Shooting the AJC Dining Guide

In case you hadn’t heard, I’m freelancing full time now. In an extremely unusual (for me) turn of fate, my timing happened to be perfect. As I stepped out on my own in late September, the AJC was planning its Fall Dining Guide, which has just now been published. I reached out to the editors to let them know that I would be much more available for photoshoots, and they had a TON of assignments to dole out for this Autumn 2017 edition of the AJC Dining Guide.

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It was a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.” Typically, I receive assignments and have one or two weeks to complete them. This includes scheduling the photoshoot with the restaurant in question, which invariably takes longer than the photoshoot itself. For the Fall Dining Guide, I received three assignments that included a total of nine restaurants to be shot over the course of about 10 days. The photography aspect would be simple – it was scheduling all these photoshoots and physically traveling to all of them that worried me.

But I did it. I got all those shoots scheduled basically on the day I got the assignments. Over the next week, I drove more than 200 miles to all nine locations. I went from Tucker to Roswell and from Midtown to Decatur. I went down to West End and up to Marietta. I went to places I didn’t know existed and places that I had gone to weekly back in high school.

I met a guy in the back room of Matthews Cafeteria who was a preacher and said he held worship services in his basement. He was going to connect me with his son who works at a marketing agency, because, “you never know how you might be able to help each other out.” Fulfilling a borderline ridiculous small town stereotype, I also ran into a couple of fraternity brothers having lunch at Matthews, making plans for a church event. I ate fried chicken livers and turnip greens. Matthews Cafeteria is like stepping through a time warp to the 1950s in every way.

I returned to Old Hickory House in the Northlake area, where I used to go eat breakfast with friends before school almost every Friday my Junior and Senior years of high school. We would race to school afterward and barely make it to class on time. They wouldn’t let me leave without taking their pancakes home.

I went to a brand new Pho place in Roswell where the proprietor, Helen, wouldn’t take no for an answer when offering me snacks and special drinks. I got to try the Vietnamese yogurt, mango flavor, and it was delightful. Helen sent me home with the pho, which didn’t suffer at all in my fridge and tasted fantastic when I heated it up on the stove a few days later.

I visited the new Monday Night Brewing Garage and wondered how so many people had heard about it before me. The building is honestly jaw-dropping – massive, fun, jam-packed with people and right on a new section of the beltline. I didn’t even know it existed, and now I’m trying to figure out when I can go back.

I was able to sit and chat with Chef Billy Allin at Cakes & Ale, one of Atlanta’s consistently great restaurants. He’s a genuinely pleasant guy and I was happy to get to know him better. Ditto for Chef Zach Meloy at Better Half, a restaurant that’s been on my list to visit for years now. His food was unbelievably beautiful, and the silk handkerchief pasta with mushrooms and cream tasted every bit as good as it looked. I shot the food while the staff prepped, and it was one of the friendliest restaurant environments I’ve seen.

Overall, it was a completely exhausting experience – but it was a lot of fun and added some really nice shots to my portfolio.