Sameh Wadi for the Culinary Mistress

A quick story (fun fact?) from our shoot for the Culinary Mistress at Saffron.┬áSameh Wadi and his brother Saed told us about a piece of unfinished business of their father’s that they intend to finish for him: an encyclopedic cookbook of Palestinian cuisine. Their father’s manuscript – which he had finished but was never able to have published – rests in wait until Sameh and Saed can make their contribution to it with contemporary recipes and techniques. Sameh clearly draws a lot of joy and meaning from his relationship to his family’s food traditions, at once honoring them and expanding them. Not everyone has such a strong rationale for how or why they cook, and I have a lot of respect for the amount of personal meaning Sameh puts in to his livelihood.

A couple other things to pass on. The serious portrait poses fit beautifully with Geri Wolf’s art direction for the overall aesthetic of the book, but when you meet Sameh you sense immediately that he is FAR from as serious as he looks here. No one portrait can reflect every facet of a person’s personality; Sameh has an easily-accessible serious side that we explored on these portraits, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to reflect his other sides on another shoot someday. Also, we got to sample the small plates pictured below, and if you think all hummus and baba ghanoush are created equal, think again. Sameh’s subtle spicing took dishes I thought I knew and transformed them completely.

Congratulations to the Wadi brothers for all the accolades that they have recently received!

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