In order to include an additional 20 full-page photos in our cookbook, On The Road With The Cooking Ladies, Let’s Get Grilling, our publisher, Whitecap Books, sent a professional photographer to our test kitchen on the north shore of Lake Erie. Jonathan Bielaski arrived with food stylist, Tara Ballantyne, and his photography assistant, Matt.

For two action-packed days, five talented people worked together to get the job done. One Cooking Lady at the grills, one Cooking Lady prepping in the kitchen, one photographer, one food stylist, one photographer’s assistant.

Napoleon grill

The Napoleon Prestige 500


The Traeger Lil’ Tex Pro

In preparation, Phyllis polished the grills and checked her propane and wood pellet supplies.  She set timers, tongs, grill brushes and oven mitts in position for the upcoming rush. Twenty recipes in two days meant a lot of gilling.

For Day One, the weather at the test kitchen was sunny, with little wind. Lake Erie was behaving like the Mediterranean rather than the Atlantic. Perfect grilling conditions.


Photography equipment arrives

Matt rearranged the test kitchen furniture to accommodate photography equipment and display tables. Every spare bit of space filled with tripods, lighting, laptops, monitors, and cameras.


Organizing display dishes

Taking color, texture, and aesthetics into account, Tara matched food props, backdrop material and display dishes with the recipes.

Test Kitchen

Test kitchen counter before the action

In the kitchen, Lamont sharpened chef’s knives, washed and chopped herbs, measured spices and mixed sauces and marinades,. Refrigerator compartments overflowed with meat, seafood, and poultry. Vegetables and fruit filled the crisper.


The prep and grilling schedule was worked and re-worked

The first recipe established procedures for the photo shoot. Lamont passed the prepped ingredients to Phyllis. As Phyllis grilled, Matt double checked lighting. Tara arranged background materials on the display table. Jonathan tested camera angles. CLICK. Phyllis delivered the grilled recipe. Tara transferred the food onto the appropriate display dish and placed it under the camera. CLICK. She tweaked the layout on the display table. Added a garnish or a condiment. CLICK. Jonathan and Tara studied the recipe on the side monitor, looking for areas to improve. Tara turned a plate, moved a garnish, or ruffled a cloth. CLICK. Matt adjusted a light. CLICK. Jonathan and Tara conferred over the photo on Jonathan’s laptop. Thumbs up. Nineteen recipes to go.


Salmon fillets about to go on the cedar planks


Phyllis basting the salmon fillets

Cedar plank

The cedar plank stays for the photo


Adding a little greenery


Adjusting the lighting

BBQ sauce

Touching up with barbecue sauce


Viewing from another angle

One more look before choosing the final photo


Chosen photo for West Coast Cedar Plank Salmon

Hair dryer

Tara prepares to melt butter

Tricks of the trade

First round, four cobs and four butter pats

Corn cobs

Second round, four cobs and one butter pat

Corn and butter

Final photo for Grilled Lime & Cilantro Sweet Corn


Smoked bologna hot off the grill

Bologna smoked

Determining just the right accompaniments


Chosen photo for Smoked Bologna


Eggs, rice, hamburger and gravy for Loco Moco recipe

Rice and eggs

Final photo to match our Hawaiian travel story

Day One

End of Day One

At the end of Day One we had completed 12 recipes. Eight to go.


Phyllis in The Cooking Ladies’ grill pit

For Day Two, Lake Erie changed personality to become wild like the Atlantic. Winds gusted, waves crashed, throwing spray against the test kitchen windows. We dropped a tarp to protect the grills.

Lake Erie

Tara caught by a Lake Erie wave

We stepped right back into the routine established the day before. Each of us performing our duties. Chopping and measuring in the kitchen. Setting timers and turning food at the grill. Determining the perfect placement of the food under the lens of the camera.


Phyllis delivering Marinated Sirloin Steak


Tara checking the steak from every angle

Beef brisket

A dash of salt, toss of peppercorns to complement the meat


More colors and textures added


Mouthwatering final photo Marinated Sirloin Steak

Fry pan

Apple Pie in a Cast Iron Frying Pan


First look at Chicken Breasts with North Alabama White Sauce

White sauce

A touch more white sauce


Sparkling water for the background

Photo shoot

Final photo brings it all together

By sunset of the second day the test kitchen furniture was back in place; the kitchen counter was tidy once again. The grills were cooled down. The timers silenced. Twenty food photographs, to make readers’ mouths water as they turned the pages of On The Road With The Cooking Ladies, Let’s Get Grilling, were on their way to the publisher.

Two pages


On The Road With The Cooking Ladies, Let’s Get Grilling, is available at and wherever books are sold.