Photo courtesy of A Thought for Food
Brian Samuels seems preoccupied. A massive snowstorm has just dumped three feet of snow on Boston, and he’s decided to make the best of it with an impromptu cocktail party. After all, what’s snow without a snow day?
Samuels’s guests are due in just a few hours, and he’s fast at work whipping up an improvised dish of miso-roasted potatoes and mushrooms. It’s coming along nicely, he told Yahoo Food mid-stir over the phone.
“I just love miso, and I love a little brown sugar,” he said. “I just threw this together on a whim — it turned out great, and I’m going to serve it as an appetizer!”
Winter weather isn’t always the impetus, but such gatherings are commonplace at Samuels’s home, which he shares with his husband, Eric. The pair have their differences when it comes to food — Samuels is a pescatarian, and Eric a defiant carnivore — but share a profound passion for adventurous eating, which Samuels richly documents on his popular blog, A Thought for Food.
Samuels’s rich, tomato-y seafood stew.
The New Jersey native began sharing his recipes online in 2009, when he first became aware of food blogs such as Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman. Previously an associate producer on documentary films, Samuels was struck by how Perelman wove a personal narrative through her dishes. In a sense, it was like documentary film.
"I’d fallen in love with capturing,” Samuels said, and he found that in some ways, Smitten Kitchen wasn’t all that different. "I loved the fact that it was her journal, but also a place where she kept track of recipes. I felt like I had stuff to say, too. And I still consider [my blog] that way: It’s a personal outlet. I’ve been able to combine my two loves — food and storytelling — and that’s not something I ever considered that I would be able to do."
Since then, Samuels has amassed a following of nearly 14,000 on Twitter, much thanks to the striking photography on his blog. His photos have also attracted the attention of local businesses in Boston — in addition to regularly sharing recipes on A Thought for Food, Samuels now works as a professional food and drink photographer in the area. “I’m actually getting paid to do this,” Samuels said. “I pinch myself pretty often.”
Here’s everything else you need to know about Brian Samuels:
1. His cooking education began in his mother’s kitchen.
"What little boy doesn’t like food? I always spent time with [my mother] in the kitchen and would ask questions about how she prepared things. She would use me as a salt tester, and would ask me for my opinion. Usually, I loved it. Then when I got older, I was like, ‘It needs a little more salt!’ I was always a part of the cooking process.”
2. Jewish food holds a special place in his heart.
"I grew up in a Jewish household. Sunday morning was bagels and lox — I could eat that for every meal and be a happy person! I’m not a religious person, but culturally — and especially when it comes to food — I very much connect with Jewish cuisine. I think matzoh ball soup is the perfect comfort food.”
3. He has opinions on bagels. Very defined opinions.
“The perfect bagel is pretty big. I don’t like tiny bagels. I want something I can sink my teeth into! It’s sort of crusty outside and borderline doughy inside; a perfect balance of crusty and chewy. Even New York bagels — I don’t think they’re all that! All the stuff you put on top of a bagel, you go to New York for that. But I think you’ve got to go to New Jersey for a really good bagel. This place in the town where I’m from — Bagelwich Bagel Bakery in Verona — that, to me, is a perfect bagel. Plus, they come out warm.”
A colorful salad Samuels photographed during a recent trip to New Orleans.
4. He went to film school.
"I always loved food, and I think everyone around me when I was little kid was like, ‘He’s going to go to culinary school.’ But then I got obsessed with film — anything with the movie “Labyrinth,” really. I’m a huge film buff, and I wound up going to film school at Emerson College in Boston. I love taking people into a different world. Documentaries are a great way of doing that.”
5. His picture-taking skills have come a long way.
“I really wasn’t good at the beginning. Because I went to film school, I had some technical background, but it wasn’t my actual passion. I was using a Canon Powershot point-and-shoot for the first months, and not really paying attention to the composition or how the images actually came out. But other blogs definitely inspired me, and I wanted the imagery on my blog to represent my love for food. So I bought a Canon Rebel and got lenses. I only work with natural light, and getting better was really about teaching myself to use it to my advantage and learn how different angles affect the picture.”
His “Cider Mill” cocktail, made with single malt Scotch, apple cider, and aromatic grapefruit bitters.
6. He’s (mostly) pescatarian.
“I do it for health reasons. When I was in high school, I was pretty heavy, and I definitely lost weight when I stopped eating as much meat. Plus, I’ve always felt better when I don’t eat a lot of meat — I love a perfectly-cooked piece of salmon or a piece of white fish and a salad. That just makes me so happy and satisfied. Now it’s become part of who I am. I think, ‘Everything in moderation.’ People eat way too much meat. If we all just ate it in moderation, once a week, that’d be great.”
7. He thinks you are what you eat (sort of).
“I think food and someone’s diet—gluten-free aside—represent who they are. Like, pickiness is a sign of who they are as a person. Someone who is an adventurous eater is more likely to take risks. Usually they’re people who like to go out and experience different cultures.”
8. He and his husband have different diets, but it isn’t a big deal because they both love food.
“He is a meat-loving man! But it’s great to go out with him. He can have his meat meal and I’ll have my fish, usually. He’s very adventurous — he doesn’t turn away anything — which I love. That was one of the things that I really wanted in a partner. If you love food, you want someone who is not a picky eater. Our relationship is all around food! We have been married five and a half years, together for 10 and a half. I can’t believe it!”
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