from Japan to our Chiang Mai kitchen
The first volume of Away magazine was born when I discovered food as a way to revitalize my state of being. Having been heartbroken and feeling a painful sense of loneliness, I needed a creative outlet. So I chose to share comfort foods for lonely moments and recipes designed to promote eating with friends. All this was peppered with simple stories from my student years and presented in a natural and clean format. It was truly a humble project. I cooked all the food at home, took photographs with the only camera I had (a 35mm Canon F1) and designed the layout myself.
Little did I know that my homemade project born from heartbreak would be a turning point in my career! As a result of Away Magazine, I got job offers from publishing companies and kitchen brands to make cookbooks and cooking magazines. Over the last three years, I have travelled from country to country working closely with food experts and industry professionals. The photo-shoots are well planned, talented chefs make beautiful food, and I collaborate with experienced photographers. As a natural result, the quality of photos are easier to control, and - compared to my student magazine - making days - the final product is visibly more ‘perfect’. All this makes my job as a food stylist so much more easy.
Ironically though, this professional lifestyle is rarely conducive with the ‘revitalize state of being’ I had previously discovered through food. Working in the creative industry keeps you firmly on your toes. You need to keep up with new trends while pioneering ideas and approaches. Constantly thinking ahead can make ‘being present’ a real challenge. As contractual work built in momentum, I found myself rarely stopping to embrace the little things that bring me joy. There grew a distinct lacking in my life. Constantly changing locations, I seldom had a kitchen of my own to prepare and cook food.
It was only when I finally managed to set up a little kitchen - with nothing more than a mini rice-cooker and an electric pot - that I began to find presence again. At the end of a workday, I would unwind by slicing and dicing vegetables for dinner while the fragrance of steaming rice would fill me with an inner warmth. It wasn't long before I realized the cause of my growing discontent: I was treating food as job. Paying too much attention to how food looked, I was not enjoying cooking and eating like I used to.
Over these past few years - having once again found myself out of balance - I have come full-circle to realize the true beauty of food can not be caught in a photo, because the true beauty is the process of preparation and enjoyment of dining. I remember after one photo-shoot for a smoothie, we kept all the leftover vegetables and made Japanese curry from it. Thinking back to that meal - when we were all sweaty, tired and hungry - it was the best curry I have ever tasted.
With all that said, I am now truly excited that this - the second volume of Away Magazine - is a project of love, inspired by Japanese cuisine and delivered through a collaboration of friendship. I hope this love comes through in the flavors you taste!
Have fun in the kitchen,
Kim Anh Doan
I met Satomi - a food photographer from Japan - in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Having both lived in the city for several years, we happened to cross paths on a Thai language learning course. It wasn’t long until we discovered our common interest of cooking and food photography. Thereafter, I began to learn of her vast professional experience and credibility (her career spans more than 13 years and she continues to work with the top food brands in Japan).
I remember the first time I ate at Satomi’s house after discussing an upcoming photo-shoot we were both going to work on. She made steamed rice, gyoza and red miso soup. That was the first home cooked Japanese meal I had ever had, and one I will never forget. There was just something different about it compared to the usual Japanese food I had tasted in restaurants: the flavors were deeper and more authentic. Add to this, the coziness of sharing a meal with a friend, and a view looking upon rice fields and mountains... It was no wonder I was truly happy in this moment… Afterwards, I kept asking her to cook every time we had a photo-shoot in her studio! I am glad I asked, too. On another evening, she brought out steamed vegetables in bamboo baskets with creamy sesame dressing drizzled on top. The excitement I felt was like childhood all over again, and it still amazes me how such a simple dish - paired with the right sauce - can be so delicious.
Satomi’s cooking is truly divine and I feel incredibly lucky that she has shared the recipes she loves for this magazine issue. These are simple foods we both enjoy and usually eat after photo-shooting. We did not think about “perfection” while making these dishes. We enjoyed the process of transforming raw ingredients into something nourishing. The end result through this publication, is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a food photographer and food stylist collaborating through a their shared passion for quality food and time with friends.
Finally, I want to thank Satomi for her dedication and contribution as photographer and cook. I hope her recipes, personality and life stories inspire you to discover Japanese culinary and culture as much as they have inspired me!
Please do share with us your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.