Octopus is hands down one of Paolo’s favorite foods. Anywhere in the world, no matter the preparation, if it’s on the menu, he orders it. He is also a man of great discipline. As a photographer, he never eats or drinks while working.
That is until he met Abel Mendoza, Sous Chef at Chesa in Portland.
Octopus Defeats Will of Man
As the photographer for ALOR, Paolo’s mission was not to eat, but to document the work being done by Chef José Chesa and team.
Journalistic food photography, is difficult. Paolo needs to get the shot without slowing the flow of the kitchen. On top of that, he could only use natural light. Tricky business and Paolo takes it seriously.
Now can you imagine the discipline it takes to not eat food like this!? Correction, not eat one of your all time favorite foods, prepared to perfection while working!?
Paolo, as I mentioned, a man who never eats or drinks while he works, who adores octopus was documenting a dish called Pop. A grilled spanish octopus dish, that, looked, perfect.
He had to capture the same dish multiple times to get each plating step, without slowing the kitchen. Oh, the torture!
At this point, I knew he had to be starving. He’d been working for hours. It was long since lunch and way past dinner.
I asked him to stop and eat a few times, he waved me off.
“No I have to capture that dish, it’s new. These photos are going to be beautiful!” Back he went.
Paolo managed to capture every dish sent out that night. He worked tirelessly.
Work finally finished he came to the table. He looked… delighted. I’d expected exhausted. Photography is physical work and he works it intensely.
As it turns out Sous Chef Abel, the serious looking man to the right of Chef José Chesa, is one of the few people able to get Paolo to break his no eating while working rule. How?
Between plates, he snuck Paolo a piece by popping it directly into his mouth. “Good huh” said Chef Abel. Can’t turn that down now can you!
If you can imagine a man melting like butter, that’s Paolo. He told me it was the “best bite of octopus” he’d ever had.
Which killed me, since I goofed! The kitchen was graciously taking care of me. Sending food while Paolo worked. A waiter brought a plate out and asked: “you ordered the Octopus?” I froze.
I was thinking…. I want that! Midwest honesty and the worry that a nearby table would not get their food kicked in. I said, “I didn’t order it. The kitchen is just sending some food for me to try. So I’m not sure.”
Yep, torture. Next time I’m in Chesa, guess what I’m having!
Those who work hard at perfecting their craft, take it very seriously. Often with an intensity, that’s misunderstood. Unless of course, finding themselves in the company of another perfectionist.
I wonder if Chef Abel insisted Paolo eat a bite because he knew his dish is utter perfection or because he recognized Paolo’s intense focus while working.
There is one other explanation. Part of Chef José Chesa’s philosophy is his team must be happy to make good food. Perhaps Sous Chef Abel just wanted to make sure Paolo was happy, to take good photos.
Thank you, Chef Abel!
Best of Portland
My Husband Paolo is a talented, disciplined, focused man. Trust me, I know how lucky that makes me, to be his wife and business partner.
Chef Abel making my Husband eat while working, is hands down, one of my favorite stories of the year for ALOR. Not because it’s going to win us any new fans. Rather, it’s an example of the passionate people we get to work with in Portland.