The Ultimate Question

My Last Supper’s Melanie Dunea on Photographing Chefs and What Their Food Choices Say About Them

Melanie Dunea © The Next Course by Melanie Dunea (www.mylastsupper.com)/CPi. Available where all books are sold.

Melanie Dunea and I met for coffee a few weeks ago at La Colombe in Tribeca to do an interview for Toqueland. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, so the coffee ended up being just a coffee. Then, we decided to pop in on our mutual friend Paul Liebrandt over at Corton, just around the corner.

We went through the staff entrance on White Street and found the kitchen brigade, just about a half hour before service, hushed and intensely focused on their work.

My usual MO at a time like that would be to tiptoe around the team and up to Paul. As I began to do just that, Melanie piped up, shattering the silence:

“This is some serious kitchen!”

A few cooks smiled. A few chuckled. Paul looked up, deadly serious for a moment, then realizing it was Melanie, let down his guard and smiled. His entire being seemed to relax. He waved us over and we stepped into the dining room for a visit.

That moment right there, I believe, is about as good an illustration of the difference between a photographer and a writer as you are apt to encounter. As a writer, I see it as my place to observe, to disappear into the woodwork, to allow people to simply behave as they would were I not there.

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