The ‘About Us’ section on the website for the new Gilt Taste (which is the latest offshoot of Gilt.com, which is an online provider of insider access to top deals on designer consumer products) begins with 3 simple words, “We love food.”
Everything about the Gilt Taste site supports that mantra, from the tangible passion for artisanal foods to chef-quality equipment. With the expertise of Ruth Reichl, Francis Lam, Melissa Clark and Barry Estabrook, this interactive online food magazine offers top of the line products and inspirational photos, features, and videos to help dedicated foodies bring their culinary dreams to life. Gilt Taste has quickly become the online shopping haven for food adventurers, from the the scotch and stout truffles made by Valerie Confections to La Quericia’s Porkucopia assortment, and everything in between. And (like Gilt proper) there’s video…
With the content ranging from Chef Daniel Boulud sharing his rare cookbook collection to whimsical videos of dancing salt shakers, the site is as entertaining as it is a helpful gourmet resource.
We talked to Gilt Taste managing editor, Jennifer Pelka, who shared some insights into how the video content has become a creative outlet for filmmakers who love food and why the videos are so important to the success of Gilt Taste.
Tubefilter: Why was it important for you to include videos on Gilt Taste?
Jennifer Pelka: Pretty simply, they’re fun. We like to create many different ways for people to be inspired by food, and we feel empowered to work within many formats – scenic videos, music videos, stop-animation, illustrations, comics, infographics. Soon we’ll be doing downloadable audio podcasts and we’re working on a lot of interactive innovations for our mobile releases. With all of the video we create, we’re always searching for ways to make them beautiful, inspired, inspiring and authentic.
Each Friday for our first five weeks after our launch in May, we ran a video from our By the Smoke series. They’re all from a dinner we hosted in the Catskills. The director, Ithai Schori, shot in real-time with no prop or food stylists, no hair and make-up, no reshoots of any of the courses. He simply invited a bunch of his friends – a ragtag collective of artsy types like Dossier founder Alec Friedman and jewelry designer Anna Sheffield – to this amazing cabin in the woods, a house where he spends many of his weekends roasting whole pigs and smoking large slabs of meat. Each video featured a new song from a different band that Ithai particularly loves, from Brooklyn-based Twin Shadow to the late Mississippi delta blues musician Asie Payton.
Our readers loved this series simply because it’s evocative of this really inspired way to live, surrounded by friends, sharing simple but incredibly delicious food, spinning records in front of a fireplace, drinking until dawn. We were also able to convey some really technical details – how to open oysters, butcher a whole rib-eye, make panna cotta using gelatin sheets – simply through reference to the real movements in the kitchen. Rather than taking an afternoon to shoot our “how-to” videos in a studio kitchen, we decided to throw a party.
TF: What is the process for deciding what content will be shot for the site?
JP: It’s easy to take inspiration from so many sources – a director’s vision, a scenic location, the shape of salts, the color of spices, a collection of copper pots, a chef’s movements, even one of our programmers mentioning that cooking is just like writing code.
TF: You have made several videos chef Daniel Boulud and photographer Ithai Schori. How are these videos shot?
JP: In those cases, we worked with Ithai Schori and his crew – in total, a simple set up of two cameras, sound, and one light. Because we’re trying to create profiles that are as natural as possible, for almost everything we shoot, there’s a still camera to take in the breadth of the scene, and one super active hand-held camera to get in tight with the detail shots from several perspectives.
Tubefilter: Filmmaker Rammy Lee Park made a short film for Gilt Taste about salt. How much salt did you sell after the video went live on the site?
JP: The salt video was the first in a series of three stop-animation videos of Rammy literally playing with her food: salt in the form of a Busby Berkeley musical, dancing spices referencing a Bollywood movie, and a veggie Western. Every day we see an uptick in whatever we’re selling as related to the feature stories we run.
This week, we’ve seen tremendous interest in the CSA-style basket of produce available from Chef’s Garden, the most beautiful assortments of seasonal summer produce from a sustainable farm in Ohio that services the best chefs in the country.
This particular seasonal selection will include everything from many types of rare lettuces, heirloom tomatoes of all shapes and colors, fragrant and unusual herbs like rare mint varietals and spicy mustard leaves, summer squash blossoms, edible flowers and microgreens. It was fun to see what Rammy did with this natural product, inject some silly humor, and to know that it will inspire people to think about vegetables in a new way.
Tubefilter: What is the connection between the video content on the site and connecting it to the culinary products sold on Gilt Taste?
JP: As with all of our editorial, we’re often inspired by the products that we feature on the site, but there’s certainly no mandate to promote any particular items. We simply find foods that we love, that inspire us, and that we want to share with our audience. Then we work with our director and whoever is the subject of the video to find new and innovative ways to look at them.
For example, Melissa Clark and Jennifer Maeng wanted to make a video together, on a rooftop, using a big green egg as a grill. The idea of Korean tacos came up using gochuchang and Coca-Cola in a marinade for pork belly. It was a pretty perfect summer story, and a the video was huge hit with our viewers. We sold a ton of pork belly that day. I wish we were already selling gochuchang — it’s a tough-to-find ingredient that we’ll carry soon, but don’t yet, so we referred out to another online source where you can find it. We heard from a lot of people that it’s one of their new favorite summer grilling recipes. It’s pretty gratifying to know that not only did we inspire people to try this new recipe and technique, but to purchase sustainably-raised pork from Becker Lane Farm in Iowa.
Tubefilter: What new videos are planned for Gilt Taste?
JP: I’m really excited about our upcoming By the Sand series to follow our Catskills By the Smoke series. We’re heading to the beach, renting a charter boat for deep sea fishing, hauling our catch into shore, building a bonfire and grilling into the night. We haven’t planned the menu yet. That’s the next step.
Tubefilter: Will video continue to be an important part of the Gilt Taste world?
JP: You’ll always find series of videos on Fridays at Taste. They may always be without dialogue, and overlapped with music. My intention is to work with many different filmmakers to realize their particular style within our context, over 3-5 videos, so that our viewers can follow a particular director from one week to the next. If there are any filmmakers out there who are looking to push the boundaries with format, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.