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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vision To Visuals: A Savory Combination

Photography and gastronomy of the highest order come together at a Manhattan restaurant

This Article Features Photo Zoom

vision to visuals
One of Farrokh Chothia’s images hanging in At Vermilion in Manhattan.
My favorite cuisine, Indian, usually accompanies the standard fare of adjectives that range from spicy, hot and exotic to aromatic, flavorful and delicious. Naturally, then, if someone introduces this cuisine, enveloped in the adjective sensuous, I’m more than intrigued. This is just what Rohini Dey, a dynamic restaurateur from Chicago did, when she came to Duggal to produce photographs for her new restaurant At Vermilion in midtown Manhattan. Rohini, it turned out, was no ordinary restaurateur. She was the founder of the very successful Indian-Latin fusion restaurant, Vermilion, in Chicago, which has been referred to as “one of the best new restaurants” by Travel + Leisure magazine and “the most exotic fusion concept” by Crain’s magazine. She had held a successful career as a management consultant, holds a PhD and worked at the World Bank, so there’s no doubt that she left her career path and created this restaurant as a labor of true love. This passion was more than evident in the collaboration we undertook with her to create the most sensual dining experience in New York City.

Rohini brought us digital images taken by acclaimed Indian fashion photographer Farrokh Chothia. These were pictures of some of the most beautiful women in Bollywood, photographed not like standard fashion portraits, but like fine-art images evocative of Bill Brandt’s work from the ’20s. Rohini was so captivated by Farrokh’s photography that five years ago, when she opened her first restaurant in Chicago, she launched the restaurant with an exhibition of his photographs, shown for the first time in the U.S. For her, Farrokh’s images define the core concept of her restaurant—they’re urbane and sensual and offer a very different take on India and its femininity. This is the difference that she has tried to imbue in every aspect of her restaurant—from creating an all-women team and carefully planning the exquisite contemporary decor to designing innovative signature dishes that epitomize the evolution of Indian cuisine.

For the New York location of her legendary restaurant, Rohini had signed an ambitious 15-year lease on a 15,000-square-foot, multi-floor space. She had envisioned this entire space as being embellished with Farrokh’s photographs. We began with detailed measurements of the restaurant space and began conceptualization and review of each image to match it with an appropriate substrate that would maintain both the emotional and visual sensibility of every image. The opportunity to work with a visionary like Rohini, who’s every bit as obsessive about innovation and detail as we are, gave us the freedom to explore nontraditional printing and display mediums and create the most stunning exhibit of Farrokh’s spectacular photographs.


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