Today’s interview feature is with Ashley Hutchinson, the trendsetting Chicago-based food, photography and fashion blogger, and founder of her blog titled Sed Bona. “Sed Bona,” is a snippet of the well-known Latin phrase, “Pauca Sed Bona” meaning “quality over quantity.” Her blog features an abundance of expertly crafted recipes, segments of her travel ventures to such destinations as Alaska and Walt Disney World, with dazzling speckles of her beautiful fashion closet and style, such as a notable winter ensemble, incorporating a resplendent Dark Fractured Blossom ‘Aliyah’ scarf by British designer, Beulah London. She is the epitome of fashion at its finest.
Please see below for an exclusive interview where we discuss restaurant concepts, food photography, and of course The Windy City.
The name of your blog is “Sed Bona” or “but good” in Latin, from the phrase quality over quantity. How does your blog as a whole embrace its title?
Every post I publish is the definition of “quality over quantity” in the sense that for every three things I shoot, I only end up posting one. I try a lot of disappointing restaurants or outfits that I think are complete and once I get them on camera I find that I needed to add or reduce an accessory. Sed Bona is just over half a year old so I’ve spent these first few months experimenting with different types of posts and different writing styles. As this year progresses I have plans to bring the “quality over quantity” theme deeper into my content and to start talking about the things and habits that have substantial improved my own life. I have plans to begin a series on heirlooms as well as wardrobe basics to talk about how investing in a quality wardrobe can have a much larger impact than that of just clothing. But I’ve saved a lot of my most passionate content for this summer and the next year because I want to do it right and, since I’m still very new to blogging, I have a lot to learn still.
What are three most important concepts in a restaurant?
Flavor. Friendliness. Creativity. It’s also nice when there’s a harmony between the space and the food but it can be difficult to get right. A few spaces here in Chicago that do this well are The Pump Room, Au Cheval and Nellcote. Their decor instantly transports you to a world where their food makes even deeper sense and I love when there is that unity of purpose between the space and the cuisine.
What are your favorite aspects of the Windy City? Where do you recommend travelers visit first if they’ve never been?
It’s such a friendly yet cultured city. We’re fun-loving people here in the Midwest and we love to take advantage of any nice weather and enjoy ourselves. If you’ve never visited Chicago before, I’d highly recommend spending a day at the Art Institute of Chicago — it’s a world-class museum (complete with quite a few well known pieces: http://blog.efexploreamerica.com/2014/07/5-famous-paintings-at-the-art- institute-of-chicago/) and then afterwards you can wander the grounds, walk up into Millennium Park
To visit the Cloud Gate (aka the Bean) and then have a delicious meal at one of the many fabulous restaurants in Chicago. If you’re a foodie, then Chicago is the perfect city for you — there are so many innovative restaurants and dishes unique to Chicago (like deep dish pizza, Garrett’s popcorn, Intelligentsia coffee, and Bang Bang Pie). And if you’re into craft cocktails, Chicago has two of the best spots in the country: Violet Hour (they even employ specialized “ice chefs”) and the Aviary.
How have you grown as a food photographer? What do you love to photograph most? What type of camera do you use?
I’ve learned and relearned a lot about photography in the last year. I prefer to always consider myself a student with more to learn because there really is so much out there! I absolutely love shooting food the most — perhaps it’s because I get to eat it after?? I’ve gotten better at shooting food from interesting angles and I especially try to make my blog’s recipe posts look different from one to the next. I currently shoot with a NIkon D7100 and for food photography I usually use a 17-55mm Zoom and an 85mm lens. Photography Tip: zoom lenses have their up sides and their down sides but I wouldn’t trade my 85mm for a room of zooms. Invest in a good non-zoom lens if you’re serious about photography — they allow you to create a beautiful bokeh (technical term for the blurriness behind an object) and, because they can be trickier to work with, will force you to become better at shooting much quicker than with a zoom. I’m a huge fan of experimenting with photography and my 85mm has forced me to get creative and grow as a photographer far more than my zoom lens ever has. My father used to tell me that my dependence on zoom lenses were a crutch to my creativity and it’s only been in the last year where I’ve really understood what he meant by that.
What is your favorite type of outfit to wear when dining at a fine dining establishment / casual eatery?
I’m the kind of girl who would rather be over-dressed than under-dressed. I love simple, good quality clothing so overdressed doesn’t necessarily mean lots of bling and accessories; it can be as simple as a vibrant red dress with pearl studs. But I always like to include a surprise factor in my outfits — even if I’m the only one who notices!
What are your favorite restaurants in and around Chicago? Favorite dishes?
My favorite restaurants here are all very different from one another because Chicago has SO many fantastic restaurants for every type of cuisine (I’d even go so far as to say it’s a foodie paradise). Gibson’s is Chicago’s most famous traditional steakhouse but also serves the best crab cake you’ll have in the Midwest (and while you’re at it, order the turtle macadamia ice cream pie — you’ll thank me!). Avec is another spot I am constantly returning to if only for their swoon-worthy focaccia which is stuffed with taleggio cheese and doused in truffle oil. I also love Indian food, having lived in India for a semester in college, and no spot in Chicago is more authentic than Rangoli — it tastes exactly like the food my homestay mother used to make!
Where are the next spots in the world you wish to travel to?
I’m a HUGE history buff so I have an enormous list of places I’d like to go see, especially in Europe. But if I had to pick one spot, I would love to go to Japan. I’m a huge seafood lover so I would love the opportunity to eat my way around the country and try truly authentic sushi. I feel like it’s such a fun and adventurous place to be a culinary tourist and I can imagine that the minimal aesthetics will have a serious impact on my photography style as well.
For more information, and to read Ashley’s blog, please visit http://www.sedbona.com
“I’m Ashley, a twenty-something Chicago photographer who loves gourmet meals, excellent conversations, and a really killer ensemble. I am “owned” by two pugs, Apollo and Johnnie, and am married to an incredibly supportive and brilliant man named Ian. My style aesthetics lean towards clean and classic lines, with lots of character under the surface. I’d rather my clothing be an investment in carefully curated and luxurious pieces I will wear for years than a closet jammed full of “but I got it on sale” pieces (ahem, yours truly right after college). I began shooting as an [amateur] photographer at the ripe-old-age of 15. My father and I officially launched our photography business together when I was 18 and it was my primary source of income (not to mention joy) throughout college. When my father tragically passed away in 2010, I was devastated and instantly shunned everything to do with my old profession. I graduated college, found my first job in Finance, and slowly rebuilt my life, meeting my now- husband along the way. It was his loving support and the support I received from the incredible Instagram community that inspired me to return once again to photography and to start my blog this past summer.”