The author and photographer behind one of 2018’s most well-received cookbooks, Nik Sharma also happens to be self-taught in both disciplines—and the owner of a waxed canvas Union Street messenger. As part of our food & photography series, he graciously took time out of his book tour to speak to us about evolving his nights-and-weekends pursuit into a full-time passion.
Name: Nik Sharma
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Most recent project you worked on: My first solo cookbook, Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food (Chronicle Books, October 2018) just came out worldwide.
Go-to gear: Nikon cameras and lenses, and the ONA Union Street messenger.
Describe your aesthetic in five words or less: Minimalism, geometric, low-lit, colorful, experimental.
How did you start down your current career path? I started out in medical research but I’ve always wanted to cook and write about food, so I started a blog as an outlet to share the food I wanted to write about. Over the next couple of years, the blog took off, and I ended up learning more about food, the cultural and historical elements surrounding food and cooking and also, how to photograph. It opened up new doors for me and I began to write for magazines and digital outlets. Eventually, I also started to write and photograph a recipe based food column, called A Brown Kitchen for the San Francisco Chronicle.
How did you learn your craft? I’m self-taught but I also did spend time reading a lot of books to understand things and practiced quite a bit. Because of the highly visual nature of a blog, I had to start out learning how to photograph food.
Biggest creative influence(s): It might sound atypical but architectural and design magazines and prints have been a huge source of inspiration for my food photography.
A peer you most admire and why: Cookbook author Diana Henry, her books always make me inspired to cook more.
Your favorite photo you’ve taken this year: My dog, Snoopy was recently diagnosed lymphoma so I’ve been spending the past few months, collecting a lot of special moments with my camera.
One piece of advice that stuck with you: Be yourself, be true to yourself and do you work and represent it the way you want to.
Advice you would give to someone looking to get into food / photography: Practice and make mistakes, it will be the best way to learn.
One thing most people wouldn’t expect about you? I have dual graduate degrees in molecular genetics and public policy (health).
Mistake you’ve learned from: Never try to photograph or style something when you’re tired, it will limit you creatively. I once tried to do an entire photoshoot for 5 different recipes in a day with me cooking, styling and photographing. By the end of the fourth set, my brain was out of ideas.
Biggest challenge: Learning to believe in myself.
Work you are most proud of: Gotta be my book, Season, it took two years to make. And I got to work on every aspect of it, from cooking, to writing to styling and photographing the book.
Dream project: My cookbook was a dream project that came to life!
Food you can’t live without: Honey and butter on warm toast.
Dish you cook for yourself the most: pizza.
Hidden talent: gardening.
Favorite restaurant: I recently visited Willa Jean in New Orleans, the food blew me away!
Bucket list restaurant: Faviken (Åre, Sweden).