All new and unique things come to life as a result of a brilliant idea and a lot of hard work. I have met with the creator of “Home-O-Erotic” cookbook Wesley Smoot to ask him how this concept came to being and what the inspiration was for his unorthodox compilation.
Wes, I imagine you didn’t grow up dreaming about combining erotic images with fanciful recipes. You are a young man, and this book is your first big success. Tell us how you got started.
I believe that much of who I am does come from my childhood. I grew up just outside of Austin. My father was an entrepreneur – he had his own small business. Since my early age I saw what it meant to be on the go, to be responsible for the results you produce. That has influenced me a lot. I always loved making things, doing things on my own. For example, at fourteen I created graffiti design for t-shirts, produced them and sold very successfully at school. I got that entrepreneurial spirit from my father. My love of cooking came from my mom. She is an excellent cook. I learned to cook from her, and experimented a lot in the kitchen doing things my way, creating recipes. Cooking is not about eating for me – it is a process, an adventure.
Interesting. Then I would have imagined you’d become a chef. Going into book business seems like a big leap of faith on your part.
It is both a “yes” and a “no” situation. After high school I dabbled a bit in modeling. But I quickly realized that I enjoyed being behind the scenes more than in front of a camera. However, I didn’t want to be a photographer. There was one project that I organized with friends that required full production for the shooting: from conception development to styling, models’ and photographers’ selection, location scouting – putting it all together, basically. I took it all upon myself, became a producer, so to speak. That was that; from that point on I knew I was meant to do it.
The book was a major undertaking. It was not setting up just one shoot. You’ve shot in over 70 locations, right?
Yes, the overall production became a social project of sorts. We had to be as resourceful as possible, and often relied on the generosity of strangers. We had to work on a small budget, and finding ways to maximize results was imperative to our success. When you wonder sometimes how it can all come together, you just have to stay positive and be open – then unexpected things happen. I remember literally counting change, trying to figure out how we can scrape together some money to continue shooting over a weekend. Missing two days of the schedule was not an option. If you want it bad enough, you can make things happen.
You’ve mentioned “social project”. What did you mean by that?
While working on the book, we’ve connected with an incredible amount of people. People got very interested in what we did, a lot of them offered their support. They opened their homes and invited us to shoot there for free just so that they can see the creative process. We’ve been in some incredible locations. Some of those locations influenced us; we built our visual concepts around them. Overall, this social support kept us going and made us feel really good about the project.
How did you select the recipes? What was the basis of pairing food with models? Was there a special selection process, or was it random?
From the beginning the idea was to play off the association of food and sex. We selected models and recipes that would connect, click… we wanted to create a fun visual experience for our readers. Certain body types evoke distinct images; the goal was to create visual puns, to play on words. Some models were selected for specific recipes; some recipes were developed expressly for the individuals. We worked closely with chef Jehn Ngo, who helped us create recipes to fit the creative vision for each model. A lot of our models were not professional, so the result of the shoot often depended on what each person was comfortable with, how far they were willing to go.
How did you feel when you finished the project? Was it a sense of relief, accomplishment? What did it mean to you?
The main feeling was nervousness. I was incredibly concerned, even scared about how the book would be received. It is difficult to convey the range of emotions I went through anticipating critical reactions from book distributors and the press. It was a great relief, however, when we started to receive praise, both in the US and internationally. First response was in DNA magazine in Australia, who featured our book in one of their issues. We have orders from Germany, Australia, Britain, and Spain. The book is now distributed through such large houses as Ingram, Baker &Taylor, Bookazine, and Amazon. The best moment, though, was at Chicago Book Expo America this May. I spoke with a representative of IPG, who showed interest in our book, only to find out later that it was the company’s CEO! He personally singled out our creation. It was beyond exciting! We are shipping inventory to them now.
Congratulations! That’s definitely an incredible beginning. I am sure you are already looking ahead. What are your plans for the future?
First, we are going to come out with “Home-O-Erotic” cookbook volume 2. Now, that we’ve been noticed and received recognition, we want our book to feature bigger names: actors, musicians, and models. There is already interest from some of them; the project is gaining traction as we speak. I am also working on creating a series of instructional cooking videos, that would be humorous, entertaining and fun. It would be a blend of a late night talk show and a cook show, with a chef and a celebrity guest preparing an appetizer, a main course, a dessert and a cocktail.
Sounds delicious. What about your big dream? Where would Wesley Smoot be in 5 years, or in 10?
A TV network has already noticed our video programs. I am thinking that in the future we will have presence both on-line and on TV. I do strongly believe that on-line business is the way of the future, because people have the ability to download and watch videos at their leisure and are not restricted by program scheduling, or TV network guidelines. We are also going to develop a phone app. This is my favorite part of the project – it is very exciting. A book format limits you to one photo per recipe, while a phone app can offer as many photos as we wish. It is a very visual and a very interactive method of information sharing. We will be developing it congruently with the Home-O-Erotic cookbook Volume 2. The app would be able to broaden each presentation for our customers, and keep them engaged.
Well, Wes, I wish you good luck in all your endeavors. You are a great example of what creative vision and youthful energy can achieve. Personally, I am going to sneak a peek at those delicious videos of yours. Who knows, I may even develop an interest in cooking.