Sometimes we come across a creative project that not only inspires us with its beauty and talent, but when it is fueled by a philanthropic spirit, the work of art radiates inspiration even more. Enter Amanda Marsalis’ new photo book, Chez Panisse. The East Bay native and award winning photographer studied at CCAC (California College of Arts and Crafts, now CCA) in Oakland, very close to where I grew up, and has gone on to have a thriving career shooting for Vogue, GQ and Conde Nast. Plus, her first feature film, Echo Park, was released in 2014. I had the pleasure of talking with this amazing woman and learned more about her new book, where 100%(!) of the proceeds from sales benefit the Edible Schoolyard Project. Come read what she has to say, see her gorgeous images, and buy this book now to gift this holiday season.
24 East: What inspired you to do this project?
Amanda Marsalis: I had just finished directing my first film Echo Park. I had never done anything like that before, and it took everything I had. All my energy and creative force. Separately, I knew Alice and her staff from shooting first on assignment for Vogue at the Edible Schoolyard, and then for Chez Panisse and Alice after the restaurant fire in 2013. I have always loved Chez Panisse and after the film wrapped I asked Varun, who worked with Alice at the time, if I could start spending time at Chez with my camera. It was pure instinct. I wanted to be some place I loved with my camera for as much time as possible. Bring it back to my personal creative basics so to say.
24E: What was important to you in capturing images?
AM: Telling a relatable and inspiring story. I hope people see the care and craft everyone puts into their work at Chez Panisse everyday. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to take the lessons I learned there and apply them to the rest of my life.
24E: One of my favorite images is of the Chez Panisse team eating on the steps. What was happening in that moment?
AM: The pastry department eats their meal everyday on the steps together. Its super sweet to see them talk and hang out everyday.
24E: What is your favorite thing to eat at Chez Panisse?
AM: That is an impossible question to answer!! Being able to eat a family meal everyday was great though, that way I got to eat a bit of everything. And that is my favorite.
24E: You are generously donated 100% of the proceeds from this book to the Edible Schoolyard Project? What about this resonates with you?
AM: I think education is the future of our country. I’m impressed at the work Edible Schoolyard does and I wanted to give back to Alice and the Chez Panisse family for trusting me with access to their world.
24E: You went to CCAC in Oakland and have built an amazing career from your first feature film, Echo Park, to working with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. How has studying and living in the East Bay helped shape you?
AM: I was born in San Francisco and mostly grew up in the East Bay (Castro Valley!).
Going to CCAC and spending so many formative years in the East Bay made me who I am. Its a hard thing to put a finger on.
24E: Zachary’s Pizza: thin crust or deep dish? 😉
AM: Haha, I vote thin!
To learn more about Amanda Marsalis, go here.
To purchase her book to support the Edible Schoolyard Project, go here.
To learn more about the Edible Schoolyard Project, go here.
All images property of Amanda Marsalis.