses the globe from from tagine to lo mein, from pupusas to popsicles.

The first time I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy was at the 2011 Eat, Write, Retreat flood bloggers’ conference, where I taught a workshop with Lisa Cherkasky in Food Styling & Photography. At that conference—in 2011 and 2012—we enthusiastically discussed the possibility of collaborating on one of her future books. So glad we were able to make this project happen!

Kathy admits in her blog bio that she has “more slow cookers than any one person should own,” and she brought many of them to my studio in D.C. from her North Carolina kitchen for our shoot. Author of the Vegan Slow Cooker and blogging at Healthy Slow Cooking, Kathy is a great resource on slow-cooking and vegan recipes—including a large collection of gluten-free vegan dishes.

“Most of the recipes have soy- and gluten-free options, and are low-fat,” says Kathy, about The Great Vegan Bean Book. “There are also some that provide options for no added oil. I really want people to see how they can adjust the recipes to meet their special situations. It’s important that healthy food is also tasty and interesting.”

The Great Vegan Bean Book debuts in June, 2013, and Amazon has it on pre-order now.


Eat, Write, Retreat, a conference for food bloggers, was held in Washington, DC last weekend. This was my second year of teaching their Food Styling and Photography workshop with my longtime creative partner, stylist Lisa Cherkasky. This intensive full-weekend event draws attendees, speakers and sponsors from all over the US and Canada. In addition to our class, they featured workshops on creativity, business and culinary skills taught by experts such as author Monica Bhide and chef/author/entreprenuer Andy Schloss. It is organized by entrepreneur and “food blogger resource” Casey Benedict and author/nutritionist Robyn Webb. Having worked with Robyn on several satisfying projects, we were happy to be asked to present at her conference again—and we were proud to see one our collaborations, her Comfort Food Cookbook being gifted to conference attendees.

Our hands-on workshop this year had groups of students working together to compose one shot per group, made with ingredients supplied by a bevy of photogenic sponsors. There was an atmosphere of infectious excitement, creative curiousity, energy, and collegiality. Students’ instincts proved to be very good as they tackled their hands-on compositions. Each group’s project featured a single ingredient, such as the sponsor, Jarlsberg USA, the cheese pictured above. In their case, it gave us an opportunity for feedback from their publicist, Ronnie Campbell, of The Burrell Group, Ltd., who was in the class. She offered her insight into how they prefer to show off their product: Being able to highlight the distinctive patterning of Jarlsberg’s holes is important, as is showing the cheese grated.

Students had a chance to select from a variety of props to complement them, some supplied by generous sponsors, the fabulous kitchen equipment companies, OXO and Calphalon. Similar to our set-up last year, I supplied my own basic lighting, as well as my laptop and camera, which were tethered to a projector. That way, we were able to show the shots as they were captured (via Adobe Photoshop Lightroom) on a large screen. Making their choices for food items and props, groups brought them to the stage and assembled them on the set we created on location in the event-hotel ballroom. As the groups gathered around the set (and shot many of their own photos), we discussed their work, offered suggestions and tips, and answered questions. I shot the students’ initial compositions and showed them on the screen; then, Lisa and I critiqued and adjusted them to demonstrate why and how they could improve. Then, we were able to view final shots on the screen, as well as to compare side-by-side, before-and-after shots.

It was a fast-moving, intense class of 2.5 hours. I wish it had been longer so we could have covered more! Here are some of the other final shots.

Mushrooms courtesy of The Mushroom Council. Pans courtesy of Calphalon.

Watermelon courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Cutting board courtesy of OXO.

Olives courtesy of Lindsay Olives.

Iced tea courtesy of Honest Tea.

Cutting board courtesy of OXO.

Thanks to all of our generous sponsors for supplying the heroes for our photos. I also appreciate receiving the gifts they gave all attendees in our amazing swag bags!

Thanks also to all Eat, Write, Retreat blogger/students who worked hard in class and have given us your helpful feedback. So glad I had more time this year to socialize, which gave us the chance for some good one-on-one conversations, so I could learn more about what you all do and address some of your individual questions in the moment. It was a pleasure working with everyone. We hope you enjoyed class, learned new tips and techniques, and will be inspired to use the new insights in your own work!

(EWR attendees: If you would like to use any of these final images for your own post-EWR blog posts, please credit “Renee Comet Photography,” and please link any of my photos to my website, www.cometphoto.com. Thanks!)


Eat, Write, Retreat was a blast! Alive with creative energy, this food blogger conference (AKA “EWR,” held in DC May 20-22), delivered what it promised. It was an upscale, yet down-to-earth learning environment that offered hands-on workshops led by accomplished professionals. The agenda allowed plenty of time for both hardcore networking and, you know…fun. Lisa Cherkasky and I taught two Food Styling and Photography workshops there; and I have to say, organizers Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict created a high-quality, valuable experience.

For the real meat of the event, I found it so interesting to learn about other people’s businesses. I met a range of smart, ambitious, creative presenters (authors, editors, PR pros), sponsors (foods, beverages and products) and bloggers. Another lovely benefit of EWR was the crazy-good swag bag, which included Calphalon’s great 12-inch nonstick griddle pan. I was so inspired by this, that I actually cooked this frittata in it myself! (For you cooking bloggers… I didn’t use a recipe, just what I had in my kitchen: eggs, potatoes, onions, rosemary and Parmesan cheese.)

Our Food Styling and Photography workshops had two parts: In the first part, Lisa and I showed slides of our own, professional work. We explained how aspects of it (basic principles, methods and equipment) can apply to bloggers’ own photographic situations and offered realistic options that will result in greater versatility and efficiency. For instance, while we all love to shoot with beautiful natural light, often it just isn’t possible. So, we provided basic technical information on lighting: from optimizing natural light sources with reflectors; to using a simple lighting kit that is daylight-balanced, for easy mixing with natural light. We also strongly suggested using a tripod to maintain camera position while making adjustments to the subject.


Are you coming to Eat, Write, Retreat, the food blogger conference in DC, May 20-22? I’ll be teaching the workshops in food photography and styling, along with food stylist Lisa Cherkaksy. I’m putting together the photography portion of the presentation, and I want to address some specific questions from you.

Do you have any specific problems you want solved, any specific techniques you need to hone? Please leave your thoughts and requests in comments here, and I will keep them in mind.

Looking forward to reading your questions and to meeting you all in DC on May 20!

(Image above: Foccacia by Gold Crust Baking Company; food stylng by Lisa; photo by me.)

Score major savings on the fantastic Eat Write Retreat food blogger conference in DC!

Event creators Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict are offering this excellent opportunity to make the event an even bigger value when you register by December 14. With or without the luxurious host- hotel-room option, these savings are great, so please plan to come now, while you can take advantage of this terrific offer. They are also offering free registrations for two DC-based volunteers via an essay contest (by December 13).

I will be presenting the workshop on Food Styling & Photography with my fabulous, longtime collaborator, Lisa Cherkasky. We have planned our workshop, but we want to consider including/addressing your suggested topics about food styling and photography, so please send us any questions you have about shooting or styling—from equipment to presentation, from lighting to propping. We want to cover topics relevant to your needs; let us know!

Please spread the word about this exciting conference and the limited-time offer to save on registration. Hope to see you at Eat, Write, Retreat!