Eating with Your Tastebuds and Eyes at Les Madeleines in SLC

Eating with your eyeballs gets tastier with every blink.
Your eyes may lack tasting glands, but they’re still enticing you into a culinary adventure. The Food Network wouldn’t be the hit today if savory visuals didn’t making your mouths water. Science has our back on this one: A study from The Journal of Neuroscience found that the brain’s reward center is triggered by viewing images of delicious-looking food. And according to a recent study from the marketing firm 360i, pictures of desserts—what some call “food porn”—are the most likely to be shared online.
Here’s the catch: Not just any picture will get your mouths watering. A skill and art goes into creating visual-taste masterpieces. Romina Rasmussen of Les Madeleines had to navigate the flavor-to-visual divide in recent pastry shoots with photographer Adam Finkle.
Q: What are your thoughts on eating with your eyes as well as your mouth?
Romina Rasmussen: “I absolutely agree that we eat with our eyes.  We’ve formed an opinion about how something will taste before we take the first bite.  That said, the look of something isn’t going to ultimately make it taste better if it isn’t flavored well.  A friend of mine who is a chef has a saying: “Come for the look, stay for the flavor.”
Q: What goes into the “art” of making food visually appealing?
R.R.: “I like to consider the colors and shapes in creating something visually balanced and beautiful.”
Q: What are skills come into play in creating tasty visual art?
R.R.: “Skills for decorating include chocolate tempering, piping, and glazing. All of these should enhance the dessert. I tend to prefer simplicity. I also have to consider how it will be packaged when designing a dessert.  It can’t have a lot of parts that will break or won’t fit in the boxes.”
Q: How do you decide what it will look like? What’s your process and inspirations?
R.R.: “I usually start by picking a mold or a shape based on the ingredients. If it’s a fruit, then I can also use color to decorate.  Ultimately, flavor is the most important thing for me. So I start there and then every other component of the dessert enhances the flavor.  Inspiration may come from the ingredients themselves or, if it’s something that reminds me of a place I’ve been, that could tie into the look of a dessert.”
Q: What goes into food styling? Anything you do differently for the photographer?
R.R.: “Food styling is a little different in that you have to consider an entire environment or mood that you want to create—not just the food itself.  You’re photographing the food from it’s best angle. In its best iteration.  Lighting and color will influence the look as well—putting the item in a context rather than a straightforward product shot. Sometimes an idea evolves during the shoot. While shooting madeleines, we noticed they looked like little spaceships, which led to a really creative and fun photo of madeleines invading Delicate Arch in Moab.  So much can be done in post-production as well.”
Q: What is the most important part about visually creating your pastries?
R.R.: “It should enhance the overall dessert or the experience of eating it.”
Q: What are some of your favorite pastries and why?
R.R.: “I love éclairs. They lend themselves well to adaptation—a wide variety of flavors and looks.  Tartlettes are also fun. Right now, we have a lovely strawberry tartlet in a rectangular mold.  It’s not your typical round pie.  It’s filled with strawberry Bavarian cream and strawberry-rhubarb compote (the rhubarb is from our garden) and it’s topped with thinly sliced strawberries and whipped white-chocolate ganache.  June brings back the cherry tart that Adam photographed.
Q: When it came to working with two local artists, how did you come up with the shoot ideas?
R.R.: “With Adam, it was deciding what items we wanted to feature and then deciding whether the accompanying photo would be a process or ingredient.  We talked about what the Les Madeleines is all about and some items that are beloved by us and our guests. With Traci O’very Covey, a local visual artist—she was making art and I didn’t want to restrict her. We talked about what the Les Madeleines is all about and some items that are beloved by us and our guests.  She designed all of our new collateral including labels, boxes and cards.”
Q: What was your favorite part about working with Traci and Adam?
R.R.: “I love collaborating with Adam and seeing how our ideas evolve. Traci has brought a lovely colorful and whimsical element to us, which is  such a nice change from what we’ve done graphically in the past.”

Romina Rasmussen

Les Madeleines
216 E 500 S
Salt Lake City UT 84111
twitter: @butterkouing
instagram: @rominaras
Andrea Peterson
Andrea Peterson
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