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Ep# 19 – Celebrity Food Photographer – Matt Armendariz

Welcome to Episode 19 of This Is Yu Podcast. This Is Carole Yu and Scott Stewart.

Matt Armendariz

The jingle you just heard  introduces our segment later in the show on every kid’s Breakfast love “Pop Tarts”. 

But, first, we speak with self proclaimed dork Matt Armendariz, Celebrity Food Photographer, Gardener, Zumba Motivator, and one of the most upbeat and positive people you’ll ever meet.  

Food For Life – Laila Ali

Although it was a 20-year career as a graphic designer, art and creative director within the specialty foods world where he got his start, it was the photographic process that energized, thrilled, and motivated Matt enough to trade in my cubicle for a camera.

Now as a photographer, he loves capturing the moment and story of food for a variety of editorial and advertising clients as well as various cookbook publishers and publications. He’s  based in Los Angeles, California.

Jessie Taylor Ferguson

Matt has never met a pizza he didn’t like.

After various jobs in the grocery business, Matt worked his way up to marketing, eventually leading the advertising campaigns for Bristol Farms. After he started his own very successful  food blog, Matt Bites, he transitioned into celebrity food photography full time.

What’s Gaby Cooking – Gaby Dalkin

He has a very clean vision, his photographs are modern, and exciting, catching the eye of large companies such as Target, Walmart, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Chipotle. We talk about his growing up in Texas, traveling, and he gives us tips on food photography trends.

Matt also gives us the scoop on working on cookbooks with celebrities Gaby Dalkin, Laila Ali, Chrissy Teigen,, and more.

Huckleberry Restaurant

It’s the last week for the $25 Amazon giftcard giveaway! Through May 19th, 2020 you can still enter. It’s simple! Just go to Apple Podcasts, subscribe to and leave a review of This Is Yu Podcast. We will choose our favorite review, and announce the winner on May 19th on the podcast.

Thank you so much to Matt Armendariz for joining us in today’s conversation. Carole has definitely caught the Zumba bug from you! We appreciated the peek into the world of cookbook photography, Zumba and Matt’s inspirational positivity!

Eva Longoria

Please spread the word about This Is Yu Podcast!  Please take a couple minutes to give us a rating and review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts. The more reviews, the more awareness will be brought to This Is Yu Podcast.

As always, we really appreciate your thoughts and feedback about the show. You can reach us on Instagram or Facebook at [This Is Yu Official] or you can leave us an anonymous voicemail at [562-291-6037]We listen to all the voicemails.

www.MattArmendariz.com
@MattArmendariz

www.ThisIsYu.com
@ThisIsYuOfficial

Thanks for listening to the show.

Scott & Carole.

Begin Ep# 19 Transcription – This Is Yu – Celebrity Food Photographer – Matt Armendariz

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts. Eat ’em in the morning, eat ’em in the evening, Kellogg’s Pop Tarts.   

Scott

Welcome to Episode 19 of This Is Yu Podcast,

Carole

This is Carol Yu

Scott

and Scott Stewart. The jingle you just heard is from a commercial for the best food invention ever. Pop Tarts. Later in this episode, we dive deep into the wonderful world of the pop tart. But first we speak with self proclaimed dork Matt Armendariz, celebrity food photographer gardner, Zumba, motivator and one of the most upbeat and positive people you’ll ever meet.

Carole

Although it was a 20 year career as a graphic designer, art and creative director within the specialty foods world where he got his start, it was the photographic process that energize, thrilled and motivated Matt enough to trade in his cubicle for a camera.

Scott

Now, as a photographer, he loves capturing the moment and story of food for a variety of editorial and advertising clients, as well as various cookbook publishers and publications. He’s based in Los Angeles, California, and he’s never met a pizza he didn’t like.

Carole

After various jobs in the grocery business, Matt worked his way up in marketing, eventually leading the advertising campaigns for Bristol Farms after he started his own very successful food. Blog. Matt Bites. He transitioned into celebrity food photography full time.

Scott

He has a very clean vision. His photographs are modern and exciting, catching the eye of large companies such as Target, Walmart, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Chipotle. We talk about his growing up in Texas traveling, and he gives us tips on food photography trends.

Carole

Matt also gives us the scoop on working on cookbooks with celebrities Gaby Dalkan,  Laila Ali, Christie Teigen and more. Welcome to the This Is Yu podcast. Matt, we are so excited to have you here.

Matt

I’m so excited to be here. Thank you so much.

Carole

Woohoo!

Scott

Excellent to have you on the show today. Thank you.

Matt

Thank you.

Carole

Well, we did mention in the introduction all the things that you do have you ever accidentally worn your gardening gloves to a photo shoot? Or have you taken food into the workout studio? How on earth do you keep your life so organized?  

Matt

You know, it’s it does overlap. And it wouldn’t be so bad if I did. I think the only thing that is a little frustrating is if I show up to shoot completely sweaty cause I was working out, because I cut it so close. But for the most part, you know, it’s everything kind of is all related.  

Carole

Right. And I think a lot of it happens at your location. Correct? Like your gardening your workout..  

Matt

Well these days? Yes, 100% is all in one place. But even in the past, you know, I was only going from, you know, my house to my studio and the gym and the garden. So it was a pretty small little path.  

Carole

Do you actually have a separate studio outside of your house, or is it attached to your house?

Matt

It’s outside. Yeah, it’s it’s completely detached.

Carole

So is that where you’re shooting your Zumba? Also in that big…

Matt

It is That’s my photo studio. It’s completely empty. I’m the only one there, So I was like, wait a minute, I could do this there.  I can actually have some separation, although I’ve done it from home before too.

Carole

I do like the fact that you have, like disco lights or something happening in the back there.

Matt

I’m so extra.

Scott

I just want to interject with a quick Zumba story here. So we’ve been married for a little while, and it’s kind of at that point in our relationship where she talks and I turn off and I talk and she turns off. So the other day she’s kind of around me talking and I’m doing some computer work and I hear blah blah Zumba class. I  kind of pick up on that. So I’m going about my business. We have a pavilion at the back here and I hear this really awesome music going on. And I’m like, wow, the neighbors because the neighbors air usually playing a AC DC or real strong hip hop music. And I thought, wow, that’s a little different for those guys. So I kind of poke my head around and I look over and I see Carole underneath the tree in our backyard. She has the computer propped up on a stool, and she’s doing all these crazy dance moves, and she’s like I’m doing Matt’s class, it’s awesome!

Carole

It’s so fun.  So great.  

Matt

That’s hilarious. Yeah, well, first I hear you about marriage, I completely know how that goes. But second of all, no, I went, I’m so glad that you took the class. That’s awesome.

Carole

It’s great. I always kept thinking before we were all quarantined. I just thought, Oh, man, I’m going to take some day. I’m going to get up early on a Saturday morning, drive down the Long Beach, half an hour away and go into one of your classes And this time now I get to do it at home. It’s It’s excellent

Matt

From the comfort of your own pavilion.  

Carole

It’s excellent.  

Matt

Right. It’s funny, because it was not something anybody planned on, you know, after the quarantine and Zumba, you know, because of music licensing we could never broadcast. And so they temporarily lifted a restriction in the licensing. So they said, OK, you guys can stream live classes, you still can’t record them, but you can stream them, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. So it’s completely taken off. I mean, I did it as a side thing, but because you know photography, slowed down right now, Um, I’m able to teach a few times a week, and it’s been such a great way to one stay active and two stay connected to people.

Carole

So you mean that when I was watching the Zumba class the other day. I shouldn’t tell you that I pushed the record button.  

Matt

You could do whatever you want. I’m the one that cannot.

Carole

I see. okay, All right.  

Scott

When you were a child growing up in Texas, you grew up in a large Mexican American family who did the cooking and what was your role in the house?

Matt

I ate? I ate every single thing. So it’s funny. When I was a very young little boy, we lived with my grandparent’s. So my grandmother cooked all the meals except kinda on the weekends she had. She had it off so that we were kind of out there to fend for ourselves and the older when we kind of it was just my parents and my sisters. My mom cooks. My dad cooks, Um, but because of that whole background, we all learned to cook. So I remember being six or seven in mind and saying, Mom, I’m hungry and she’s like, Well, you know what to do. You know where things were at, get in the kitchen and cook. And so it was great, because it kind of gave us the confidence toe to know how to cook.

Carole

So what kind of things would you cook?  

Matt

Grilled cheese sandwiches. You know, little kid things…  

Carole

Quesadillas? 

Matt

Ya total quesadillas . I learned to grill early on because my dad was such a kind of grilling kind of dad. So, um, was very comfortable at an early age, firing up the grill and learning to cook that way, too.

Carole

That’s very cool. So, um, when are we going to go to the Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Feast and stay at the Qualia Resort together.  

Matt

It was phenomenal. I cannot…  

Carole

Tell our listeners what it is.  

Matt

Oh, my God. OK, so it was… it’s a resort off of in the Wit Sundays in Australia, and I had no idea Australia could look tropical like that in certain parts, and it basically is. And, um, I was a guest a couple of years ago to go and stay there, and there was there was a food and wine festival, and it was just probably the one that the most amazing experiences I’ve had you drive around this Little island in little golf carts. Um, amazing flowers and animals and the food was fantastic. and the bluest water I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t wait to go back. The only issue was, you know, I flew to Australia for four days, and then you fly home, so I’m not gonna make that mistake again. It’s too much of a flight.

Scott

When you were 10 years old, what were you most curious about?

Matt

Probably at 10 years old, we had taken a family vacation to Southern California from Texas and did the whole Disneyland did the whole Hollywood thing. But what really freaked me out in the best way possible was going to Universal Studios. Um, because it was like, whoa, movies magic. But, you know, you did that back lot tour and…  

Scott

Jaws.

Matt

There were and Jaws, But you could see the sound stages and set design. And I remember telling my parents I was like, That’s what I want to do as a kid. And they’re like, What do you want to do? It was like I just want to build rooms and put lights in them and do these kind of things. Um, I didn’t really get there, but in a kind of roundabout way, I’m kind of doing that today with photography, but I thought it was so funny that this whole behind the scenes of the industry or a film or TV was so fascinating to me.

Carole

You are very eloquent. You have an infectious personality, you can write really compelling stories and you have an amazing eye. So what’s the next phase to Matt Armendariz?

Matt

Well, thank you. First of all, that’s very kind of you to say, um, you know, I don’t know. I I see every creative endeavor. I mean, they’re all related. So ah, whether a person sings or dances or paints or writes poetry, I mean, we’re all on the same beautiful path of expression and creating things. So, um, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I didn’t know that I would enjoy fitness so much, so that’s that’s kind of different. But again, it’s using music and connecting with people. I mean, I’m a musician as well, so it’s, you know, it’s still related. Honestly, Don’t know. I don’t know what what I’m going to be doing in a year. Five years, 10 years. Who knows?

Carole

Well, you know, Scott also is a musician, so I think you guys should go on the road and have a band.

Scott

Yeah.

Matt

There you go.

Carole

What kind instruments do you play?

Matt

I play the piano and violin. Perfect.

Scott

We’ll get that named shortly and will be out to see how you guys in your local hometowns.

Matt

There you go. What do you play Scott?

Scott

I used to do the singer songwriter thing so guitar and, uh, and sang and wrote songs.  

Matt

Nice.  

Scott

It was a lot of trying to get your friends to go to clubs at about quarter to 12 on a Tuesday night.

Matt

Not so much.

Scott

They come and see a once. Next, we could get a gig up in the Valley. Hey, guys, I got a spot at one o’clock on Friday night. You want to come and see me? Ah…no!

Matt

No, not really!

Scott

That was a little bit short lived.

Matt

That’s hilarious.

Scott

Hey, with the popularity of Tik Tok in the last few months, do you see Tik Tok as a viable platform for food?

Matt

I don’t know. That’s a really good question. Um, I think that it’s a little too ah, sudden, fast, quick to do anything with food other than novelty things. I don’t know if you can educate in the short space like that. I mean, obviously serving suggestions. I mean, there was the Tik Tok of the guy who made tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny pancakes and then put them in a bowl like cereal. So that was a good serving suggestion on and then put put syrup all over it. But as far as educating and teaching and people have to do things in the kitchen, I don’t know about that.  

Carole

I’ll send you one of my daughter. She did one Tik Tok she’s done once she goes to the Culinary Institute of America, and she’s a bakery and pastry student. So she was also on Master Chef Junior. She was the season one runner up, so food runs in her veins, and she did one Tik Tok.  

Matt

Amazing.  

Carole

Anyway, I’m going to send that to cause it’s very fun, and I thought, Man, it would be a good way to actually do videos on Tik Tok.

Scott

It’s interesting, I think, from the point of view of I think kids attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and as an adult, I think you have to be aware of this and bake that into the Tik Tok. Just knowing that’s how kids taking information. And if you get into something that’s, you know, like a five minute YouTube video, they’re not gonna watch all of it. They just click through it quickly. But with Dara, she was able to like she watches the Tik Tok videos so she was able to boom, boom, boom, go through the video really quickly. And it kept your attention through the whole video.

Matt

That’s amazing. So I definitely want to see that because, I mean, obviously, because that she understands the space she knew how to present the information. Because I doubt she’s going to make, you know, a laminated croissant dough on Tik Tok.

Carole

Yeah. Oh, you know, she made a shakshuka. That’s what she made.  

Matt

Okay, Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah.  

Carole

Yeah. So it was very good. Yeah, We’ll send it to you. So have you ever thought of doing your own masterclass on food photography?

Matt

Um, yes, it’s… Well, first of all, teaching is very difficult. So my hats off to every educator. Anybody who does it on online in a classroom um, it’s really, really intense because there’s just your on, you know what I mean? And I’ve done. I’ve done workshops. Um, and I have spoken at a few photo conferences for two years. I’ve done the Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai, and those involved day long workshops as well. They’re wonderful. But like I said at the end of the day or two days or three day workshop, I’m literally just mush because, you know, you’re trying to answer every question that every student has. It’s about food. So it’s about every culture. Um, and then there’s the usage of the image, what people want to communicate. So you’re trying to discuss those things. So it’s literally hitting every point of food photography from A to Z and then backwards again. I love doing it. I just have to do it every now and then. If that makes sense

Scott

And Matt, you’re a giver, so I could imagine you’re just giving and giving and giving throughout the whole workshop. So by the end of it, like you said, you are just mush.

Matt

It’s that’s exactly and I you know, I Yeah, I can’t hold back. I overshare. I want everyone to get everything that they could possibly get out of, Ah, of the time we get to spend together. You know, inevitably it goes late. Inevitably, we take it off line so I can review ah students portfolio. That’s outside of the, you know, the lesson plan, that kind of thing. But, you know, I do love it. It’s it’s a lot of fun. It’s just a lot of work.

Scott

So that’s just a note to you guys that they’re listening. If you get a chance to take one of Matt’s classes, do it.

Matt

Yeah, we have a lot of fun.

Scott

What would the title of your biography be written by Stephen King?  

Matt

Scary dork.  

Scott

Scary dork. Very good. Love that.

Carole

So here’s another really serious question. You are given an unlimited budget to put up billboards around the country. What message would we see on your billboards?  

Matt

They would have pictures of people who grow our food, who cook our food, who take care of us. Um, and this would have happened before Corona virus. Um, you know, these are the people that keep things going. The people that serve us that feed us that nurture us. Health care professionals, farmers, growers, dishwashers. You know this food world is so big and we get to see the fun part of it. And the TV show part of it in the celebrity chef. But you know, the people who grow the food every now and then somebody will rise to the top and become famous. But for the most part, the people doing the work day in and day out they are faceless and nameless. So if I had all the money in the world, I would put every one of them and their story home billboards

Scott

Wow very cool.

Carole

So at this time right now, how are those people faring?  

Matt

It’s a scary time. Um, I don’t know if even people know how they’re faring right now, other than just trying to keep their head above water, trying to keep food on their tables, trying to adjust to finding out how to continue to grow food that gets to people, you know, all those things.  So I don’t really know right now.   

Carole

I mean, it’s pretty sad. You’re seeing all of the’s thousands of gallons of milk being, you know, thrown away and…

Matt

potatoes piling. Ah, you know all those things. And that’s just that’s a tragedy. We should have some type of infrastructure or better infrastructure to stop that from happening.

Carole

To support all those people.  

Matt

Correct.

Scott

In your travels as a food photographer. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Matt

When I’m traveling as a food photographer, people don’t really see the images unless I’m on set with my laptop. So that’s a really good question. I think the funny one is when I am in a restaurant working and people look at the image, there’s a common thing. They’re like, wow, that cameras great. Which makes me laugh. I just laugh it off

Carole

Because you’re using your iPhone, right?

Matt

Exactly. Correct, Right? Yeah. No. Is as if it’s the lens that makes the photo.

Scott

Yeah, it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with the camera.

Matt

Absolutely. Right. So that that’s something I get all the time and I just laugh it off. It’s like okay, whatever. You know, just because I’m next time I meet Stephen King, I’m going to say, man, that typewriter you use is so amazing!  

Scott

I gotta get me one of those.

Matt

Exactly..

Carole

So we we do some photography and video for food here in our studio. We did a video for chicken wings with Chinese pickles. How would you prepare a photo shoot for it?

Matt

Well, that’s first of all. I’m hungry now because I bet that was amazing.

Scott

It was really good.

Matt

Yeah, because I come from an ad world and worked in advertising and marketing. I’d have to get all geeky and like, OK, who’s the target audience? What are we trying to convey? What’s the message here? All those things. Because all those things, you know, I don’t even have to say it out loud. But they all go into every image that I make just automatically, because I’ve been doing it for so long, so I would have a quick conversation, like, you know, what are we trying to convey? Is this a party? Is this to sell a product? Is there no message? And we could to just make a fun image. So those of those are my starting points. A lot of times, people don’t know the answer to those questions. So it’s a process, and we walk along together to understand what this final image of those chicken wings and pickles need to do other than look delicious,

Scott

Right, right. And also to as you’re saying, if people are having trouble. They can’t come up with their own answers. That’s what you’re there for. You can give them multiple suggestions and ideas and how you would do with all your experience.

Matt

Correct, Right? Right, So it’s definitely a process. It’s never like where, okay, I want to do it this way. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do that.  It’s well, it’s rare. I did have ah, honey client who said, just make beautiful images using our product, you can do whatever you want and so that was so liberating and wonderful. But for the most part, you know they’re paying me. So I’ve got to make sure that they get what they want. The flip side of that is there are times where I’m creating images of food where I have absolutely no say there’s no creativity. I’m literally putting things back into place of a layout, and that’s fine, too, because, you know, I try to search for the creativity there in other ways. Is that my lighting, is it a way to make it a little bit better than that mock up they gave me those kind of things,

Scott

Right. And you, As you said, you’ve shot all kinds of stuff from editorial advertising catalog people cook books What type of photography is most challenging and what is the most rewarding for you?

Matt

Cookbooks are the most rewarding. They’re the most fun you’re given the most time, the least amount of restrictions. It’s it’s very collaborative. They take time to shoot. So you’re looking at a week, two weeks a month sometimes, and because of that, you’re not gonna have everybody together every single day. So right there, you kind of given a little bit more space to do what you need to do. You also have to remember when we’re shooting a cookbook, we have one goal in mind, and that is to make the reader want to cook that recipe. So beauty and appetite appeal. That’s key. Nothing else matters as much as that. That’s very liberating. The most difficult would be advertising where you’ve got so many different things and requirements, not just, you know, food requirements, but you’ve got legal weighing in on a photo. I did the whole shoot for KFC once, and I wanted to put in a napkin because they said, you know, they hired me there like Matt. We love what you do. Do what you do for our product. So it’s like, oK, cool. I can light it this way. I can treat the subject the way I like to. And I put a napkin in, you know, just to kind of give some shape and like and somebody was like, wait a minute, did that go to legal yet? Did legal? Yeah, like a napkin said all these things you know you never think about. You know, when you shoot fast food a lot of times there’s someone from the test kitchen there to measure the amount of food before the food stylist gets it so that it’s accurate because you can’t portray things inaccurate. You know, that’s just that that’s not right. So there those shoots where you’re like, wow, sometimes I feel like my hands were tied. But at the same time, I was like, No, this is their product. I’m here to make it look as good as I can and have the most fun with it. So those are the most challenging. They’re never. Terrible. They’re just really difficult. 

Carole

You said that the most rewarding are cookbooks. I know you’ve done quite a few celebrity cookbooks. Would you be able to mention a few?  

Matt

Well, my best friend, Gaby Dalkin, from What’s Gaby cooking. I’ve done her. We just finished. We just had a book come out last week.  

Scott

Congratulations.  

Matt

Thank you. It’s a beautiful book. I’ve photographed for Laila Ali, her first cookbook that she came out with, which was wonderful. She is every bit as wonderful as you could imagine. And I don’t talk back to her because I don’t want her to punch me.

Scott

Yeah, I listen to ah, she was on a podcast that… actually an Oprah podcast a couple weeks back. I listened to. She’s amazing,

Matt

She’s so positive. And here’s the thing like, and what you see is what you get. But it’s not this sugarcoated happy pop, you know, have to go lucky positivity. It’s based in real life, the idea that, yes, we all go through stuff, but that should never stop us from being our best selves. Never stop striving to do that so to get to work with her just taught me so much about how to carry yourself and how to never accept anything less than what you feel is right.

Scott

Also to just she has an amazing work ethic

Matt

You wouldn’t even know. She is literally always working, you know? But she has a family, too, and she’s there for her family, and she literally does it all. She is one remarkable human being.

Scott

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had in the last few months and why?

Matt

I mean, I feel like a lot of things are surprises. You know, you never know what job you’re going to be doing. I was able to work with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen on a few projects, and I was surprised how much fun we had. You know how and again, how how wonderful they are, like, you know, you what you think of a person and you get to meet them and those kind of things. It’s so much fun. And there’s so much passion in what these people do. So when they come to me, that’s contagious. And so I love feeding off of that.

Scott

But also on the same hand. I think that that’s what you give off too. So I’m sure they feed on it also.

Matt

Well, I would hope so. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah. I don’t know. I’m just me.  

Carole

So you as a food photographer as we talked about you said that you have to set scenes for your photographs. So how do you evoke an emotion or a nostalgia? What kind of tricks do you have to do that?

Matt

Well, I start with lighting because lighting is kind of I mean, that’s everything. I mean, you, you can you can ruin the most beautiful plate of food with bad lighting. You can also make the worst plate of food look spectacular with correct lighting. So that’s kind of where I start say, I’m working on a cookbook and it’s all summer food. It’s like, OK, well, then I know that I’m gonna have bright lights. I know what time of day where I’m gonna shoot this. I know that it can be hot. It can be warm, so that kind of frames the story. If I’m shooting a meal for one person that’s supposed to be served in the winter time, it’s like then I can start using color to kind of remove information, or to make things look like blue winter light, that kind of thing, right? And also, you know, having traveled the world, I’m constantly tapping into the memory of travel because of things that I’ve seen. So just the other day, I had to photograph a Caribbean oxtail stew, and so and the notes were like, please make it look as as Caribbean as possible. And I literally went back to some images that I shot in Eleuthera and Nassau, and I was able to see surfaces, um, that I was eating my lunch on because I was just taking snapshots and it’s like, Okay, this kind of wood that’s been weathered this way, that’s this color palette because these were the colors that I saw in that part of the island, you know, and then I can kind of extrapolated that and put it into the photo that I’m evoking that kind of feeling that Caribbean feeling or wherever you know, the image would have been taken kind of thing.

Scott

So to make it authentic.

Matt

Correct, maybe not authentic, but to kind of just a wink and a nod to that part of the world kind of thing.

Carole

So you mentioned that you’ll look at an old photo see a background and then pull up something that you may have. So can you tell us a little bit about your prop library or your surface library?

Matt

Absolutely. When I started, uh, was 10 11 12 years ago with my studio here in Long Beach. We didn’t have prop rentals the way we do now in Southern California. If you needed props, you would go to Omega are a couple other places in L. A or the Valley and those studios. I mean, those big prop shops were geared for film and TV, so if you needed six couches to fill a doctor’s office, you could rent them. But if you needed a tabletop surface or two plates in a particular color, you weren’t really going to get them. That’s changed because we’ve had a few prop houses open up in the last three or four years here in Los Angeles, and it’s fantastic. Contrast that with the East Coast, New York, where everything with advertising and table top on, and you could get anything you wanted. You could get it delivered all that stuff so because yeah, So because of our geographical disadvantage, I had to start making things myself. So my backdrops, my surfaces, I started painting woodworking, all that stuff to make these surfaces and then from traveling, just started buying things that I that I knew I needed to put into my prop arsenal. You know, whether it was this type of ceramic or also based on trends and what people were doing that kind of thing. And then it got to a point where we were having things made for the studio, from ceramicists and, other artists so that we had unique pieces, been 10 years of building up a prop warehouse. And I finally feel like I have got most of the things I need so I can not not be so crazy and freak out my accountant from all the shopping.

Carole

Do you actually keep those all at your studio? Are they actually pieces that you’ll use in your everyday life?  

Matt

Most at the studio, um, there might be a few bowls that are so beautiful that I want to bring them home to use that kind of thing, But for the most part. you know, if I’m at the studio, I’m like, oh, where’s that bullets like, Oh, I took it home and then, you know, I have to remember it’s a work thing. It needs to stay here, you know? But when I have a party at home, you better believe I load everything up in the car so that I have all the plates and platters that I need.

Matt

But for the most part, you know, my house is pretty simple. Everything kind of lives at the studio.

Scott

What is one thing which you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?

Matt

To take better physical care of my body? I didn’t realize the ease that I gained from getting myself in shape and how it would benefit me as a photographer. You know, we we lift things. We have gear we carry…

Scott

Leaning over…

Matt

Leaning over, squatting on the ground. Every single day that I’m shooting, I’m doing something that requires me to use my strength. And I didn’t realize how much easier it became as I got into shape, that kind of thing. So if I could go back 15 years, I’d like to tell that chunky little boy named Matt like, hey, get on the treadmill. Lift some, lift some weights. When you have to lug six trips of, you know, 200lb pelican cases up those stairs, you’re gonna thank me. So that’s gotta things.

Carole

What was it that got you into Zumba? And how did you start getting interested in more exercise?  

Matt

Pure vanity. I wanted my clothes to fit better. And so I was like, you know, I’m gonna approach middle age at some point, and I should just kind of take care of myself now.

Matt

I was so comfortable in my skin before it was fine. It’s like, you know, it’s like food with life and, you know, abundance and all that. But then after a while, you’re like, hey, I may not be able to move the way I used to. I started watching what I would eat, kind of watch the portions and then, you know, just increase my physical activity. I was always doing stuff, but I just probably wasn’t doing enough of it. So moved to a new neighborhood, joined a gym. Um, I had already lost a good chunk of weight and I was on the treadmill and I saw the group fitness room in front of me, and I saw these cute little ladies dancing. And I was like, and I was like, wait a minute. why are they all smiling in there? This is a gym, it’s like a party. They should be as miserable as I am right now on this damn treadmill. So I said I was like, you know what? I’m gonna get off this treadmill. I’m gonna pop into the back of the class. It’s already started. They won’t see me, and I’m gonna try it, cause I think I’ve heard that that Zuma thing I heard about so I did that. I got my ass kicked from lack of being able to move like that. It was difficult. I was a sweaty miss. I’ve felt like I had two left feet, and so I was like, I’m not gonna let this get me. I’m gonna beat this. So I went a couple of days later than a couple of days later and you know, there’s rows and, you know, in the class. And eventually I felt comfortable enough to just move up a little front. You know, move up, move up a little. I couldn’t see anything. I’m sweating, so have to take off my glasses. And I’m as blind as a bat. So I was like, If I go to the front, I take off my glasses, I’ll be able to see the instructor, that kind of thing. And it just turned out that it was I was like, wow, I’ve always liked dancing. I wasn’t always dancing as a kid. I was like, I’m getting this crazy crazy ass workout from dancing. Then you see your body change and you’re like, This is fun. How can it be fun? There’s something wrong here. Yeah, And so then after doing that for, you know, 6, 7 months, the instructors in various… because I would go to different classes, you know, depending on if I wasn’t shooting that day, you know, if I could find a gym where I was working that kind of thing, Um and that’s when instructors were like, You know what? You should become a teacher. You would really enjoy it. And so I did. And that’s how I got into it. And I absolutely love it.

Carole

Yeah, well, I totally had a blast on Friday during the class.  

Matt

Thank you.  

Carole

You’re so infectious. And it just makes you want to continue working out. I used to do a Brazilian fit class, which was exactly like that. And, um, I haven’t done it in I don’t know, maybe 15 years after about 50 I do go to the gym and I walk in that. But after about 15 minutes of your class, I was like, Oh, my God, I get you know what? You are so fun that I just kept going and you just made it so fun and really exciting and just motivated me. And you’re very good because you’re just using signals to explain everyone what’s going to be happening because we can’t hear you through the music.  

Matt

Correct.  

Carole

So that itself is something that was really quite amazing to watch. So if people want to participate in your Zumba class, how can they do that?

Matt

They can find me on Instagram, @MattArmendariz where I list the classes right now, we’re still doing everything virtually so anybody can take it. Hopefully when the gym’s open up again, who knows when I’ll go back to it? Teaching you know once or twice a week that, you know, in a gym. But for the time being, anybody is welcome to join. Just look at my instagram. I post the schedule and the zoom information, and you don’t have to be a dancer. You don’t have to have any experience. I will show you what to do.  

Scott

Do you think you and Martha Stewart would be good river dance partners?

Matt

I would be, uh I don’t know if she can let loose enough to be a good dancer. Yeah, I said it. She might not want to, you know, she might be like, That’s not for me, that kind of thing. But, you know, I was on her show 12 years ago.

Scott

Yeah, that’s why we bring that up. 

Matt

 She cracks me up. She’s really, really a fun, funny person. She might have other suggestions other than river dancing.   

Carole

Here’s another question going back to photography. Why is it difficult to have food look good in black and white photos?

Matt

The reason we take pictures of food is because it’s something that we eat. We don’t necessarily objectify it the same way we do art and also the color of food is an indicator of whether it’s fresh, whether it’s cooked or raw, whether it’s gone bad, whether it’s out of season. So those color cues mean that food tastes good. This is why you almost never see black and white food photography. You can see it a little more in the abstract. You know, a still life were the shape and the lighting kind of mean more than the food. But for the most part, we really need in our eyes, and our brains require those color call outs to make the subject appealing.

Carole

Here’s ongoing discussion that Scott and I have. It’s about the rule of odds in food photography composition. So typically, I want to put an odd number of food items in a photo because I feel it’s more interesting. Scott wants to put an even number of food items because he thinks that psychologically indicates that you’re sharing food with someone. So what are your thoughts on this?

Matt

I’m a 3,5,7 kind of guy.  

Carole

Thank you.

Scott

The problem with what you guys are laughing at me now. I do the editing on the podcast, so we’ll see if it makes it in there.

Matt

There you go exactly. Okay. Having said that, I have a lot of requirements to make things look like dinner for two. So two plates. 

Scott

Good save!

Matt

Hey, hey, it’s the truth. That’s the truth. Um, so you know, it’s like you’ve sat down. This is a romantic dinner between two people, or this is an easy weeknight meal for you and your partner, that kind of thing. So there are a lot of two set up to dish setups that that I photographed. But then, if I’m doing three, I can still say that I’m sharing by taking one serving and opening it up or cutting something away or putting it closer to the camera with a fork in it to convey that somebody’s gotten into it, that nobody is being left out. That kind of thing of your brain knows when it’s right. There are moments where, yes, I have three or five of something, and it doesn’t fit the prop, you know, it’s like, Ah, that platter doesn’t work. With only three. We’ve got space for eight, and that’s what’s gonna visually look the best. So those were just starting points, and then we have to assess what we need to do in the photo, you know, to make it to make it work. Is it a Is it a soft drink? Shoot, you know, is that the bottle? That’s really important. And the bottle goes here so I can’t put anything around it, those kind of things. But we just we start with that. We don’t always end up that way.   

Scott

How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of your game? As a food photographer

Matt

You create, you never stopped creating. You just have to do it. Business wise, you have to, but also as a creative person, I don’t think we know anything but creating you have the opportunity to introduce new things. Try new things, envelope, new ideas. You always have that moment to keep going and you see what works. And that kind of pushes you in a direction. But then again, I mean, it’s like, Yes, we do get the equivalent of writer’s block, you know, with things always looking the same. And that’s OK. You know, if you work a lot, then you cannot every single day, you know, churn out a masterpiece that nobody’s ever seen before. That’s just not how we work. So you have to understand that you know what? That day spend in the studio, it was okay. It wasn’t my favorite. I know that I’m going to get there. And when I say that about my work, you know the clients like Matt, It’s fine. It’s beautiful. We love it. It’s just like, Okay, I’m glad you do. You know, I’ve just done it before. I wish I could have put it on this plate, but I understand the parameters of the shoot, those kind of things. But I know that I have the ability to keep working. I have my own studio. I’m married to a food stylist. Those kind of things. That’s what keeps me going. Also taking a break from it, you know, and making sure that I’d give my brain that time to shut down the food photo part and just take a break. I’ll come back in a couple of days. I’ll come back in a week, that kind of thing, just to kind of, you know, we fill that cup with creative inspiration.

Carole

I wonder, do you get inspiration from, other cultural events and places like museums, art shows, music, that kind of thing.

Matt

Every single thing, every single thing that I encounter becomes filed in my brain. Whether it was, you know, a new installation where the color was beautiful or an inspiration where this looked, you know, a certain thing because art in travel and food and color and smell all these things are really important to me. So, you know, I try to either jot it down, take a picture, make a mental note and find a way to incorporate those things. It might be subconsciously that those things make their way back into my work. Or it might be something that’s like, Oh, that was a beautiful installation of cut out paperwork that I’ve seen. And is there a way that that my table surface can can recreate the striking beauty of something being cut out or black and white or backlit, that kind of thing, right?

Carole

Why is it a trend that food bloggers blow out there highlights, and it seems that many of them shoot with an extremely short depth of field.  

Matt

It’s interesting, cause this question comes up now and then, like every couple of years and people are saying, Why do why is everybody shooting this way? But in the nineties, it was like, Why are we doing this selective focus soft lighting. Right now, it’s like, why is everything hard, light and things blown out kind of thing? It just, you know, we you have to understand that there’s trends that people do that people follow, that people feel comfortable re creating for themselves. There’s also technology. I mean, the iPhone is the reason why everything is shot overhead. Now, you know, there was a time in the studio when I could not get a client to ever let me shoot anything top down over head. No way. They were so against it. And I was like, nope, this is what we’re doing now. This is, you know, and now everything is overhead. So much so that this last book I worked on, I was just like, Ah, we’re capping the overhead shots at this number and we got to get back to seeing food the way we used to so that were not so locked into a trend. But it to answer your question, it just goes back to trends. And when people are doing? Sometimes they only can do that because of technology limitations. You know, they’re not shooting with the DSLR. So all of a sudden, their latitude for F stops is really limited. So, yes, you’re going to lose those highlights or yes, you’re gonna lose those shadows, that kind of thing. You know, it. Technology can remove a lot from us, but it also can be very freeing. You know, to where like this is as good as it photos I’m going to get because I’m on my iPhone and I’m fine with that. And I love it because it was taken with friends in their backyard and that and that the spirit is more important than the technology behind it. That kind of thing

Scott

As a person that had a successful food blog, what are the most common reasons food blog’s succeed or fail?

Matt

I think… in the people that it started when I did it. Obviously, I haven’t done it in years. It comes back to the person and their personality and their voice, and if they are authentic or if there are horrible person and they’re funny, you know me, all these things, but it comes back to doing to what that person can do that no one else can. Anyone can bake bread and put it on the blog. You know, only one person can talk about it in a certain way. That’s very engaging and funny and hilarious and embarrassing or self deprecating or even aspirational, like I moved to the south of France and look what I’m cooking, my beautiful kitchen and you’ll never have this. You know, those kind of things. It all comes down to the individual, and I believe that’s what makes a successful blog.

Carole

I have one more question, and then we’re going to have a round of quick fire questions.  

Matt

Whoa.  

Carole

What do you think your unique skill is that has helped you to become successful? Smiling?  

Carole

Oh, yeah, I think that works. It’s excellent.  

Matt

It’s like, honestly, I think it’s a smile and that just I think that means if we expand, it just means that I try to go into every situation with an open mind and an open heart and try to be as positive as possible. I feel like in my career the thing that’s helped me in all these things that I’ve done is the fact that I can smile and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.

Scott

Yeah. And you do have a great smile, too.  

Matt

Thank you.  

Scott

Okay, so now we’re getting into our lighten round quick fire questions.

Carole

Okay? On a scale of 1 to 10, how good are you at River Dance.  

Matt

I would be a two.

Scott

First band you were really into?

Matt

Captain and Tennille.  

Carole

Oh, I love that I Actually, that was one of the first albums I bought.

Scott

What’s something for which you were deeply grateful for? Right now,

Matt

My parents.

Carole

Are they still in Texas?  

Matt

They live in Texas. But there, I’m I mean, I just turned 50 and I was able to celebrate my birthday with them. I mean, like, how many people get to say that? So thank you. And they’re the coolest, sweetest people on the planet. And so I’m that That’s the answer to my question.

Carole

Favorite meal. When you were a child? 

Matt

My mom’s cooking. Ah, enchiladas, beans and rice.

Scott

Favorite place on earth?

Matt

Anywhere there’s wine.  

Carole

That’s that’s a lot of places.  

Matt

It’s true.  

Carole

That’s good. Who was your favorite character on Gilligan’s Island?  

Matt

Probably the professor.  

Scott

Who have you enjoyed talking with more Carole or myself. Remember, there is no right answer unless you choose me!

Matt

Both equally. 50% .

Carole

Right answer they ya go.  

Scott

Excellent save.  

Carole

Thank you so much. So where can our listeners contact you online and through social media?

Matt

Well, I am on Instagram @MattArmendariz. Um, and same on Twitter. Just Matt Armendariz. And my website is just www.MattArmendariz.com. Yeah, it’s the same. Ah, that’s the benefit of being an early adopter and having a crazy, crazy last name. So So, Yeah, but mostly instagram. I think that’s where everybody’s at these days.

Carole

Yeah. I love your instagram feed. I love the fact that you put the little squares around each of your photos.  

Matt

They need some breathing space. You know, I don’t I don’t like the things to jet up next to each other drives me crazy.

Carole

You have tried to do that, but somehow mind can never look like yours.

Scott

No, I think it’s the photos, Carole. 

Carole

Okay, thank you so much. Matt it’s been fun.

Matt

Thank you. Thank you guys. So very much for this opportunity.

Carole

All right.  

Matt

Thank you. Bye.

Scott

Bye.  

Carole

It’s the last week for the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway through May 19th. 2020. You can still enter. It’s simple. Just go to Apple podcast. Subscribe to and leave a review of This Is Yu Podcast. We will choose our favorite review and announce the winner on May 19th on the podcast. Scott. I wanted to talk today about a food that’s the same age as me.

Scott

What, 25. Carole?

Carole

Yeah, No, that’s my daughter Elena’s age. I’m talking about the strongest breakfast brand for Kellogg’s Pop Tarts. They are 56 years old this year. Can you believe it? They were born like me in 1964 and then the frosted version came out in 1967. Scott. Did you grow up eating Pop Tarts?

Scott

I assure did Carole. Thanks for asking. Our family dentist used to hand them out for free to drum up business because they were sugary sweet. And as a kid in our household, we could only eat sugar.

Carole

in our family. We never ate Pop Tarts. I think the only time I had them was when we went to Chinese family camp. When I was growing up, you could buy Pop Tarts at the hotel snack bar. I remember getting these unmarked white envelopes that had some kind of dry pastry inside that was somewhat squishy. When you push the packet between your fingers, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a toasted pop tart. Are they better when they’re warm?

Scott

Let’s define the word better.

Carole

Well, does the frosting on top get warm and melty?

Scott

Yeah, I don’t know about that. So those of you not familiar with Pop Tarts they are toaster pastries with a sugary filling sealed inside two layers of thin rectangular pastry crust. Most varieties are also frosted.

Carole

They’re pre cooked, which is how I was introduced to them. But I guess they’re supposed to be warmed inside a toaster or a microwave oven. Before Pop Tarts existed, Post Brand was in the process of creating a shelf stable, fruit filled pastry. They unveiled their upcoming country squares well before they were ready to hit the market. So the press ate it up and so did Kellogg’s.

Scott

While Post was busy messing around with their recipe, Kellogg’s took full advantage and swiftly began working on their own. So only six months after Post announced their country squares, Kellogg’s had not only come up with their own fruit filled pastry but had already introduced it into the test market. So yes, you snooze, you loose Post!  

Carole

How did Pop Tarts, get their name. Well, Kellogg’s wanted something with more of an edge than country squares. At the time in the 19 sixties, Andy Warhol was a famous American pop artists. He was super popular. He led the pop art movement. So Kellogg’s decided to take a cue from pop culture and named their product after Andy Warhol’s work. So from pop art came pop tart.

Scott

When Pop Tarts first came out, they test marketed them in Cleveland, and they were totally an instant hit. Kellogg’s sold out all 45,000 cases of each flavor. They were unfrosted and in Dutch apple, Concord, grape, raspberry and brown sugar. Cinnamon flavors,

Carole

Really soon they were in millions of American kitchens taken as snacks, to offices and college dorm rooms. They also sell them in Canada and the UK. Kellogg’s sells about two billion Pop Tarts every year in the U. S. They have 31 varieties. The most popular nowadays are frosted strawberry, frosted brown sugar, cinnamon and s’mores.

Scott

Okay, now a lot of people don’t know this Carole, but some of the flavors they invented never really quite caught on. I mean, they went out in test markets and growing up, we happen to be in one of those test markets. I remember a couple of flavors that they put out. There was a vinegar cyclone, old melon, and my favorite was toothpaste, which was genius because it was like you were brushing your teeth while eating a pop tart, however, they did come out with a beer pop tart. It was very popular for a while, but apparently there’s some sort of law that prevents kids from having beer baked into their morning pastries. And another interesting fact about Pop Tarts is how they were invented. The chief food engineer at Kellogg’s at that time was working on a jam recipe. During the process, he actually dripped some of the jam on cardboard. He looked down at it, and he thought…hmmm… he picked the cardboard and jam up. Tasted it and Pop Tarts were born.

Carole

Thank you so much to Matt Armendariz for joining us in today’s conversation. I have definitely caught the Zumba bug from you. We appreciated the peek into the world of cookbook photography. Zumba and Matt’s Infectious Positivity. Please take a couple minutes to give us a rating and review on iTunes. You might even win a $25 Amazon gift card. The more reviews, the more awareness will be brought to This Is Yu Podcast.

Scott

As always, we really appreciate your thoughts and feedback about the show. You can reach us on Instagram or Facebook @ThisIsYuOfficial or you can leave us and an anonymous voicemail at 562-291-6037 We listen to all the voicemails.

Carole

Thanks for listening to the show. Have ah, great week! BYE!

Scott

Thanks for listening, guys.

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