The brief for this July shoot was to capture the spirit of whole-animal, live-fire cooking in a beautiful Colorado setting in order to promote Cochon555’s Heritage Fire Acreage Farms event on my @newdenizen Instagram page.
I was approached by the PR firm working with Heritage Fire to run a giveaway for the event. However, it was challenging to figure out how to represent the outdoor cooking event prior to it happening, but necessary since I only post my own photos on my Instagram feed.
I brainstormed some ideas, one of which was to go and shoot a chef who would be participating at the event at their restaurant. As luck would have it, I found out that out that Chef Eric Lee of Acreage at Stem Ciders would be cooking a whole pig for a big Fourth of July celebration at the Farms and would be the perfect opportunity to get some shots of one of the participating Heritage Fire chefs cooking a whole animal outside, on location of where the event would be taking place.
The drive from Denver took about half an hour, with my husband at the wheel. When our car made it to the top of the hill upon which Acreage is perched, it was just before 5:30am. Daylight was not upon us yet and sun wouldn’t be rising for another 30 minutes.
Opposite the parking lot, on the lawn in front of the restaurant I saw a makeshift grill under-lit by the orangey glow of a wood-burning pit. The only other illumination came from the headlights of a truck, pointed in the direction of the cook station.
By this point, Chef Eric had already been cooking four and a half hours straight, since 1am. Although the animal was now neatly sandwiched between the wire rack and was a nice char and golden color, Chef Erif informed me that just a few hours ago the pig was an unwieldy, heavy beast due to the amount of liquid it had absorbed during the prior six days brining process. So portly, in fact, that they needed the mechanical assistance of a fork lift to get the animal out to the grill.
As the first hints of the morning sun started to peek out over the horizon, I shot Chef Eric tending to the fire, and flipping and positioning his rack to get that perfect “low and slow” heat to cook the pig.
I think cooking an animal through the night and into the next day over an open flame must be a very methodical, meditative process, only suited for the most devoted and patience cooks. It’s a feeling of reverence for the animal and love for the craft that I hope I captured in these photos.
On top of that, I was bowled over by Acreage Farms’ idyllic position at the top of a hill in Lafayette — an absolutely stunning vantage point with sprawling mountain views. I was struck by the quiet and contemplative beauty of the location, so I tried to capture these (fleeting) moments of stillness before the inevitable hubbub that would come later in the day once the restaurant opened and guests arrived.
I fell in love with picture perfect setting and I have a feeling that Heritage Fire will be a Colorado summer food event to remember. Definitely looking forward to coming back to this special place to try out the restaurant and cider house by Stem as well.
I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes peek into my work. If you’d like to see more of this type of content, please let me know in the comments.