When I was on assignment for Kentucky Monthly in 2008, I was still trying to establish myself as a writer and photographer. I wanted to specialize in food, but lacked the national experience and well-rounded food photography portfolio.
That Kentucky Monthly assignment sent me all over the state to photograph restaurant dishes and bolstered my career in a big way.
One of those restaurants was Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. I set up my two massive soft-box lights, mounted my Nikon D2Xs on the tripod and photographed Lynn’s Bourbon Ball French Toast, which was featured on the Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Without thinking, I moved the food around, requested a different plate, asked for fresher-looking strawberries, moved tables and just did my thing. When I’m with a camera, I try to follow the light and find complimentary colors.
I showed the image to the manager, and she said: “That’s the best photo anybody has ever taken of this dish.” I figured she was blowing smoke up my Nikon until I searched past images of the Bourbon Ball French Toast. She was right, and I started analyzing the shoot. I requested a green plate, moved food on the plate and used a table color that matched the strawberries all without evening thinking about it. That’s when I knew I could make it as a food photographer. Since then, I’ve photographed cookbooks, worked with celebrity chefs and been a finalist for an international food photography award.
With that said, I wonder if I would have had the confidence without the Lynn’s manager saying my work was the best. Sadly, I was reminded of this story when Lynn’s recently closed.
According to published reports, Lynn’s allegedly violated labor laws, requiring servers to carry $100 cash for each shift to share with support staff. Read more about it at Louisville Eater and Insider Louisville.
Unfortunately, in my relatively young food photography career, I’ve worked with too many that have closed. But, Lynn’s was one of Louisville’s most-accomplished establishments and just goes to show the restaurant business is a tough game.
I’ll never forget Lynn’s dinosaur toys in the lobby or the ugly lamp contest. And, the food never disappointed. Most importantly, for me, the restaurant will always symbolize the moment I gained the confidence to make it as a food photographer.
So long, Lynn’s.
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