Food Styling & Photography in La Dordogne, Part 1

Every once in a while the stars line up to create unforgettable moments. This is how I feel about the week we spent in La Dordogne, France where I met amazing women, ate delicious food, enjoyed perfect autumn weather, and came back totally inspired by my surroundings.

I was there to teach a food styling and photography workshop, but in the end, it was much more than that. It was a time to bond and share new perspectives with people I admire.

Stephanie, Nadia, and I met at Charles de Gaule on Saturday morning. Jet-lagged, but full of excitement, we drove down to Beynac where Stephanie and her family own a beautiful cottage they spent two years renovating. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “This looks like where fairy tales are made” I shouted. The rolling hills, castles, pristine medieval villages, a landscape of walnut trees and the Dordogne river painted a beautiful autumn landscape of ochre and red.

I was ready to taste the local produce and eat some of the foie gras the area is known for. Stephanie who had spent months planning our workshop as well as our down time, had made reservations at some of the best restaurants in the area. I knew we would be eating well and I couldn’t wait to begin.

Our first night we ate at La Petite Tonnelle in Beynac. I had one of the best fish soups I have ever had there as well as delicious roasted rabbit with wild mushrooms. We took our time eating and talking about life. The sky was filled with stars and I realized how lucky I was at that moment to be there. Magical.

“We will go to the St. Cyprien farmers’ market to get all the ingredients we will need for the workshop” Stephanie said. Nadia and I were on board as discovering local markets is one of our favorite activities. The sun was shining and it felt like a summer day.

The market was bustling. I was surprised to find the coveted mara des bois (the local wild strawberries) still in season. We filled our baskets with pint after pint. Potimarron (red kuri squash), celery root, radishes, heirloom apples, and tomatoes all ignited our appetite to cook. We had no set plans of what we would be cooking during our workshop – we simply let the market guide us. I knew there would be lots of salads, soups, and cheese plates.

As we were driving, one of us would scream, “I spot a wild quince tree!” and all three of us would immediately jump out of the car to pick anything we found, whether it was quince, apples, or walnuts – we wanted it all. Fruit right off the tree is the most precious treasure for a food stylist. I couldn’t wait to show our students all the things we had gathered for them.

I was really excited for Sunday night as we had been invited to eat at Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch’s truffle farm and cooking school “La Borderie”. Stephanie had told us so much about Danièle and her travels. How she was the personal chef to President François Mitterrand, her expedition to Antartica, and so many current projects, while being a mother of four. I couldn’t wait to meet this interesting woman.

We shared a delicious dinner around her old farmhouse table with four other guests. I was in awe of her accomplishments, but mostly, her humble approach to life and cooking. We ate duck with preserved cherries from her garden and the most amazing poached pears with chocolate. I left satisfied and inspired once again.

I was ready for our workshop to begin and hopefully inspire others as I felt inspired.

Monday morning we met at La Manoir de la Malatrie where our students were staying and were we were hosting the workshop. Owners Ouafa and Daniel went out of their way to make our time there stress-free. We had a full kitchen and the entire manoir to ourselves.

The weather forecast for the week was promising and we knew we had to take advantage and work outside as much as possible. We had an agenda, but it was really important to us that the students practiced as much as possible. It was about showing them my style, but most importantly, guiding them through their own.

We cooked a red kuri squash and celery root soup, apple and fennel salad with hazelnut and yogurt vinaigrette, and apple and buckwheat galette with the apples we had picked on the side of the road. Everyone was open to learn from one another and ideas flowed.

That night we enjoyed another amazing dinner at Cabanoix in the quaint town of Domme. Scallops topped with sliced chorizo, hake with vegetables and tomato tartare, and roasted figs for dessert. They also have an adjacent épicerie where I purchased some poppy sugar and different herbal teas.

For our second day, we had planned to shoot an autumn country picnic in the middle of a neighboring walnut grove. Leek and wild mushroom tart, chocolate and hazelnut cakes, fennel, apple and cannellini bean verrines, and cheese plates were only a few of the things we photographed that day. I was blown away by the images that our students captured.

After a hard day’s work, I was ready for some poppy flower and nougat ice cream at the Marqueyssac Gardens. Stephanie had told us about the beautifully landscaped gardens, but most surprisingly, their delicious and interesting list of ice creams and sorbets. I was very pleased to say the least.

“I think they are going to lock us in if we don’t hurry” I said. They made it very clear when we entered the gardens that the place shuts down at 6 o’clock sharp. Well… they were not kidding. After getting lost in one of the trails, we arrived at the gate a few minutes after closing time only to find that the gates were indeed closed and that we would have to climb our way out of there. And so we did.

It was an intense day followed by another wonderful dinner at Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat. Langoustines served with verbena ice cream, John Dory on a bed of creamed peas , carrots and vanilla foam, and caramelized figs with coriander ice cream for dessert.

I also have to mention how easy it was to eat gluten-free in France. Besides the obvious bread and baguettes that restaurants serve, most dishes are naturally gluten-free and I found all of the owners and servers incredibly understanding and accommodating.

The days that followed were also filled with food and sightseeing. A trip to the Sarlat farmers’ market, a picnic by the Dordogne river, and a field trip to a walnut oil producing farm. We also managed to squeeze in 24 hours in Paris. But I will share more of that in my next post.

You can also read what the students that attended the workshop wrote on their blogs.

Stephanie has written several posts on her blog Stephmodo.

Sanda also wrote several posts about her experience in France in her blog Little Upside Down Cake.

Kimberly shared her thoughts on being inspired on her blog.

Lorna also shared her experience and beautiful photography in Green Figs and Ham.

Olivia who seemed to be our model for the week (the girl is just beautiful!) posted some breathtaking images in her personal blog.

Jennifer blew me away with her images. Read more in her blog.

Romina who owns Les Madeleines in Salt Lake City, UT posted about her experience on her blog (the girl is so funny in person!)

Stay tuned for more… For now, we are headed to Vermont to spend some time with Nadia and photograph the foliage. I love the colors of autumn.


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110 Responses to “Food Styling & Photography in La Dordogne, Part 1”

  1. Winnie says:

    I am almost in tears looking at your photos. Each one is more lovely than the one before, if that’s possible. This looks like it was such a wonderful experience…I would love to take a class with you so much :)

  2. MikeVFMK says:

    What an incredible experience and opportunity! The photos are stunning and the post is beautiful. I just wish I would have had the chance to learn in such a brilliant environment surrounded by like-minded people. Beautiful, Aran!

  3. Ashley says:

    What a dream!! Isn’t Stephanie such a dear?!! Beautiful pictures, Aran.

  4. Wow, what fantastic photos! I have been so looking forward to them and I am utterly blown away as usual. Thank-you for sharing!

  5. Dzoli says:

    What a fantastic photo story.Thank you.Love the cheese and teh frewsh produce and the nature and everything:) Great stuff;)

  6. KG says:

    oh my! why didnt i go!!

  7. Maria says:

    Ok, I am not sure where to begin but I think the word stunning applies to all of the photos and the accounts of what you did. I cannot wait for part 2. Off to check the links you provided here.

    Maria @ A Platter of Figs

  8. This town is exactly as I imagine the village in the book “Chocolat” to look. I was having deja-vu for a time and place I have never been. Magical. Merci.

  9. This is one of the most spectacularly beautiful posts I have seen in a long time!

  10. Yelena says:

    Thank you so much! It is like wonderful dream to me. Please, plan to do that again soon. Food, and photography and France, it is the best workshop ever.

  11. Monica says:

    I hope you will share recipes, especially for the celery root and squash soup!

  12. Nisrine says:

    The French countryside is so pretty and you certainly captured its essence with these pics.

  13. Mariella says:

    wow!! Would have LOVED to be there, the place, the food the whole experience just looks amazing! Maybe, next time :-)

  14. this is absolutely stunning! dreamy to say the least.

  15. It would be so hard even to choose a top 5 favorites from this post: stunning, stunning, stunning!
    What an opportunity!
    Sarah M

  16. Esme says:

    These photos are just beautiful. This region is just stunning in both its landscape and the food.

  17. Dreamy. Just Dreamy. The photos are gorgeous. Have a wonderful time enjoying fall in Vermont.

  18. Pattie says:

    You photography work makes everything look so delicious!
    It is so nice to see there are people out there really living their dream :)

  19. Cherie says:

    I love your post. I love your blog. I love you! Awesome work all the way around.

  20. I really really really hope you do this again next year as I feel so sad looking at the amazing pictures that I missed out. WOW!

  21. Jessica says:

    What a magical place! I truly feel like I was there. You have a wonderful way of capturing the moment Aran!

  22. lulu says:

    We were in France a couple of years ago, and your beautiful photos brought me right back! I miss it very much. Thank you for sharing =)

  23. Emily says:

    Your photos are as amazing as ever… I would kill to learn all you know about food styling and photography! And what’s not to love about France!!

  24. Astrid says:

    Somehow your stunning photos of both food and the countryside in the Dordogne give me hope for the world – it’s 6.00am on a dark, rainy & windy day in East Yorkshire, but looking at your amazing pictures makes me smile and feel happy. Thank you, Aran, for creating a beautiful world.

  25. what a dream. such fun and beauty. completely jealous, would have done anything to have been able to be there. thanks for sharing. x

  26. Your blog is such wonderful eye candy. I absolutely love it.

  27. Joy says:

    The photos are fantastic. Wish I could attend a workshop in the future.

  28. Great place, great food, great photos! Well done.

  29. tinajo says:

    Gorgeous pics, makes me wanna travel this instant! :-)

  30. Thanks for sharing those beautiful clicks with us! That is such a wonderful region of France.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  31. Anna says:

    So beautiful! Wish I was there. I hope you will arrange part 2 for this workshop. :)

  32. Easy kitchen says:

    the country helps to make such beautiful pictures… and i do not tell this because i’m french!

  33. Elena says:

    Gosh what a wonderful blog post, so much beauty for the eye.

  34. Elena says:

    Gosh what fantastic pictures, so much beauty for the eye.

  35. Jaime says:

    Your photos are so moving, I feel like I can actually breathe the air in La Dorgogne.

  36. Andrea Reh says:

    This is surely the most beautiful place in the world.

    Andrea x

  37. Salma says:

    oh my god, your pictures are sooooo wonderful, i can’t stop looking at them :)

    they really represent all the fun and joy you had :)

    have a wonderful day
    salma

  38. Wow, it sounds and looks like a wonderful experience!

  39. El Pasticcio says:

    Your pictures are amazing!I’d love to visit those places!

  40. Ashley- it was such a joy to finally be able to meet Steph in person. So much energy, hard work, enthusiasm, and kindness in such a petite person :) She worked so hard before and during the workshop to make everything smooth and it paid off. I am so happy to call her a friend now. xo

    Astrid- what a beautiful comment. I certainly felt at peace in the countryside. Every person we encountered went out of their way to help us and found tremendous generosity in all.

    Cascadia Girl- Well, Chocolat was in fact filmed in these towns so you were right! :)

    Thanks all. Part 2 of our trip should come soon.

    For now, I leave you… hopping on another airplane soon! :)

  41. There is something about the light that is just magic. I was in Provence this summer and in the afternoon, I just wanted to sit outside and soak it up until night.

    Now I know where I want to go next in France.

    What a lovely start to my morning in chilly Toronto. Thank you!

  42. Magda says:

    The scenery is breathtaking and your photographs bring everything to life!
    It looks like you all had the time of your lives.

  43. Neus says:

    Ohhhh your photos are so nice!! It’s a great season for visiting the South of France!

  44. Amber says:

    Fantastic photo story.
    Beautiful…

  45. This post is delivered straight from heaven. What bounteous and beautiful joy! I’m so happy this happened in the world, even if I was not there for it.

  46. Thanks Aran, this post is beautiful as ever, but also insightful and inspiring. I feel I’ve learnt something just from your photos! I’ve also headed straight out to the market, and come home to cook and shoot for the afternoon :) Gemma x

  47. C.B. says:

    I must say, europeans know how to prepare food. I mean my mother always cooked a lot and very well at that but decoration and presentation have never been her strong points (She’s not very crafty). I love cooking myself but I struggle with lazinessitis……which makes my life less then creative. Your pictures send a spark back to my heart.

  48. Meeling says:

    Absolutely stunning photos!! Makes me want to hop a plane and go on holiday!!

  49. lynette says:

    What a beautiful time! Keep up the inspiring work :)

  50. Oh my God, I would never leave. Breathtaking!

  51. Buaaaaa!!! zenbat gauza interesante egin dozuen Perigord aldean,zenbat jan, zenbat argazki, eta zelako lekuak. Orain dala urte bi egon ginen oporretan inguru horretatik. Ikusgarriak dira, eta holako esperientzia bat aukita, ba… imaginetan dot. Ze ondo, poztuten naiz!!
    Orain, ondo ibili Vermont aldetik.
    Besarkada bat.
    Miren Bego

  52. So inspiring! Every picture is craveable!

  53. What an amazing and gorgeous post. Thanks for the feast-for-the-eyes! I feel refreshed.

  54. Bri says:

    Just reading about your adventure made me feel so so happy inside! I love the way you treasured each moment :)

  55. betty says:

    I never get tired of watching your pictures over and over again

  56. kimberly says:

    There really aren’t words to describe how incredible it was my friend. I have returned home recharged and refocused – not to mention inspired by so much from our time there. What an incredible group of women – and three incredible hosts.
    Thanks again for everything~
    xx

  57. Michelle says:

    Unbelievable. It seems you refer to yourself primarily as “food stylist” and “food photographer”, but Aran – you are a photographer of EVERYthing! Your shots of people, animals, landscapes, precious details…they transport and inspire. So beautiful!

  58. define1lady says:

    Wow! What an amazing experience! Every image here is beautiful. I would love to getaway from my busy, city life, relax for a moment eating delicious food and enjoying the peaceful, rustic atmosphere.

  59. Sarah Roads says:

    Amazing photos, as always. Your work is such an inspiration! Thank You

  60. Sigh. I love France – thanks for this wonderful journey of visual inspiration.

  61. Paula-Jo says:

    It looks like you all had a lovely time – with the typically French markets and the Oh! so Good food… I’m a bit envious (smile). The photo’s are absolutely stunning, well done (again)! It leaves me with a ravenous hunger for all that delicious food and a bit of nostalgia for beautiful places. :)

  62. Breathtaking. Everything about this post is spectacular. The location is gorgeous and simply perfect! Your photos look like they were taken out of a storybook or an old movie – you have an amazing talent! Beautiful. I’ve never wanted to go to France so badly!

  63. Jill says:

    Everything looks so incredibly fresh and delicious. It makes me almost tear up! What an experience…

  64. vvn says:

    gorgeous. thank you for sharing!

  65. Stunning photographs! I feel like I was on a relaxing vacation after just looking at this post.

  66. It was beyond wonderful reading this post and scrolling continually, never wanting the words and the beautiful sunny pictures of France (my dream!!) you’ve taken.
    This sounds like a divine trip and a perfect experience. How I would have loved to be one of those students with all of you!
    The food sounds delicious and the scenery is breathtaking. Someday, I hope to live in France♥

    xxxx

  67. Sophie says:

    J’aurais bien aimé participé, ça avait l’air génial et un cours de photographie ne me ferait pas de mal.

  68. Qué imágenes más bonitas, Dios mío! Con esta photo story me has dejado boquiabierta! Me encanta Francia, sus paisajes y su comida!!!!
    Saludos desde Estocolmo :)

  69. i still haven’t read the blog itself as in the words u wrote but the moment i saw the pictures i knew i had to write something…it is so true when they said…an image says a thousand words.
    you would probably laugh at me but i almost cried when i saw them…i love the lighting, the colors, the sun…i love it all…i have never been to France in the autumn…but i wish i did…we don’t have these colors where i live…the autumn here is so much different than there…
    you probably won’t read this…or have read 100 stories like this…but i had to share it with you!
    thank for all the gorgeous images you shared with us!
    p.s i have downloaded all the images if you don’t mind :)

  70. SUNY SENABRE says:

    Ha sido un placer dar un paseo por esta entrada tan magnífica y disfrutas de un lugar hermos, bellas fotografías y unos platos exquisitos.

    Besos,

  71. This place is heaven on earth. Fresh food, the smell of grass and fresh air.

  72. Amanda G says:

    Oh that little peacock is stunning! Just like all the rest of your photos.

  73. This post is just amazing. I went through all the student links and visited all their blogs. Such a talented bunch. No wonder there was such inspiration. The photography is all breath taking. I wish I could have been part of it. Life is all about moments like these, where you just lose yourself in the beauty that surrounds you and the company of people who inspire you.
    Thank you for sharing your trip with us!

  74. You’remaking me totally homesick!! thanks for the beautiful pictures! oh the bread, the cheese, yes the wonderful nougat ice-cream, the autumn colours… weird to see the strawberries next to the autumn apples…

  75. Stephanie says:

    I love the book “Habana Libre”. I’m so happy it came out.
    I love the work that Michael does and the creative side to Havana that no one has herd about until now.

    http://habanalibrebook.com/

  76. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been stopping by your blog on occasion for awhile now, and I just can’t get over the photos. Pretty sure you have one of the best food photo blogs I’ve seen. That cheese board was SO gorgeous. I want some now. I see you getting mentioned on other blogs alot for your photos. You deserve it. Your work is awesome. Thank you!
    http://www.southernelle.com

  77. vicki archer says:

    Stunning images…what an exceptional part of the world….I can imagine it must have been fantastic being with a group of like minded foodies and photographers…xv

  78. As usual your photos are lovely. Being a Basque American that has returned to the Basque Country, I see the “color” of your heart when you write and, of course, photograph… someday I will participate in one of your workshops! Zorionak.

  79. Gorgeous photos! Looks like a dream world.

  80. Oh France, how I love it there! You must be in absolute heaven! PS. I admire your amazing photography skills.

  81. Inés says:

    Aran…a ze pasada!!!! Ez daukat hitzik, benetan…gordeko ditut argazki hauexek betirako. Yoga ariketetan: mesedez jar ezazu zure burmuina zuriz… esaten duten legez….zeozer ederra pentsaturik argazki hauexek azalaratuko ditut.
    Zure liburua argitaratze ordua itxoiten nago, irrikitan… Benetan Dordoñako errportai bikainena osatu duz beti bezal…(oso gertu ibili zara oraingoan ere!!!!!!)

  82. coco says:

    all the photos you presented here a amazing. i am sure you have lots of wonderful memories.

  83. Ula says:

    This is going to be one of my favorite posts but it made me rally sad at the same time… I would love to be there with you, cook the food, photograph it, do food sightseeing…feels like a dream and I’m stuck in my student dorm, don’t even have money to buy a nice fork or knive that I could use for food photography.

  84. Yo. says:

    I am crying right now. I have to be there for the next workshop…

  85. Vanessa says:

    Gorgeous photos! Very inspiring. Keep up the gorgeous work. <3

  86. I am blown away by your talent! I saw you were under the category of best photography food blog in Babble, and I expected one maybe two photos. But your story, your narration is so inspiring. Makes me want to pick up my camera and have some fun! Thank you for your beautiful perspective. Especially since us Americans dont have such gorgeous scenery at our fingertips, thanks for bringing it to us to enjoy as well.

  87. Simone says:

    This is possibly the most beautiful blogpost I have ever read, your photos are incredible!!

    I have already seen some of Kim’s photos of her trip….what an experience.

    :)

  88. a. maren says:

    so amazing. thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous trip with us.

  89. Thank you very, very much for all your kind comments. Our time in France was indeed magical and I hope you had a chance to read what our students have posted. Their work is outstanding.

    I just returned from a week in Vermont with Nadia. Still recuperating from the beauty.

    More to come soon.

    xo-A

  90. I too have been left inspired by this post. As always, your photographs are magnificent… taking us on this journey with you.

    And now i’m off to check out the other sites.

  91. Mary Sanavia says:

    Everything looks so beautiful and inspiring….it´s like I can see the wonderful time that you all had. I´m so happy for you.

  92. Pure Complex says:

    I absolutely adore your photos.. The produce and the land look amazing. I can’t wait to visit France myself. Thanks for sharing this

  93. Flor says:

    Hola, impresinante tus fotos, me hacen viajar!!!!
    Saludos desde Buenos Aires.
    Flor

  94. Silvie. says:

    I’ve found this blog via Olivia from Everyday Musings. Amazing!

    I needed this type of beauty after a hard working week, Thank you!

    PS: Olivia, I ADORE your navy jumper! Is it wool?? where from? (I’ve been searching for a similar one for quite a while now) :)

    Have a wonderful weekend *

  95. You had such reat weather. What a lovely shooting session. I love the apples.

  96. Thanks everyone. Still trying to catch up with your comments, emails and life in general. I appreciate your kind words!

  97. Katie says:

    wow, such lovely photos! i remember visiting the dordogne when i was younger, good memories :)

    Katie x

  98. piecurious says:

    I loved reading this post and the photos were absolutely lovely. The dishes, the people, and the vibrant countryside made the whole experience look very magical, indeed. Thank you for sharing!

  99. I like the place, beautiful and calm, and is a great place to relieve stress

  100. Hunter&Hare says:

    these images are absolutely stunning.

  101. oninchoco says:

    Stunning is not enough! Incredible bright pictures and story :) Just love it.

  102. Pili Munné says:

    Hola Aran!
    Soy Pilar, soy nutricionista de Barcelona pero me acabo de mudar a Miami por el trabajo de mi marido. Descubrí tu blog hace poquito y me encanta!
    Voy a hacer la pregunta en inglés porque seguro que mucha gente está interesada en saber la respuesta:

    Are you planning a workshop in Florida?

    Este es mi humilde blog, empecé este año y cada día intento mejorar: http://thelifeaholicissue.wordpress.com/

    Thank you for the inspiration!!

  103. milena says:

    bellissime foto !!colori stupendi!

  104. Claudia says:

    Wow! Just wonderful! Great pictures, lovely place and good food! :)

  105. […] I have been dying to get to France and she does a SUPERB job of capturing photos of food and places that are so inspiring to me.  I spied these images some time ago and have still […]

  106. Sharon Gill says:

    Just found your blog. It is an absolute dream. ! I got lost in the wonder of your images. An hour ago I was in France. Now I’m back in cold rainy England. Can’t wait for you to take me somewhere else and feed me beautiful images of your amazing food.

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