Production: We Are Photographers: Interview With Kenna + Aran
So, I would like to bring on Aran Goyoaga
Thanks for having me.
Thank you for being here.
So, thank you so much for agreeing to be on the podcast.
Thank you for having me. Do you always start recording right away, or do you have like a little five-minute--
That's a great question. So, I have not started to record yet. Wanted to bring you into the space, talk about a few things, how it's gonna go, and then I'll hit record. So for starters, I'd just like to prepare by, I have your book, which I absolutely love, it's gorgeous. And I like to make myself a little a little mind map if you will. So, you might see me glancing down at it, or taking notes, but I might not as well.
So basically, the podcast will end up as maybe a 20, 25 minute piece. So, a couple things that I wanted to go over, so we will talk for about half an hour or so maybe, and then we might edit down some of that, and then I will re-record an actual introduction and an outro. So, I'm not t...
oo worried about getting your full bio right here, because I will re-record that. So, if I don't say something right, don't worry.
And you did, you're calling me Aran already.
I know, I switched to Aran.
That makes sense.
I've been trying and trying. Aran, Aran.
All right. That's okay. So basically, we will be using these mics, and the goal is gonna be for us to be about two inches from them. This is totally movable, so if you wanna bring it close to you.
So, it's kind of weird, because we then can't really look at each other in the eye a little bit.
I wanna see your eyes.
I know, I wanna see your eyes too, they're very pretty. I wanna make sure, I don't know if this needs to be,
Is this kind of-- there you go, yeah. So, this is just a wind mic for our Ps and Bs. But basically, as long as you stay within a couple inches. Let's see, are you comfortable there? Okay.
Yeah. I might just move it a little bit, up a little bit like that.
If you're kind of around you're okay.
It's like I'm at the eye doctor or something.
Yeah, eye doctor, then you're comfortable, but otherwise if you start to go like this then I might give you like a signal, like come back to the mic. I learned that this week. (laughing) All right, so we have had a bit of a conversation before hand, and so we've talked a little bit about what we might talk about, but we'll just let it--
I'll just follow you.
Okay, yes, that would be great. But as I've said before, my intention really is to let people get to know who you are, as an artist, as a human being, and those human stories. So wherever the conversation takes us is going to be great. And at some point I'm going to be looking over at the clock, just to make sure that I don't keep talking, and talking, and talking, as I often do. Okay, so now I'm gonna hit record. Record. And we're gonna be listening in our ears. And so, I am just going to check your levels. So if you don't mind, let's just talk about what you had for breakfast today. You know, you're a photographer, a pastry chef, tell me about what you had for breakfast, and I'm just gonna look at your levels.
For real, yeah. I had chicken noodle soup.
Chicken noodle soup! And tell me more, what were the ingredients in the chicken noodle soup?
It was chicken stock, carrots celery, chicken, and noodles, very exciting.
Delicious. Now, let me hear you laugh so I can make sure that you're not peaking. Let me think of a joke. I don't know a joke.
Let's see, I can't fake a laugh.
Just start laughing after me. (laughing)
But that's a very low laugh, yeah.
Okay, so let me go and see if my levels are good. All right, I think my levels are good. Okay, here we go. So like I said, I've now pressed record. I will re-record, but, Aran Goyoaga, I'm so thrilled to have you here on the Creative Live podcast. Welcome.
Thank you for having me, and congratulations on the podcast.
Thank you so much.
I know it's been a while.
This is our premier episode. Well, you are an incredible food stylist, photographer,. you are an author of this beautiful cookbook, that we'll talk about since our listeners can't see it right now. You have been best known originally for your Instagram, your blog, that is Cannelle et Vanille, am I saying that right?
Okay, great. And so, and with over 280,000 followers, you clearly are connecting with people out there, who are connecting with you. And you've been featured in the New York Times, all kinds of places. So, you are also from the Basque country, and I wanna start by you taking us back to the Basque country, and describing for me, your grandparents had a pastry shop where you have said that you have spent a lot of time there. So, take us as you as a child, what it looks like, what it smells like, what it sounds like.
So, like you said, I grew up in the Basque country. I lived there until I was 24. And so my maternal side, my grandparents were both pastry chefs, and they opened a pastry shop in 1949, which is still run by now my cousins and my uncles. And so, I grew up across the street from it. And my mom worked front of the house. So basically all my day was spent there. I'd go to school, I'd come home for lunch, and I would eat at the pastry shop. And where I grew up we had like a two hour lunch break, of course we did, and then we'd go back to school. And then I'd come back and I'd spend more time in the pastry shop because that's where my mother was. And so, I grew up always with people cooking, professionally, and also just to feed everybody else, because my mother was the oldest of eight, so there was a lot of grandchildren, and uncles and aunts. It was pretty idyllic actually. I didn't know any different at the time, but now that I think back I realize how lucky I was to have this environment, which at times it felt really overwhelming too, because it's such a large family, a small town, but everybody knew us. In fact, I was of the pastry, so people didn't really know my name or anything. Maybe like grown-ups, but they knew I was of the Ayarza Family, because I was part of the pastry shop. And it was always, how can I, to describe it, it really was about smells. You know, smell of milk simmering, and butter, and cinnamon, vanilla, and that's why I called my blog Cannelle et Vanille, cinnamon and vanilla. And although I loved spending time there, it never was something that my family thought that I would do. Cooking was a humble job, and they always wanted me to go to university, and study, and travel abroad, and you know, in the 70s, 80s, 90s, when I was growing up, it was you either were a doctor, or a lawyer, or an accountant, or something that was respectable, and being a cook was kind of like, okay, you're just working class. And so, it wasn't something to aspire to. So, I never even thought that that would be a path for me, or a career later on, which it is now. Yeah, so that was kind of my, that's how I grew up.
So, what was then the point where you said, "My family doesn't want me to go into cooking "and follow the family business, "but that actually is my true love?" What made you decide to go and become a pastry chef, and kind of go against what they thought?
So, it wasn't really even as clear as they said, "No, you're not gonna be a pastry chef." It was never even spoken about. I think it's something I picked up or sensed, because everything they ever did was to, you know, "We're gonna send you a broad so you learn English, "and then you're gonna take these classes." it was really very academic focused in my house. And I had good grades, so I was expected to keep getting good grades, and go to university. And so, it wasn't that they ever said, "No, you cannot do this." I never even manifested that that's what I wanted to do. But I think when I moved away, so when I was, I can't remember how old I was, 18, I went to university, 19, and I studied business and economics, just because, again, it was the respectable thing to do when you didn't really know what you wanted to do. I hated it, I was a terrible student, which surprised me, because I had always been a really good student, and I was always trying to get out of class. I finally graduated, and then I moved to the US. I had an American boyfriend, and we were sort of long distance for a while. I decided to just follow him, and hang out with him for a while in the US and then I realized, "Well, you know, "maybe I can stay." And in that time that I was away from my family, I realized, "Wow, I really miss cooking, "and I really miss cooking for so many people, "and being surrounded by so many people "that cooked all the time, and talked about food." I started cooking for myself. I didn't know anybody, besides my boyfriend. And so, I just cooked, and cooked. And I remember I used to watch all these cooking shows, and I bought Baking with Julia, the cookbook. I would sit with that book for hours, and I realized, you know, maybe this thing that I had been kind of taking for granted, I also wanted to be a part of that, and I wanted to be defined by what my family did. And so I decided, a few years after I moved to the US I decided to go to culinary school in Florida where I lived. So I did, and I was in school for two years, and while I was in school I started working in restaurants and as a pastry cook, and then I ended up at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and I worked there for three years until I had a baby and then I stopped. And that's when the whole transition started into blogging, and photography. So, food and blogging were the things that led me into photography.
Which was gonna be one of my questions. (laughing) Because you have had such a personal and then familial connection to food, what aspects of photography, what did that add on to your relationship with food?
It's funny, because I had never really, I mean, I had a camera when I was younger and I took photos, but never thought about light, never thought about composition. My father is a painter, so he was, we like to call him an engineer by day, painter by night. So, he always was surrounded by art books, and he always talked about light. He always had this, I wish, people can't see it, but he always had this, how do you say, when people kind of frame their eye with their fingers, and he was always looking at landscapes in that way, and framing things. And I think I picked up things from him, but I never, not consciously. And so, when I started blogging, I started writing recipes, and writing stories, and I realized the photos I was taking of the food were terrible, were not really conveying any emotion. I realized, you know, the power of the visual image, the company's words. And so, I really started paying attention to magazines and books. I started to kind of study light, how others shoot, composition, I just started looking at the things that I reacted to, and thinking about them in ways of instead of, "Oh, that's pretty," but what is drawing me in? And I think by observing and then trying, and it's kind of what you said about, what you were talking about with Drew about really doing the things that you want to do every day. I got up every day and I was obsessed with writing a recipe and photographing it, and I spent so much time doing it. So first, you know, it started as simple as like the mechanics of a camera, understanding how to manually expose, where are all these elements that operate in a camera? And then from that, once I mastered that, then I started thinking about light as a stylistic tool. Not just like, "Oh, I have this light "and I'm gonna use it," but how do you modify it? How can you really change a mood, or how can you complement something through manipulating light? And there's so many things that, as a photographer, you have to know, and I think slowly I just, I was just really obsessed with it. And I didn't make any money, so it was really just because I wanted to learn it, I wanted to really live in the moment. But I never considered myself a photographer, or an artist, or all these things that people talk about, the imposter syndrome.
Why, well because I, probably because I didn't have any training. And also because I knew, I always knew what good photography was, and I knew where I was, and I knew what the variance was between me and what I liked. You know, I appreciated that. And you and I have had this conversation before, but the idea that, you know, it's the thing of fake it til you make it. And I understand that, and I know you have to kind of believe that you can do something, but I also think it's okay to know that you're not quite there and to be a little insecure, and feel like you're still an apprentice. If that makes any sense. And I kind of wanted to be in that space for a little bit. Maybe because I'm European, and Europeans are little bit more like, "Oh, can I really do it?" You know, Americans I find are little bit more assertive and aggressive in their beliefs. But yeah, I don't feel like I'm an imposter anymore, but I did for a long time. I always thought, "Well, you know, "there are so many people out there doing amazing things." But I think for me, what I realized is that I could do maybe not everything perfectly, but I could do a lot of the things. So, I'm able to do, I'm able to produce a book on my own, and do all the things that go into editorial aspect of food and photography, because I've done almost all of them, except for designing a book, but yeah.
So, I'm hearing a couple of things. First of all, self-taught, self-directed, passionate, which, yeah, please, that has allowed you to accomplish what so many people would love to do, publish their own cookbook, not just, you know, with the recipes, with the photos, all of that. But I also heard you talk a little bit about insecurities, and letting go of them, or embracing them. And so, I would like to have you take me back to your love affair with food, and we haven't yet talked about the fact that this is a gluten-free cookbook. Take me back to why gluten-free, and when did you discover that you needed to create a gluten-free lifestyle?
Yeah. I think a lot of people that follow me don't even know that I don't use wheat, and other gluten containing grains. I don't wanna be known as, you know, I'm a gluten-free author, although I am. I just, the truth is I, about 10 years ago I got really ill, and I started having all these autoimmune diseases pop up, and all these things. And for about nine months I was totally do you debilitated by vertigo, and I had thyroid disease, and all these things were ringing in my ears. I had just given birth to a baby, and I was a mess. In fact, my parents had to fly from the Basque country in Spain to Florida where we live to basically drive me around, take me to appointments, help me with the kids. I found a functional doctor who said, "Hey, maybe you have like food issues." And I thought, me? I mean, I'm a pastry chef, and I grew up with gluten all my life. So, we just did a bunch of tests, and it turns out I have a gluten intolerance. But, I don't really make it, I don't want it to be about that. People talk about it, and every time someone starts complaining about certain symptoms that I recognize I'm like, "Hey, have you thought about this?" but yeah, so I, so I've been gluten-free for 10 years. But before that, and I think that's where you're getting may be, I had a secret eating disorder in my twenties. And so, my relationship with food has always been a little bit like, you know, I love you, and then I hate you, and all these things, very emotional. And it's funny, because I grew up surrounded by, and nobody else that I know in my family ever had any issue. It was just there, and it's very balanced. And somehow I used it as a soothing thing, and kind of depriving thing. But, I think it's because I have a very perfectionist personality, and I think, although I was very type A, I have a tendency to self sabotage. So yeah, recently I started talking about that in the video series that you mentioned earlier, A Cook's Remedy. And not just that, but a lot of emotional, the emotional connotation of being human, and your friends, and the people you know, and why we do what we do. But yeah, but I feel like now I'm good.
I just think it's such an amazing thing that somebody who had an eating disorder in her twenties has now, her whole life is, your whole life is food, and I think that's really remarkable. But the remarkable part too is, not just that emotional part, but that you've used that thing that was so painful as a healing tool as well. I believe that art can heal, and I see cooking as an art form. And so, I would love to segue then into your new book that you're working on, because I've watched your A Cook's Remedy series, I absolutely love learning more about who you are, and your history, and why you do what you do in that. I think you say something like, "I'm figuring life out "through cooking, and join me." So, what is the landscape now, and what is the new book going to be about?
Well, I think cooking serves two purposes for me, and I think most people. One is very meditative. Is that how you say it, meditative? And it's very, working with your hands I feel like it's really a great way to quench your anxiety and relax. And then also, it is a love language. Like, I am not good with, who wrote that book about the five love languages? Was cooking part of that? Because I feel like gifting and all these things, I'm not a good gifter. I'm pretty bad checking in with people, I can kind of isolate myself sometimes. But, I'll cook food for everybody I know. Like, I just wanna show people that I care about them by cooking them food. So, this book is a little bit about that. The new book, it has kind of a time where you spend by yourself. It flows through my day more or less, of like time that I spend with my family, time that I spend alone, then time when we open up our home to other people. So, it's always this like give and take. You know, I give you some food and I cook for you, and then I cook for myself, and a little bit of that movement within food, and emotion, and the people in your life. It still, in fact, I have about six days left to turn in my manuscript, and I'm still in it. Right now I'm doing a lot of technical writing, and checking, and making sure the recipes work perfectly. I still kind of need to pull myself out of the, like the technical aspect of a book, because it can be very technical. And then feel what the spirit of it is. And then in about a month I need to shoot it. So, there's like different parts within a book, and different sides of my brain that I'm using. Right now it's all about making sure recipes work really well, and thinking about what the tone, the whole tone is.
What aspect of that creative process excites you the most?
I like all of it. I started working on it about a year ago, and I bought myself some moleskin, like large moleskin notebooks, and I started, you know, new pen, and I started to writing, taking photos and taping them to, you know, it's very ritualistic too. And very organized, because I like order, and rituals, and repetition. So, I love that. And then, once I pulled myself out of that very linear side of my brain, kind of the methodical organized brain, which is the photography aspect, I need to be a little bit more emotional about things. And I also love, so the photographers I admire the most are the ones where you can see them interacting with their subject, if that makes any sense, because I don't just wanna photograph something that is naturally beautiful. Of course I do, but I don't wanna just go to someone else's house and it's beautiful decor, and set up, and then I just take a photo. Nothing against that, but that's not, that's perhaps not why I don't call myself only a photographer, because I only use photography to convey an emotion and really share myself. So, I like showing myself within the context of a photo, if that makes sense. Whether it's I'm interacting with the food, or I've moved the food in a way that you can see me, or I'm shooting through things. And that's a little bit more emotional aspect of working on a book, and I need to kind of make the shift pretty soon. Yeah, so I like all of it.
Well, I think you probably have to like all of it to do all this work.
Yeah, absolutely. That's what's so beautiful about your photography, is that it is an expression of you, and you can feel that emotion in your images because you know that you've created the food, you've styled the food, and now the finishing piece is the capturing all of that. I think that such a beautiful thing, when you can put emotion not just into cooking, but into your photography as well.
Yeah. And also I don't want it to be, I want a lot of movement in it. Meaning, I don't want it to be recipe, overhead shot of the food. You know, I want to incorporate aspects of, I really, I'm drawn to moments more so than, also food, you know, but that's what I do. And I understand people need to have visual cues of what a recipe looks like, but I'm so much more interested in like the little nuances of, like in a day I wanna show up my day looks like. People in my day, moments, I don't know if I'm making sense. So, like I think about it, not everything has to be overhead. There's got to be ingredients, there's got to be people, there's a lot of components that make you go into a story. It's almost like filmmaking. I think about a book as a film, like as a world that lives on its own little bit, without being absolutely, you know, fictional, because it is, you know, you want it to be a manifestation of how you actually cook, and entertain, you know, your friends. I like a little bit of a world that exists on its own too.
I love the fact that this is a, I didn't quite realize that, that the book is a kind of a day in the life.
Well, we'll see if my editor likes it.
What aspect, how does the book relate to the series, A Cook's Remedy, and are there aspects of this, sort of the healing aspect of food and what we consume? And I think that's such an important topic right now in where we are in the world, and kind of connecting that back to the emotional health, mental health, and food.
There are, well, so the first iteration of this book, I'm getting into like the nitty-gritty of it, but the first iteration of the book was gonna be called A Cook's Remedy, and it was taking from the series, and the chapters were gonna address different emotional aspects that I felt in my life, and recipes that reflected, kind of like a remedy to those. Whether it was like feeling isolated, or feeling malnourished, or you know, all these things that we, or connecting with people, opening yourself up. I think my editor felt it was a little bit trying to be too many things, memoir, cookbook, practical. And I think the way my brain works is not very, it's not very much for the masses in some ways, to my detriment. I wish I were more in tune with what people actually want. You know, and I know the people that follow me like what I do, but you know, selling a book is, it is really, also it has to work, and it has to make money. So then we took a bit of that emotional component out, and made it a little bit more utilitarian, which I also love. I love looking through a book that is practical. I want people to look through these recipes and not just like, "Oh, I love this world," blah, blah, blah, but it feels really ethereal. I want it to be something that people go back to, and I think we're gonna organize it as in a day, so it's like morning food, lunch, you know, baking with your hands, everyday dinners, dinners that you can make, that are a little bit more elaborate, but you have people over. So, it's sort of like food and all the aspects of how I work. Because I, you know, I mean, I'm constantly cooking. Since I get up until I go to bed, I am cooking and doing dishes. It's my life.
Well, I can't wait to see that book when it does come out, and see how you have tied that altogether. But no doubt, just because of who you are as a person, that emotion will still be infused, because it's infused in everything that you do.
And just your spirit as a person.
And that's the work I'm most interested in usually, in other areas. Usually like small films, where it's really about character study. Yeah, I'm just really interested in people's perspective, and why they do what they do. That's really always what drives me, more so than the mechanics of it, or how they do. I mean, I always wanna know how people do what they do, but it's like, "Why? "Why is it more important to me?" I'm really drawn into the why's of people.
So last question. I know that we've kind of gotten there, or touched on it, but why do you do what you do?
I actually think it's therapy for me. I think all these things, and I did never sit out. Actually, when I've gone to a lot of, not a lot, but I've been to a few panels and workshops about building businesses and things, and I always do the opposite of what they say I should do. I don't have a plan, I don't have a five-year goal. You know, I am just kind of working through my ideas every day. And yeah, I'm not totally, I think I do have a side that's very entrepreneurial and organized, but really all the work I do is serving me in a way to know myself, and to know who I am, and what I want. I don't know, it seems very self-centered, but it is very therapeutic for me. And also, all the things that I thought I could never do, I'm doing them, which is interesting too. I never in a million years thought I could work in some sort of artistic form. It still seems pretentious when I say it. But yeah, I admit it, I feel like I'm a little bit of an artist. And I like it, and I never thought I could say that about myself. I always was surrounded by, you know, my father, my brother painted, I had all these friends in bands, friends that wrote books and poems, and I just was like, "Okay, I'm going to business school. "I'll just tag along, "because you guys are doing cool things, "and I'll just kind of observe what you're doing," but I never thought of myself as that. And so I think what I do is for that, to just kind of prove to myself that I can do it, and work through all my issues.
Well, I think arts are definitely, like you said, art, cooking, healing tools. I could talk to you all day, Aran, but I wanna wrap up the conversation. So, I wanna make sure that everybody that listening knows how they can follow you. Because like I said, you have a blog, you have an Instagram, you teach, you have books. Where's the best place for people to find you and connect with you?
Well, I have a blog, which is, you know, 10 years old, and it's CannelleetVanille.com. Well, CannelleVanille.com. I have to be honest, and I haven't updated the blog in about a year now, but Instagram is kind of the place where you can find me, and kind of follow what I'm doing. The video series is called A Cook's Remedy, and I produced it with my friends Jen Utley and Genevieve Pearson, who are amazing, and I love them. And it's on Vimeo, or my portfolio website, AranGoyoaga.com. And then my first book is Small Plates and Sweet Treats, and then the second book which is still untitled will be out Fall 2019.
Beautiful. Well, we look forward to that. Thank you so much for being here on the Creative Live podcast, We are Photographers. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for having me.
And now I would turn it off. (applause) Thank you so much. Thank you.