It’s big, fun announcement time! We’ve kept this quiet for almost three months, and finally we can share the news. In early March, a call came in from one of our friends who we initially met in November 2009 at the 1st Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. This friend had an opportunity presented by his client Bertolli, and they were curious to see if we’d be interested in participating. But of course! Never was there a moment of hesitation when we found out what the project would be. The only bad part was that we had to keep our lips zipped until the June. Well that day is here, and we can talk! Come take a seat at the Chef’s Table, will you?
The name of the tip top secret is the Chef’s Table. Starting today, you can visit the Bertolli website and check out our monthly feature that will run from now until December! Each month, we will bring you our version of an Italian dish using one of Bertolli’s tried and true, and sometimes new, sauces. Alongside us will be recipes from our friend Sarah Page, a senior Bertolli Test Kitchen Chef and Anita Jacobson, culinary instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. If you’ve been wondering how you can take a jar of pasta sauce and create your own unique meal, we hope you will find inspiration at the Chef’s Table!
Once asked to participate in the new section launch of Bertolli’s site, we had to work quickly to develop recipe submissions. We were provided with several jars of product of course, and from there, it was up to us to create eight different dishes for eight categories. Being the clever tricksters that we are, we had to disguise this food test session as a dinner party. On March 14th, several friends set down to a multi-course dinner that featured tons of our favorite ingredients, such as calamari, lamb, chicken, pasta and salmon. They were full after the second or third courses, but we had to keep stuffing them with more. After a night of serving our friends every dish we wanted to submit to Bertolli, we were ready to make a final few tweaks and send in our recipes. Except for a couple of very minor tweaks, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and that was a big relief!
With recipes approved, the date was set for the second half of the offer. In mid-April, we flew off to New York for a quick weekend photo shoot. We would meet with Bertolli, their digital agency and a full photography crew for a photo shoot. Every dish we developed would be photographed, and we would be on set to recreate the cooking process for each one. Needless to say, this was exciting! We were in the city for about 40 hours total, which is a quick trip when you travel coast to coast. Immediately after landing and tossing our bags into the hotel room, we trotted down to Opal Bar & Restaurant for an evening of happy hour food and drink with friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen in a few years. Whenever we travel, we do research on the best places for happy hour. It’s just one of those little treats that feels good when you’re in a different city. Opal Bar’s 2-for-1 cocktail deal was just the ticket! We also picked up a few appetizers along the way.
We went to New York with three things that had to be consumed–pizza, bagels and Chinese food. Honestly, the East coast trumps what we have at home, so it was time to seek them out. After the evening’s happy hour, we headed to a nearby pizzeria for two slices of white pizza before bed. It was a vacation, so a little indulgence should be allowed. These slices hit the spot! It was time to head back to our rooms, attempt to fight against the body’s desire to stay up longer and try to get a bit of beauty rest for a photo shoot the next day. A photo shoot, you may be asking? Yes! We’ve never done a serious, professional photo shoot before, so this was exciting.
We arose bright and early to head to the gorgeous 24th Street Loft that would be the location for the day’s work. On the way there, we stopped at a local cafe for breakfast where a crispy, New York bagel was consumed, and Amir sat down with his favorite–pancakes. We headed off to the loft early, so we had plenty of time to peek around the set and take pictures of the amazing space that would be our kitchen for the day. Oh, and the Martha Stewart-esque bathroom that captivated our attention due to its impressively high, open shower with seats all around for prime viewing. It was definitely an attention-grabber.
The photo shoot was a full day’s work, so let’s see how quickly we can recap what happened. Makeup artist Chuck Jensen made us look like professionals as food stylists Carrie Ann Purcell and Ashley Mulligan went to work setting up the dishes that would be on the menu. Photography director, Moya McAllister, ushered us into the shot set ups and instructed our movements, facial expressions and cooking steps while she snapped away above, below and next to us. As she took the photos, prop stylist Sarah Cave set up the linens, glasses and serveware for the shot on the table, while famed still life photographer, Hector Sanchez, prepared to shoot the image. Our plated dishes were beautifully captured by his camera before sliding onto a tasting table for everyone to take a bite.
There is something very surreal about seeing a recipe you created come to life under the hands of professionals. As the photos of our dishes popped up on a huge digital monitor and everyone from the marketing agency and Bertolli crowded around to see how it looked, we definitely felt a little awe and a lot of appreciation for what was happening. Unfortunately, the entire day went by so quickly. We wanted to freeze time and be in that moment for much longer, but time waits for no man! It’s great to say that we got to hang out and work with everyone on the set. We felt famous, if only for a few hours, and that was a nice feeling. Following the shoot, we had dinner at Chinatown Brasserie in NoHo. The chef created several specialties including Crispy Taro Root Shrimp and Shrimp and Snow Pea Leaf Dumplings. The meal was fabulous!
The next morning it was back on the plane bright and early. We did not have much time to see the city, but we had just enough to get a necessary change of pace and accomplish a very rewarding feat. We do have to send a very big thank you to our friends at Bertolli (they know exactly who they are!) and their digital marketing team at Story Worldwide for this opportunity. How do you thank someone enough for entrusting you with a new challenge? It’s not easy, and honestly, words never truly summarize how you feel. We can say from the very bottom of our hearts and the tips of our toes, we are very thankful for being able to share what we love to do with you on behalf of the brand. Make sure you check in every single month to see what we’ve served! First up at the Chef’s Table…Pine Nut Crusted Chicken Parmesan. In the meantime, follow The Duo Dishes and Bertolli on Twitter for more updates and information on new happenings!