A month ago, I had the privilege to host a food styling and photography workshop with my talented friend Betty Liu, in the heart of my hometown, Montreal. The weekend was nothing less than magical and felt like an absolute dream.
The workshop was a 2-day immersive urban retreat. I grew up in Montréal, a city that is very dear to my heart, and hosting our workshop there made it even more special. We sold out in less than two weeks, and had people flying from all over the US and Canada to join us. I felt overwhelmed, nervous, and filled with excitement and gratitude all at once.
Our participants were some of the most talented, creative, kind and inspiring women I’ve ever met. I couldn’t believe how perfect that group was. Everybody got along so well. They brought with them their passion, curiosity and their biggest smiles. I learned from them in more ways I could have imagined.
I had the best partners in the world, the ever inspiring Betty, and our incredible food stylist and chef Julie Zyromski, who cooked all of our delicious meals and helped us make this event a success. Her positivity, talent and passion were contagious and we couldn’t have done it without her.
I came back home with beautiful memories dancing in my head, and the heart full of gratitude for the inspiration, the moments shared together and the new friendships.
Here is a (photo-heavy!) recap of the weekend.
Montreal was wearing her prettiest apparel to welcome our guests, with leaves from all colours and shades lying on the ground. The air was crisp, but the sun was still warm and shining bright.
The workshop took place in a gorgeous mid-century house in the vibrant neighbourhood of Griffintown. There were bright and beautifully decorated rooms at every corner, fireplaces, and brick walls. The décor was modern but rustic. Totally charming, cozy and inviting.
The pièce de résistance of the house was a beautiful private garden – a little oasis where we could gather, have lunch, and enjoy a few of the last warm days of Fall. The Horse Palace was right behind, and these pretty horses were our neighbours!
Day 1 – Friday
A curated welcome bag filled with products from our generous sponsors were waiting for our attendees upon their arrival. These gift bags featured inspiring artisans and makers from both the US and Canada, with an emphasis on local creators from Boston and Montreal.
Each attendee got to leave with all of these amazing products: Staub mini cocottes, Boston General Store tea strainers, Brown Parcel Press gorgeous “Wild” 2017 letterpress calendar and pear postcard, Smith Tea Maker tea, Made by Objective linens, Oatbox almond-chai granola, Created and Found beeswax candles, Bkind vegan hand cream + biodegradable toothbrush, and Dans le Sac beautiful natural cotton bread bags.
We welcomed the guests with a rosemary pear sparkler and some spice roasted nuts. We all gathered outside where everybody started chatting. Ten minutes later, it felt like people had known each other forever!
We created the prettiest table setting with beautiful items from our generous partners. Gorgeous grey and white ceramic pieces from Looks Like White, linens from Made by Objective, custom-made menus by Brown Parcel Press, and fall-inspired florals by Prune Les Fleurs. The rustic tables and vintage flatware from La Mariée Bohème made the scene even dreamier.
As the sun was setting down, we moved inside to get ready for our welcome dinner, prepared with love by Julie.
Our seasonal dinner was so delicious! We started the meal with a roasted garlic, parsnip and apple soup topped with crispy beet chips, followed by a pumpkin and chanterelle risotto with crispy sage.
The dessert was my favourite part of the meal. An incredible cardamom and maple poached pear, served with coconut whipped cream, and topped with the most amazing chocolate granola. This granola was such a success, I might have to recreate it and share the recipe with you soon!!
Day 2 – Saturday
It was a packed day, full of lessons, discussions, and styling and photography opportunities. The day started off with a breakfast styling session. I demonstrated how I typically style my smoothie bowls, and then attendees had to style their own.
After breakfast, we got into more lessons and practice, with a still life scene featuring the gorgeous floral arrangement from Prune Les Fleurs.
For lunch, Julie prepared delicious avocado and ricotta toasts, topped with colourful roasted veggies and served with salad. She set up a gorgeous picnic scene in the backyard with blankets, cushions, pumpkins, flowers and candles.
The set up was so dreamy, we all had to take a ton of photos before we could actually sit down to eat!
More styling and photography sessions followed in the afternoon. We demonstrated how to use the camera settings and a simple tripod to take beautiful action shots with your own hands (like a drizzle of syrup).
We also showed how to create different styles of the same dish by simply changing the props, background and angle.
We then moved onto a session about one of the most important topics in food photography: light! Despite the white walls and the large amount of light coming in the room, we created a dark and moody scene, with just the help of a black backdrop, a few clips, and a board blocking the light coming from the window.
We used our gorgeous Dans Le Sac bags for this demonstration.
We ended the afternoon with a delicious mulled wine enjoyed outside. For dinner that night, Julie made us a super cozy chili stuffed sweet potato. Dessert was a melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin mascarpone trifle. We spent the rest of the night chatting and discussing around warm cups of tea.
Day 3 – Sunday
On Sunday morning, the aroma of fresh coffee from De Melho Palheta woke us up. And of course, we had a traditional Montreal breakfast with its famous bagels!
For our very last exercise, we asked the students to apply all the lessons learned in the past few couple days to style a scene of their own. I loved seeing their own interpretation and style. I was blown away by their creativity and by the quality of their photos. Betty and I were two very proud teachers.
We shared our last meal together – beautiful bowls of healthy goodness (tempeh, veggies, roasted nuts, and tahini sauce) – before saying our goodbyes.
A sincere, heartfelt THANK YOU to our generous sponsors who made this event possible!
Looks Like White | ceramics
Made by Objective | linen napkin for the gift bags, gorgeous linen aprons for the hosts + linens for the table
Prune Les Fleurs | florals
De Mello Palheta | coffee
Erickson Woodworks | beautiful boards to use for styling
Dans Le Sac | reusable natural cotton bread bags
Staub | mini cocottes
Boston General Store | tea strainers
Brown Parcel Press | “Wild” 2017 letterpress calendar, menus, and postcards
Smith Tea Maker | tea
Oatbox | granola for breakfast + granola jars for the gift bags
Created and Found | beeswax candles for attendees + raw edge board for styling
Bkind | vegan hand cream sample + biodegradable toothbrush
La Mariée Bohème | rustic tables, vintage flatware and glasses
Thank you so much Madeline, Paola, Alexandra, Ruth, Olivia, Naiby, Annie, Carrie Ann, Sara, Nicole, Lizzy and Sarah for joining us and for making this weekend truly magical! I miss you all very much.