Meet Emilie Gentils

25 Mar 2014

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Emilie Gentils

Emilie Gentils spent 8 years studying in hotel schools (in Souillac and Toulouse) and has 8 years of professional experience in the restaurant industry.  She has managed a number of establishments in London (including 7 years with the Terence Conran group) and has fashioned a network and creativity all of her own.
Her taste for culinary images comes from the numerous Michelin-starred Chefs’ books that she owns and she can often be found flicking through these when she wants a change of style or is looking for inspiration. 
Her photography reflects her gastronomic aspirations:  Simple, natural and unpretentious, with the product taking the starring role “Our eyes are blown away by what they see:  We really do taste with them!”  She believes in everything that is tasty and aesthetically pleasing.  We met her.

How did you develop your taste for culinary photography?

I was only 14 years old when I started studying at a hotel school in the south of France.  I remained there for 8 years after which time I had a BEP-CAP in cuisine, a BEP-CAP in service, a Bac Techno and a BTS Gestion-Marketing en Restauration.  I always had a passion for gastronomy and when I finished studying in 2001, I headed straight to London where I worked as a Restaurant Manager for almost 8 years.  This role allowed me to “mold” my vision of beautiful things and fine tableware and to develop an awareness of materials, textures and colors.
I had a son in 2007 and found it difficult to commit to my Management role as much as I had in the past.  Photography had been a passion of mine for a number of years (my parents met when they both worked for Canon – was it a sign??)  I regularly took photos in the restaurants I worked in and it was a natural progression to begin offering my services as a culinary photographer to my network of restaurants in London.  I received a huge amount of encouragement, from my family and my friends, to continue in this field.  I am constantly in contact with Chefs, often in a kitchen with a fork (or my camera!) in my hand.  I believe that my career change has been a success.  Today, I make a living from my passion and I am always able to “stir things up!”   

Besides the best equipment, what qualities are necessary to be a good culinary photographer?

That is a very difficult question to answer.  Every job is different!  Whether it is for a photo story of a Michelin-starred Chef, recipes for a magazine or shooting images for brand marketing, a wide range of skills are necessary.
I think that that it is important to use a great deal of sensitivity when putting the image together, to understand the message that we want to put across, and how to make it aesthetically pleasing.
A taste for gastronomy, forward thinking, patience, attention to detail, organization and technique are, for me, the key qualities.

Food, cuisine and the act of eating are ephemeral.  Is photographing products, culinary techniques and Chef’s creations a way of prolonging (or anticipating) the taste experience through another of our senses:  Sight?

Every day we refuel as necessary – an assortment of foods which become refined into an infinite chemical complexity and which ensure our physical continuity.  These very same foods also produce an intangible, immaterial and untouchable universe – that of senses and ideation.  From these two poles, a mythology, an art, a style and a ritual have resulted, all of which I consume on a daily basis!

Is there a product that you particularly enjoy photographing?

I really like foods in their natural state:  Strawberries that have just been picked; turbot fresh from the fishmonger, a bunch of fresh parsley etc.  I am moved by the natural beauty of ingredients.  I trust the Chefs to put them in their best possible light.  I love working with nature, terroir and with natural backgrounds:  Wood, rust, slate etc. 

Has your job had an influence on your relationship with food and gastronomy?  In what way? 

Absolutely, even though I have been working in the world of gastronomy for 20 years.  I am a keen food-lover and very eager to learn about new trends.  Every day of my life I am surrounded by products, cuisine and Chefs.  Nothing gives me greater pleasure than a beautifully laid table and exquisite products that have been perfectly prepared.  The constant search for all that is esthetically pleasing and tasty, is a state of mind; it is good for both your body and your mind.

Emilie Gentils will give a conference on Culinary Photography on April 10th at 7 pm at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Book your seat now.

Emilie Gentils
Photos: Émilie Gentils

Institut des Hautes Etudes du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des des Arts de la Table

  • Phone: +33 6 60 46 40 81
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