Sunday, January 06, 2008
FOBLOKI - François-Xavier of FXcuisine
Happy 2008! I hope that this year brings each of you lots of laughter and delicious meals. After a short holiday hiatus, we are kicking off a new year’s worth of FOBLOKI with François-Xavier of FXcuisine.
IsItEDible: Bonjour François-Xavier. On your blog you mention that you have been reading cookbooks and trying to cook since childhood. Tell us, what is your earliest cooking-related memory?
François-Xavier: My grandmother cooking polenta in an open-air hearth in a large black cauldron. The polenta would then be poured on large wooden slabs made from a century-old tree trunk slices and served with a variety of garnishes including cream and jam for the dessert. My family is from Valais, a Swiss valley on the Italian border.
IsItEDible: That sounds delicious. And how did you come to start a food blog?
François-Xavier: I just had to share the so many magical and poetic moments I experience when preparing food. Most of it is lost even to the guests who eat the meal.There is so much beauty in the ingredients; the peeling, chopping, sauteing. I try to let people share this with my pictures.
IsItEDible: Your pictures are beautiful! Now where did the name for your food blog come from?
François-Xavier: My name is FX and FXkitchen was taken, so FXcuisine was my choice. I wanted something short and snappy. And FX means "special effects"in the American move industry.
IsItEDible: Yes, it’s very special how your pictures detail each step of the cooking process. It must take a lot of work to create a blog entry.
François-Xavier: I shoot about 200 pictures of a recipe. Then I sort them and select 10 to 50 pictures that are nice to look at and meaningful. I rename them in a chronological numbered sequence, then make a high-res and low-res version for each. Then I use an Excel spreadsheet to prepare the HTML code for each picture. This done I drink some tea and print the first draft. I eliminate some redundant picture and resize others to reduce the file size. Finally, I write the text and publish it.
IsItEDible: Do you have any tips for other food bloggers on how to take great pictures?
François-Xavier: The most important is proper light. What you see on a photograph is reflected light. Lousy lights or built-in flash invariably results in poor pictures. A hard fact of life. I use 1000W photographic light with a shoot-through umbrella that hangs from a rail on my kitchen's ceiling. You need large lights. Small lights will cast hard shadows. If this is too much for you to do, at least get rid of the flash and just increase the ISO.
IsItEDible: What have been some of your favorite blog posts to write?
François-Xavier: I have three kinds of posts. First are slow-food articles with a traditional recipe made from scratch, mostly from local ingredients from the farmer's market. Among my favorites are the Beef Carrot Daube or the Spelt Pappardelle in Grouse Sauce or the Italian Pesto Soup. The ingredients are so beautiful.
Second, I report on memorable food experiences outside my kitchen like the Duck Tour d'Argent or the Ducasse reverse-engineering.
Finally, I write tongue-in-cheek articles about deep-fried atrocities, such as the deep-fried cheeseburger. They are good fun to write.
IsItEDible: I bet they are all very fun to write. What has been one of the most difficult blog posts to write?
François-Xavier: Definitely the Moldavian Pig Slaughter
IsItEDible: What is one thing we wouldn't know about you just from reading your blog?
François-Xavier: I guess nobody really suspects my professional lighting equipment. I don't have really fancy cameras or lenses, but the lights I use are not plain-vanilla.
And now for the QUICKFIRES…
IsItEDible: What foods warm your heart?
François-Xavier: Long-simmered meats and soups.
IsItEDible: What foods strike fear in it?
IsItEDible: What turns you on in the kitchen?
François-Xavier: I love functional, solid, time-tested professional equipment.
IsItEDible: What turns you off?
François-Xavier: Flimsy expensive designer gadget that will break after a couple users. I am not rich enough to be able to afford cheep equipment.
IsItEDible: In the kitchen, what sound or smell do you love?
François-Xavier: I love to listen to the quiet hiss of vegetables losing their vegetation water in the frying pan.
IsItEDible: In the kitchen, what sound or smell do you hate?
François-Xavier: Smoke in a pot strikes fear in my heart.
IsItEDible: What word or phrase is heard most often in your kitchen?
François-Xavier: Oh my God, look at this texture!
IsItEDible: What's your favorite kitchen appliance/gadget?
François-Xavier: My chinois, this is a conical sieve used by French cooks (originally) to filter sauces. It is age-old, very resistant and functional and to me it is an incarnation of fine cooking, where you filter out the bits and pieces you used to flavor a sauce, leaving only the essence of it. I also love my tandoori, and I want to be buried with my black cast-iron Le Creuset pots.
IsItEDible: What recipe or dish are you known for?
François-Xavier: Well, every year is a new one, but recently my Roasted Vanilla Pineapples (Like Pierre Hermé) have been much discussed by my regular guests.
IsItEDible: What recipe or dish would you like to attempt?
François-Xavier: I have hundreds of recipes marked down for future experiment. One of them is pasta served in a whole Parmesan head.
IsItEDible: François-Xavier, thank you so much for helping us start 2008 off with a bang. I look forward to salivating at all the delicious pictures you will be posting this year.