David J. Toman Photography | Portraits of Chef Elmy - Bay Area Portrait Photographer

Portraits of Chef Elmy - Bay Area Portrait Photographer

The Inimitable Chef Elmy - A Photo Essay

Serving the Royal Treatment with Egyptian Cuisine

Chef ElmyWelcome to my world of flavor and smiles!

This is a photo essay and not a full fledged article about the wonderful Chef Elmy Kader, creator of culinary delights and impresario of the Royal Egyptian Cuisine food truck in Berkeley, California, so I’ll just offer a few sentences to start. 

Note: Click on each image to view at full size, and click again to return to article with scaled images.

I have enjoyed several meals with Elmy at his location off Folger Avenue in Berkeley, and can best describe each experience as something that feels good in your body and in your soul. Elmy makes you feel good inside and out with his fresh, natural, flavorful food, and especially his generosity, humor and smile. And speaking of "body and soul," as a lifelong lover of jazz music I also invariably find myself grooving to the jazz tunes he plays over the truck’s speakers as I chat with him and sit at the nearby picnic tables enjoying his artfully prepared food.

Always looking for subjects for personal projects and to meet the world through my lens, I knew Elmy would be a wonderful subject for a quick portrait session.

Big Hands, Big HeartChef Elmy is an artist, a philosopher, and a jazz music fan

The Portraits - All Electrons, No Film (this time)

I don’t like taking people’s time and as a portrait photographer I am very conscious of the energy and time that my subjects give me, so I try to work quickly and deliberately. To do that I either have to be lucky or prepared, and preferably both. Looking at the files straight from my camera's memory card, the entire session took 12 minutes from start to finish. Since I expected to spend just 10 I guess Elmy gave me a 20% bonus, in addition to the delicious gyro lunch he served me.

Good for the SoulElmy's great grandmother would be proud.


Whilst I let excitement get the best of me and prepared a favorite medium format film camera with vintage lens and two film backs, it sadly never left the sling bag over my shoulder. I think if I could get a fast enough sync speed with one of my film cameras I would have tried it, especially because going into the session I knew that I wanted to create a portrait of Chef Elmy against a background of the big pharaoh on his truck (see next image). To achieve the result I envisioned I had in mind to light Elmy with a flash and use a high shutter speed to cut down the ambient light. This wouldn’t have been achievable at a slower shutter speed under daylight conditions without a very powerful flash to overcome the ambient light.

Profile of Chef ElmyTwo Kings

And although I had my favorite 85mm f1.4 prime lens and my fabulous Fujifilm X100S with me, I ended up opting to use the Nikon 24-120 F4 lens on my D3S body exclusively. The zoom lens allowed me to quickly get a good variety of shots from wide angle to zoom, and the max. aperture of F/4 was plenty to get some subject/background separation.

Shiny Happy PeopleThis customer left with a smile and a "See you tomorrow"

Hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you’re close enough to the Berkeley area that you’ll come by and experience the joys of Chef Elmy’s huge personality, generosity, humor, and talent.

Zooming Into the Community

As a relatively new arrival to the Bay Area I am endeavoring to get out into the community and meet people and make friends through my lens. This is part of those efforts as a personal project, not as a detailed article on Royal Egyptian Cuisine and Chef Elmy Kader. However, it is only fair to say that, having enjoyed the food and the Royal Elmy Treatment it’s impossible for me not to be a huge fan. In fact, it’s almost lunch time as I write this. Better check Twitter to see if Chef Elmy will be cooking up his inimitable brand of tasty food with heart and soul today!

Brag WorthyChef Elmy lays down the law

I photographed Elmy at his location on Folger Avenue in Berkeley, just off the Greenway between 67th St. and Ashby Avenue. To keep things fresh and feed different people Elmy changes locations from time to time, so it’s best to follow him on Twitter @EgyptianCuisine to see where he will be serving up his magic on any given day.

Chef Elmy KaderAlways ready with a smile (and a hug)

For more background and color on the man and his food, please refer to this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.


Chef Elmy’s Royal Egyptian Cuisine

Facebook: RoyalEgyptianCuisine

Yelp: Royal Egyptian Cuisine

Twitter: @EgyptianCuisine


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