The Bio. by Louiie Victa

Does anyone else have a hard time writing down their own biography? Of course, I am sure of it. It’s so much easier to write about everything and anything else under the sun. So here’s my crack at telling my story. It’s a bit of a draft at this point, but this will be published in the CSN Photography 101 textbook where my food photography and art are featured.

Enjoy!

____________________________

I’ve always believed in the process of invention and reinvention.  When you feel the push to do something, no matter what it is, you just simply lean on it and see where it takes you.  This is exactly how I found my niche, and it was a joyous process to do so because it opened a lot of doors and gave my career, both as a chef and a food photographer, a heightened passion and new meaning.


I began my culinary career at the age of 19 when I graduated with a Hotel and Restaurant Management degree and I moved to San Francisco from Manila.  The first job I had was a sous chef at the San Francisco Zoo. I was far from being a pedigreed culinarian and was nicknamed “Zoo Sous”, but it was a fun job that allowed me to bring smiles to so many people’s faces.  After that, I worked as a kitchen manager and corporate trainer for Boudin, San Francisco’s oldest Sourdough Bakery.


Being an immigrant, I struggled a lot with having to establish myself in such an expensive city.  We all know that foodservice jobs usually don’t have stellar pay.  At the time, I thought of two things:  either pursue my formal culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, or try my luck and move to Las Vegas.  I leaned in on the latter option just because I believe in pushing the bar as well as taking risks.  I also didn’t want to take out a massive student loan to graduate and be called a “chef” without paying my dues.  I was young, I was healthy, and cooking was my passion so I moved to Las Vegas and became a cook.


Thankfully, Sin City was kind to me and the people here saw my drive and my passion for food.  I worked for various outlets at the Venetian, Mandalay Bay, and the Wynn.  My culinary career was on track and it was a dream come true because I learned from amazing professionals that taught me a lot of things that culinary school probably wouldn’t have taught me. But then, the economy took a dive and the recession hit.  A lot of businesses, including restaurants, closed down, and it was too risky to switch jobs.  I had a union job at the time that offered tuition reimbursement even though it wasn’t directly related to my job as a cook, and I decided to make the most of that.  So, I enrolled for a videography and commercial photography degree at CSN.  Why Videography and Photography?  Because I loved communicating ideas and wanted to see whether I could be a great storyteller outside of the kitchen.


While I was in school, I didn’t really jump into food photography right away.  I just started taking pictures of people, landscapes, things, etc etc.  I also traveled extensively around that time, as well as made short films and documentaries.  But somehow, food kept calling me back.  When I graduated, I had the option to move to Los Angeles to pursue my filmmaking career, but decided to stick around Las Vegas and see what opportunity brings.  Then, as fate would have it, I took a food photography class under Professor Charles Lohman.  I knew from the first shoot in the class that I found the one craft that married both my professional worlds and passions. And so they say, the rest is history.


I wouldn’t be the food photographer that I am today without all those experiences under my belt.  Being a professional chef taught me to prep my “mise en place”.  Literally translated, that just means everything in it’s place.  Photography also requires that kind of acuity.  Cooking professionally is much like photography in a sense - it’s the details that matter, and everything should be executed perfectly either as a dish or in camera.  The work becomes easier and more intuitive the more you love the images you are creating.  It’s like your second nature kicks in, and it just becomes the most natural process.  In short, when I style and shoot food, I usually already known what I am looking for because I’ve been a chef for so many years.  So that gives me a creative edge where I can plug in either more detail or give a dish more “star quality” and “appetite appeal”.  I’m also a big fan of things that have never been done or seen, so I drive my work towards creating food images that definitely have that “wow factor”.

So going back to finding your niche, when you feel the push to do something creative, definitely lean on it.  You’ll never know where it brings you.  Focus on the things that make you happy and follow your creative heart.  Enjoy your journey and grow into your craft.  Never stop expressing yourself creatively in other avenues even if your current profession doesn’t demand it.  Keep working on your craft until you have that edge.  Always aim to give the world the gift of your amazing vision through your photographs, whatever subject matter they may be.  Never be afraid to tell your story through your images.  The world is a much better place when artists such as yourself create beautiful things that others can look at and be moved and inspired.  That’s your goal and your calling.   

Lean on it.

Quiet time, Apologies, Wins, and a little bit of Chinatown. by Louiie Victa

Today’s post is going to be a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.

It’s Saturday night, and all my friends are out and about. Dinner, drinks and nosh invitations have been turned down for the sake of much needed “quiet time” on my part. One thing about me that you should know is that I wear many hats and this process leaves me prone to burnout to the nth degree. I work as a full time chef in addition to managing my food photography business. I have my food related art projects and write on the side too. Every time I have a moment to come up for air, I recharge my batteries much to the dismay of my sociable friendly friends. It’s the only way I can balance being pulled in all directions during the week, and I am going to quit apologizing for that RIGHT NOW.

I had a meeting with my team at EDO Tapas earlier, which proved to be super fruitful. They recently won the prestigious best restaurant award from Desert Companion, and it’s amazing to see their growth over the last six months. Anyway, I am launching a new campaign for them, so keep tuned in. A lot of great changes are going to be taking place with my workflow this year. The restaurant industry is a beast: it’s vibrant, constantly evolving and dynamic. And there are media needs to be filled as well as images to create. Personally, I am super jazzed about it. WIN, WIN!

It baffles me how much Las Vegas has changed over the years. The off-strip dining scene is really taking off, and I am very impressed, specifically with the vibe in Chinatown. Back in the day, only a few Asian markets, eateries and curious oriental shops were the staple of the said area. But now, it’s a destination that every foodie should visit. I mean it when I say that, and coming from a chef’s perspective, I get really excited with these little restaurants and hidden gems that are just popping up. Yes people, Las Vegas has a food culture and it’s THRIVING.

I finished off my day with a walk through one of my favorite Asian Markets. I was intending on picking up a couple of things I needed such as jasmine tea and some enoki mushrooms, but I somehow ended up snapping photos on my iPhone. Didn’t think much of the photos I took, but was pleasantly surprised when I got home and started to fiddle around with them. The result? I got a few good photos that I’m happy with, and that gives me this warm feeling on the inside. As a photographer and an artist I will have to say, snapping a badass iPhone pic is a smug sense of accomplishment… a silent victory if you will.

Lately I’ve been realizing that FOOD IS EVERYWHERE. It’s on TV, in clothing, in art, the news, books, etc etc. Matter of fact, it’s so essential to our everyday lives and probably is that one thing we think about three times a day (at least) on a daily basis. It’s the one thing we absolutely cannot live without. That’s probably why it’s so high up on the rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Food is so necessary to us, no question about that. But it makes me wonder… why can’t we seem to remember what we ate for dinner yesterday? If it’s that important to us, surely it would bear some significance in our memory.

I don’t want to eat, digest, shit and forget. Do you?

Attraversiamo. by Louiie Victa

I have to begin somewhere.

After the chaos of being out of the country for almost half the year, of setting up shop and home, and just hitting the ground running as soon as I arrived, this is where I find myself. I would have sounded off months ago, but I didn’t have the downtime, [voice and courage] to do so. I came from a very dark and confusing place, and it took some time to get all the pieces back together.

And so here I am. Three days after my portfolio showed at the Holsum Design Lofts, I am hungry for more. The work [food photography] is addicting. I like the grind of it all. I told myself I’d give myself some leisure moments and actually enjoy myself during the holidays. But my brain is just going 24/7. I’m afraid there really isn’t a way to stop it, so I might as well get some work done and indulge in a little writing, which I haven’t done in a very long time.

Attraversiamo. What does that mean? Most of you who will recognize this popular Italian line from the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” know exactly what I am talking about. For those who have no clue, you’re in luck. I shan’t tell you to google it. That wouldn’t be fun. That would actually take you away from this narrative, and I need you [YES, YOU] to read on.

“Let’s cross over.” Plain and simple as that. The beloved phrase holds a multitude of meanings for me. But for the purpose of keeping everything concise and easily understood, Attraversiamo is the point where I’ve finally come to this space to greet you, meet you, and take you along in my fascinating journey as a chef, food photographer, stylist, and artist.

Together, I hope we can talk about all matters pertaining to food… And I mean, literally everything under the sun that relates to food and anything edible. Sometimes, it will be relevant. Sometimes it will sound stupid. I’m not one to discriminate on topics, and the world of gastronomy is huge, especially if you tackle it from a modern perspective. So this space right here, is the special place where you [YES, YOU] and I can sound off thoughts, ideas, recipes (heaven forbid this turns out to be a recipe blog, but I welcome the occasional smattering of a blueprint of a dish or two here and there), and last but not the least - food stories.

Anyone who eats is welcome here.

And so, we’ve begun…