EYE OF THE CHEF
Collage of images
A Photo Finish
The Chef Behind the Lens
It’s not unusual for highly creative people to have an affinity for another artistic field — many chefs draw or paint, while others play music. When it comes to Chef Laurent Tourondel, you can often find him with a camera in hand, even if only his iPhone. His photographs are an extension of his creativity on a plate. But it could also be something more random that prompts him to focus and click.
ourondel lived his formative years in a charming medieval town in France. “There were old buildings and churches around every corner,” he says. “You never get tired of the scenery, of the history on display. Everything was special.”

While it didn’t inspire him to take photographs, his surroundings might have influenced the way he looks at things today, drawing out small details on a plate, looking for something unusual in juxtaposition. When you grow up around a lot of beauty in ordinary things, it makes sense to continue pulling out the extraordinary in everything you see.

Tourondel loves to travel, and the moments he captures on camera are timeless. They are often snapshots of a lifestyle that is also represented in his dishes: a connection to a place. At Sag Pizza, you can see an intersection of those two worlds on walls that feature large-format photographs he shot while vacationing on the Amalfi Coast. In an instant, you are standing next to him, observing a group of sunbathers arranging themselves under striped umbrellas.

You can get a sense of a person by the photos they take. They show you what’s important to the photographer. If you check out Tourondel’s Instagram, you’re struck by the sharpness of his food photos — the color, the contrast. You can feel the crunch and texture of each bite of food he captures. When it comes to the food shots, Tourondel smiles. “Food is all about the visual,” he explains. “It’s the first impression you make with a guest. It’s important to me that the way a dish is plated is visually pleasing, because if it looks appetizing, you want to eat it. When I take a photo, I have a similar thought process. The photo has to look real, it has to have the right light, and the color has to be there. I’m not sure if it’s really the photography I enjoy or the passion for making the photo look real, the same way I want my dishes to look perfect.”

It’s interesting to think that in some respects, a photograph is the final step of a Tourondel dish, because after it’s taken, it can’t be altered. Yes, photos can be manipulated, especially with today’s technology, but what it represents is an expression of his craft for cooking, where the result is a matter of what you see is what you get, honestly. For Tourondel, a feast for your eyes is the first step. The rest is a testament to his first passion: cooking.