The Secret Ingredient is… Nothing.

For those of you who landed on this page today expecting extensive photographic coverage of the culinary competition in which Chef Jesse Jones of Heart and Soul Catering was to compete against Adam Weiss of Esty Street, only to find there are no photos at all, I deeply apologize. Due to circumstances which were completely out of my control, I was unable to cover today’s cooking event.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

It all started a week ago, when a loser became a winner and a winner a loser. When Chef Adam Weiss was asked to return to compete as a loser against Chef Jesse Jones, a first round winner, I made my disdain known by writing a letter to the event sponsor, to which I never received a reply.

I removed my original posting of the event while I waited to see if perhaps the judges and organizers realized they may have made an error. When days went by with no reply I re-posted the photos, with my own opinion of the outcome stated at the bottom of the post.

In a strange coincidence, upon my arrival at 11am at the competition venue today, I was greeted by a representative of the business sponsoring the event that they had received “numerous complaints” from customers that I was acting in a “disruptive” manner by obstructing the view of the audience during my photography of the event.

Amazingly, in my two prior years covering the event, the organizers overlooked such complaints in favor of my positive event coverage. If I wanted to remain at the event, I would need to do it from my seat or from a distance. Just like with the competition, the rules were changed on the fly.

I explained to the business representative that it would be virtually impossible for me to cover the event under those conditions with the equipment I had brought with me, and to consider letting me operate as usual just as I had been for the last two years of covering the competition. This was rejected, and I was told they would prefer that I leave if I could not remain seated. Therefore, I left.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this event, or having not attended previous events at this venue in person, the cooking activity is centered around a central demo kitchen. The audience seating area is immediately in front of this cooking area, and to say that it is tight quarters for a regular-sized person to move around in this area let alone for someone of my girth is extremely challenging.

I think everyone pretty much knows that I am a “large person” (to put it mildly) and that food close-ups are my specialty. I use a 50mm “Prime” fixed non-telephoto f1.4 lens with a minimum focus distance of 3 feet, a setup optimized for natural light food photography, so unfortunately it requires that I have to obstruct the view of the audience on occasion in order to get the right shot. I try to keep this to a minimum and dart out of the way when someone else needs to photograph or get a view of the event.

Be it as it may, I could have worked around the situation had I been given some notice about their new rule. For example, I could have rented a powerful, expensive zoom lens with tripod stabilizer that would have allowed me to shoot behind the audience seating area for capturing action shots and only photographed the finished dishes with close-ups.

All of this is assuming, of course,  the event sponsor really wanted me to continue my coverage. However, I had received no communication via phone or email from the event sponsor since the last round, so I had no idea these restrictions on my movements were going to be put in place.

It is with my deepest regret that I could not show you photographs of the wonderful food Jesse Jones and Adam Weiss surely produced today. It is also with additional regret that I will not be covering further rounds in the future, and I will no longer be endorsing or promoting the sponsor’s activities.

It should be noted that this web site is produced entirely in my spare time and is not nor has ever been a revenue-generating enterprise. At this time, Off The Broiler has no sponsors or advertisements whatsoever.

I cover events like this for the sole purpose of promoting the local businesses that are involved. In this economic climate they need all the help they can get to provide exposure for all the good things that they do.

It should also be noted that the sponsor of said event is located in a shopping complex in which two large retail businesses have closed in the last year. Also, no other media outlet was providing them the level of detailed photography or coverage that Off The Broiler was providing them.

I thought I was doing the event sponsor a huge favor by covering their event and generating some buzz, helping to get people into the store and taking time out of my busy weekend to put these posts together. Apparently, they did not see the same value in this coverage that I do.

Again, to all of my readers and supporters, I deeply apologize.

Editor’s Note: Oh, by the way, Jesse won. Congrats.

2 Responses to The Secret Ingredient is… Nothing.

  1. Julia Enerson says:

    Chef Central changed the rules again? Maybe they were hoping for a ‘click-off’ between you and another blogger with a camera. Who knows…

    You’ve done some terrific work for this competition, Jason. Too bad it isn’t appreciated for the value it brings to the table.

  2. Joe Renelli says:

    On principle alone, you did the right thing, Jason. I might have to become a former Chef Central customer .

    The good news is that Chef Jesse held onto his spot in the semi-final round.

    That being said, I would have enjoyed seeing your coverage of the event.


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