From Plan to Plane
My name’s Kathryn and I’ve been a Photography Executive with Thomas Cook for over six years. Being a member of the Creative team, it’s not unusual to find me in a resort, working behind the camera. I’m responsible for taking beautiful pictures of our hotels and resorts, so you can see exactly what you can expect on your holiday.
Recently, I had the opportunity to see things from a different perspective. I was invited to spend the day with our food specialists in the studio, shooting some of the mouth-watering meals available on board Thomas Cook flights. Each dish has been specially created for Thomas Cook by celebrity chef James Martin.
From Plan to Saucepan
Minutes after arriving at the studio, my taste buds are tempted by the aroma of breakfast escaping from the kitchen. Behind the stove I find Jo, the food stylist. She’s busy cooking our first dish: the Kids’ Breakfast. She weighs the components and starts browning the sausages; they need to be the same colour and texture as you’d find on board.
The kitchen is filled with fresh ingredients and I see a worktop brimming with fruit and vegetables. Bright red tomatoes sit neatly on a vine and I spot some vibrant lemons, dimpled by the sun as if just been picked from a grove in Cyprus.
On another worktop are containers and jars, all different sizes and methodically arranged and labelled. These are items you may expect to see in a chef’s kitchen, but in the distance I spot a few things you probably wouldn’t. Cotton wool buds, a ruler, tweezers and artists’ paintbrushes of all shapes and sizes. Apparently these come in very useful when you’re a food stylist.
From Saucepan to Plate
I meet Carl, the chef, and watch as him and Jo prepare the meals with amazing speed, whilst paying meticulous care and attention. Whilst working away, Carl tells me how our taste buds and sense of smell change when we’re airborne compared to being down on the ground.
“We experience around 30% less taste whilst flying which is why we’ve created a menu packed full of strong flavours. For example, with the coconut rice in the Premium Goan Chicken Curry, we use coconut milk instead of water. It not only provides a punchy original taste, but is cooked in a way that enhances the flavour.”
Carl delicately starts to prepare the Millionaires Caramel Shortbread and Belgian Chocolate Mousse, measuring with a ruler as he goes to make sure it’s the correct height. I’m really starting to share the team’s passion and find it fascinating how much care goes into the ingredients before they even reach the studio.
From Plate to Picture
In the centre of the studio is a sturdy wooden table, covered with a board and surrounded by white panels. Darren, the food photographer, sets up the camera whilst Carl and I arrange the raw ingredients on the table.
We place the dessert in front of the ingredients so it takes centre stage, but within seconds it’s starting to melt and lose shape; it gets very warm under the studio lights so speed is really important. We start to get into a smooth routine though and soon we’re ready for the next dish.
Next up is the Canadian Blueberry & Apple Muffin and I pick up a great tip: to stop apples from going brown and to give them a lasting sheen, use lemon juice. We take a blueberry out of the background as it makes a huge difference to the balance of the photo. Then we notice that the butter looks like cubes of cheese, so we create curls of butter instead. It’s surprising how such a simple thing can change the whole look and feel of the final image.
Darren adjusts the camera settings for the next shot; the Belgian Chocolate and Cherry Mousse. I giggle as he uses a ‘stand in’ muffin to focus the shot, rather like a rehearsal or an understudy. He puts the real dessert in place and the camera clicks away. It’s connected to the computer and we see every shot as it instantly appears on the big screen.
When we’re happy we’ve got the perfect picture, Carl hands me a spoon to try the dessert for myself. It really tastes just as good as it looks, delicious!
From Picture to Plane
The shoot comes to an end and we’re all really pleased with the results. I feel happy to be part of such a great team with Carl, Jo and Darren today. All that’s left is some post production editing back in the office and the pictures will be ready to use.
After our busy day, I’ve definitely worked up an appetite and I’m ready for a hearty dinner, followed by a dessert of course – make mine the Belgian Triple Chocolate Pudding.
You could be enjoying mouth-watering dishes like these on board your next Thomas Cook flight and following my experience, I know that when you taste them you’ll be dining on Cloud Nine.
The new long haul menu will be on board your flights in the summer. But for now, why not take a look at some of Kathryn’s other work on ThomasCook.com?