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Todd Selby knows cool. The Brooklyn-based (and OC-raised!) photographer is famed for his website, the Selby (www.theselby.com), on which he documents eclectic artist-types—designers, musicians, actors, museum curators—in their personal spaces. Think of it as an online Better Homes and Gardens for the hipster, taxidermy-loving set.
His latest conquest: food. Next month, in collaboration with The New York Times' T Magazine, the 33-year-old will release Edible Selby, a book that features portraits of the culinary world's most creative figures, from Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Prueitt of San Francisco's Tartine Bakery to London mixologist Tony Conigliaro. Though the food itself is legendary, it's all about the colorful geniuses behind it. Though the author includes this disclaimer about the recipes: "If you do try making one of the dishes and it's a disaster, don't blame me."
OC Weekly: After focusing on personal spaces, why'd you transition to the world of food?
Todd Selby: My work has always come out of my interest in people and creative people, and in traveling so much, I found there were so many interesting things happening in food. It was very much an organic, word-of-mouth project.
What did you learn about today's most innovative chefs?
People such as René Redzepi at [two-Michelin star Copenhagen restaurant] Noma are really doing food at the highest level. Before, I didn't understand what that meant. I always thought it was tied up with this idea of luxury, over-the-top meals, but it really has nothing to do with that. It's really about challenging yourself and those who eat there. At Noma, the first course was to eat the flowers in the vase in front of you. The second course was live shrimp. Those were real eye-openers for me.
Which recipes in the book are the most personal to you?
Growing up in Orange County, my nanny, Olga, was from Mexico, so a lot of the food I ate was Mexican. She taught me a few of my favorite recipes, such as what I call Olga's Shell Soup, a tomato-based pasta soup. It's my favorite soup in the world. I also include her recipe for orange salsa. We grew all different types of fruit in our back yard in Santa Ana. It was kind of a fun time, reminiscent of living on a farm.
What's in your refrigerator?
I have some ricotta cheese that I made and some hummus that my girlfriend made and some milk. There are some veggies from the North Fork of Long Island and some lentils. We have way too many lentils.
This column appeared in print as "The Edible Selby."