by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
November 20, 2009
SMALL THINGS SAVORY
We’re so excited for executive chef Derrick VanDuzer of Knickerbocker, whose deconstructed shrimp cocktail (photo above) is the cover shot of Small Things Savory, Alan “Battman” Batt’s forthcoming recipe/art book. Knickerbocker is the Cheng sisters’ favorite neighborhood restaurant, and Derrick is downright talented and very sweet.
And he also introduced me to Battman.
Small Things Sweet and Small Things Savory are Alan Batt’s seventh and eighth self-published books. Leafing through the pages of the latter, a cookbook that features hors d’oeuvres created by 120 of America’s leading chefs, I was mesmerized by the stunning photography. This is food porn at its best.
While cookbook photography typically complements the recipes, Battman’s books focus on the exquisite composition and textures of the food, so the recipes complement the photos. The pair of Small Things books, which include recipes for each bite-sized treat, are in fact cookbooks but also make beautiful art books. Here are a couple of images from Small Things Savory.
santa barbara sea urchin ice cream
with trout roe and aged solera vinegar
701 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE RESTAURANT & BAR
executive chef Adam Longworth
pig’s ear terrine with soy gelée
chef-owner Susur Lee
chef de cuisine Doron Wong
executive chef Tanaporn Tangwibulchai
executive chef David Pasternack
Battman’s other books, which all showcase the talents of world-renowned chefs, include The Great Bagel & Lox Book, New York Sweets, Summer in New York, Sandwiches of the World, The Colors of Dessert, and Soup.
Intrigued by these projects, I asked Battman a couple of questions and was fascinated to learn that he is actually not a foodie! Here’s what he had to share:
What was the impetus for developing and self-publishing these books?
I had been photographing New York for 25 years and publishing the pictures on greeting cards. I couldn’t figure out any more ways to take pictures of the Empire State Building, so I was looking for something else. I can’t remember what sparked “food” because I am a total non-foodie. But it was easy, the chefs were happy and I really liked doing it. At the time I had a permanent exhibition at the Empire State Building, so I hung up 21 photos of food. The Great Bagel & Lox Book was my first self-published book and remains my favorite (subject-wise). I am amazed at what the chefs can do with food and have learned to appreciate the variety and textures of more complex food, but still remain a non-foodie.
What was the thought process behind Small Things Savory and Small Things Sweet?
A few people over the last two years mentioned hors d’oeuvres. I listen to everyone’s thoughts and then figure out what to do. This seemed like a good idea.
How did The Great Gathering of Chefs come about?
The event came with the publishing of the first book. During the creative process, an idea pops in your head and then you refine it. I had met the people from The Children’s Storefront, a tuition-free school in Harlem, and wanted to help them out. The event was perfect for it. We had 57 chefs come to Grand Central Terminal to sign 100 books, and we sold all of them, with all the money going to the school. It also brings a lot of chefs together for a non-cooking get-together. They see all the work that the other chefs have done and get to raise money just by showing up.