In the kitchen with DeadHungry

Images & recipes: Alex Paganelli. Words: Emily Derrick

Chef-meets-artist Alex Paganelli is the creator of @DeadHungry – our current culinary obsession. His unique practice – which fuses cooking, photography, styling, artistry and beyond – subverts conventional food photography and conjures up scenes and dishes that are both an optical feast and deeply delicious (slice of banoffee pie, anyone?). He’s also worked with some of our favourite people, places and things – including Sharna Osbourne, Bistroteque, Ace Hotel, Sketch, Buffalo Zine, Cura Magazine and Ferment magazine, to name a few. We invited Alex to take part in our ‘Creativity Is Not Cancelled’ series, which explores the theme of ‘togetherness’ during these uncertain times. The result? A series of recipes created with a mission to bind us together through the art of cooking.

Recipe 1: Lemon Cake

Because when life gives you lemons, make lemon cake.

Swipe right for the how-to >

 

Cooking is probably the one thing we all have in common right now. It’s a time to realise you can make things in your kitchen you never knew you could.

Recipe 2: Peanut Banoffee Pie

Trust us: just one slice will not be enough.

Swipe right for the how-to >

 

I wanted to create something around Selfridges’ famous yellow, but using modest, accessible ingredients most of us can find at a corner shop, while making the whole thing look decadent. I love to make cheap things look expensive!

Get creative in the kitchen

Recipe 3: Pineapple Upside-down Cake

A retro classic, reworked.

Swipe right for the how-to >

Meet Alex Paganelli

We talked to Alex to hear more about his creative practice.

How did you become the phenomena that is DeadHungry?

Initially, I started working in restaurants, then I realised I wanted to do something more creative. I always had a passion for photography and wanted to combine the two together. My background is broad – I’ve gone from bartending to private chef-ing, food styling to menu development, image creation and more. Having tapped into so many different areas of the food industry, I realised that I not only had my own influences and aesthetic, but I also had the tools to execute the work myself.

 

Food photography has traditionally been a field that’s one of agonising perfection and fakery. How do you steer clear of these clichés?

I think, because I started in a kitchen and still cook a lot today, food photography is a product of my work, rather than the main attraction. I set up a studio in my kitchen and photograph things quite randomly, when something looks cool or interesting enough to be documented. Eventually, I was asked to create still-life imagery involving food, and I started looking more at fashion imagery and  mixed the two together. That’s where the whole dreamy, surreal-yet-quite-dynamic aesthetic really started.

 

How do you balance and find harmony between aesthetics and flavour? Does one overrule the other? 

It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that both are equally important to me – they just simply need to be approached from two different angles. When it comes to creating a dish, flavour comes first and the aesthetic is usually a product of how it naturally looks, whereas a project like still-life photography clearly relies more on aesthetic. And then some projects are the perfect balance of both, like designing and shooting a recipe that will be published, or creating a menu for a series of events. That’s when things get super-exciting.