Erin Gleeson is the New York Times best-selling author of The Forest Feast, a vegetarian cookbook based on her blog of the same name. Erin worked as a food photographer in New York City for several years before moving to a cabin in the woods near San Francisco in 2011 which inspired her blog and book. The Forest Feast is a unique cookbook/art book blend, featuring simple, colorful, vegetable based recipes that are presented visually, with minimal text. Erin’s own photography, watercolor illustration and hand-lettering guide you through the steps to make each dish. The Forest Feast stationary line was released in 2015 with stationery items like journals and art prints, featuring Erin’s watercolors and photography. She will release two additional cookbooks, The Forest Feast for Kids and The Forest Feast Gatherings in 2016. Erin also teaches photography in Continuing Studies at Stanford University and works as a freelance food photographer and illustrator.
Tell me about your love for food and how long you have been a food writer and photographer?
I started out as a food photographer in New York, and in 2011 I moved to California, to a little cabin in the woods which inspired The Forest Feast, which is now a blog, cookbooks and stationery line featuring my photography and watercolor illustration.
I think of each plate as a little sculpture with an art project of props around it
What type of cuisine do you like to cook? Why?
I cook mostly vegetarian, since I grew up that way. In California we have access to amazing seasonal, local produce year-round, so most of my recipes are plant based.
What local or fresh ingredients do you enjoy the most and why?
I could eat roasted vegetables and some sort of good cheese every night if I had to! I love roasting eggplant, butternut squash, onions and kale.
Do you feel your photography style changes as you move?
In New York I felt like my food photography and lighting was more minimalistic and sleek. More “studio” looking. And on the West Coast, I had to adapt my style a little to look more earthy. I think that more natural look of styling is definitely “in” right now and my woodsy environment has really inspired me to shoot that way. I shoot all outdoors here!
Photo Credit: Erin Gleeson
How do you connect photography and food?
I studied art in school and have always been interested in sculpture. I think of each plate as a little sculpture with an art project of props around it to style and shoot. I love linking art and food- and the best part is that you get to eat it afterward!
Where do you find your inspiration?
Even though I love cities, right now I am very inspired by living in a rural place. The light out here in the woods is very inspiring to me, as well as what grows around the house- the trees and plants and flowers. I love picking things to use in my photos. But elsewhere, I am endlessly inspired by what people are doing on Instagram! And the 2 magazines I have subscribed to for years are Vogue and Bon Appetit. I also love the New York Times and Style Magazine.
What will your focus be for 2016?
I have just finished up my 2nd cookbook, The Forest Feast for Kids which comes out February 2016. And I am now working on a 3rd- The Forest Feast Gatherings, with menus for parties. It comes out Fall 2016, and I can’t wait! It’s a follow-up to my first book but has a more painterly feel, more illustration and entertaining tips.
Finally, do you follow any philanthropic causes, and how do you see them impacting our world?
I think it’s really important to educate kids about food and where it comes from. I love what Alice Waters has done with Edible Schoolyard.