st. louis

Ryan Stupka of The Tavern Central West End by Derek Coffman

This past Sunday, my good friend Ryan Stupka stopped by my studio to get some updated photos for social media and to have some stock style photos for online and print publications.

Ryan is currently Executive Chef @ The Tavern Kitchen and Bar in St. Louis' Central West End.  The Tavern uses only the highest-quality ingredients, as well as source produce from local farms wherever possible and choose premium cuts of meat and fresh fish from carefully selected suppliers.

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I have known Ryan for several years, and although we haven't been in daily, or heck, even monthly contact for a few years, we picked up conversation as if we'd seen each other just a few days ago.        Ryan and I met back in 2011 when he was working at Fox's Pizza Den in Ellisville, MO.  We actually worked together for just under a year (long story that I won't get into).  After Fox's, Ryan really started to explore his culinary future.  Below is a summary of Ryan's culinary education and history.

Ryan began his culinary adventure when he was 13 @ Charlotte's rib bbq. Followed shortly after by his start at Fox's pizza den. Ryan's interest for cooking was sparked by bbq competitions like the KC royal and not only the competitiveness behind it but also the different smells and flavors and techniques teams would use for different outcomes on smoked meats. This soon led to his attendance at Forest Park for culinary school which gave him the fundamentals to get to where he currently is in his professional career. During school, Ryan began working at the Tavern Kitchen and Bar West County under Chef Justin Haifley who was his mentor for 3 years.

"He was the one that taught me you can make a living through cooking but also instilled a lot of beliefs I still hold true. Such as, "everyone who eats here is a guest, not a customer, treat them like they are walking into your house and always go the extra mile for them." Also the quoted, "think outside the box."". Ryan said. 

After 3 years there Ryan moved on to the Legends Country Club. This club was fairly new and Ryan's mentor there was Chef Carson Burks. Over time, Ryan and Chef Burks pushed each other in the kitchen to get better and the mentor-ship turned into a great friendship.  "He was one that always pushed me to achieve my goals and was adamant about knowing my goals. Since day 1 in that kitchen I told him I wanted to work at a Michelin Star restaurant as well as Thomas Keller being my cooking idle.", noted Ryan.  Since then, Ryan has worked not only in Michelin star restaurants but one of Thomas Kellers.  Ryan was then graced with the opportunity to stage at Alinea in Chicago with Chef Grant Achatz for a short time.  When he was there they were put back on top as the number one restaurant in the world.  If you need to re-read that last sentence, the important part was "the number one restaurant in the world."  The FREAKING WORLD!!!!!

Shortly after, Ryan  was flown out to Napa Valley to complete stage shifts at the iconic French Laundry. Even though Chef Thomas Keller was not there because he was up in New York receiving Michelin stars for the sister restaurant Per Se, Ryan still got a wonderful experience out of it. Ryan is currently the Executive Chef of The Tavern Kitchen and Bar CWE with his sights set on striving to be better each day. The next goal  would be to achieve                                                                           a James Beard Award.

 

From everything I know about Ryan, he will achieve his goal as a James Beard Award Winner.  Ryan knows food, he knows how to use food to create not only a full stomach, but an entire experience around what it is that brings us all together.  He is clearly on his way with his most recent accolade, 2017 Best Brunch - The Tavern CWE.

 

Do yourself a favor and go check Ryan out on his socials linked below.  But, more importantly, go get yourself a reservation @ The Tavern Kitchen and Bar CWE and experience the food that Ryan and his team perfectly showcase at their open kitchen concept dining room which brings the energy and excitement of an award-winning kitchen front and center. Engage your senses with the sights, sounds, and aromas of artistic food preparation from a spot in their elegant dining room or a perch at their cozy bar. Either way, you’ll enjoy pretense-free dining at its finest.

Ryan's Instagram

The Tavern's Instagram

Watson Martial Arts by Derek Coffman

I had an awesome opportunity to visit an old friend who is now an instructor at Watson Martial Arts in St. Louis, MO.  I wanted to take this shoot on as a personal project to not only grow my portfolio, but also provide some excellent images for my friend Matt.  

Upon arriving at Watson Martial Arts, it was a hot and humid day in St. Louis, not unlike any other day from about May 1st to October 1st.  I gathered my equipment and had to make a couple trips back and forth to carry everything in.  I didn't know if I was going to use everything that I brought, but I wanted to have it for the "just in case" scenario.  I walked through the lobby entrance and into the gym.  I started unloading my gear in the corner as to not be disruptive to the class that was going on.

Matt came over and introduced me to Kyle Watson, owner of Watson Martial Arts.  Both Matt and Kyle were very appreciative of having me there to capture some photographs.  Kyle, the owner and certified bad a$$, let me know that I would have the ability to walk around on the training mat and get some really interesting angles and shots that way.  

I then got my camera and the first lens ready and headed onto the mat, but first, I had to remove my shoes.  This is required because the owners/trainers/employees of the gym put a lot of effort in to keeping their gym clean.  In the gym, the mats are clean, the bottoms of your shoes aren't.  Also, if there are any small rocks stuck in the soles of your shoes, those would easily poke holes in the large training mats.  Repairs to the mats aren't ideal, so if there were to be any damage done, the entire section would have to be replace, thus causing unneeded costs to the owner.  

There were about 30 students training that day, from entry level white belts, to purple belts.  I got a chance to be up close to a wide range of quite painful looking submissions such as triangle chokes, gogoplatas, arm-bars, and various other Jiu Jitsu moves.  

 

 

After several rounds of 1 on 1 training, Kyle gathered everyone in the class and demonstrated other moves and submissions.  Not only was the demonstration fully explained while he was doing the submission, but the theory behind the maneuver was also discussed.  From my short time at Watson Martial Arts, I quickly gathered that Kyle has a deep respect for Jiu Jitsu as well a deep respect for teaching.

By the time I was finished capturing the photos during the class, I was sweating as much as all the students, moving, bending, and lining up each shot takes a bit of endurance in this type of setting.  

 

When class was over, I wanted to capture a couple portraits of my buddy Matt as well as the owner, Kyle.  There was an empty weight lifting area just through a garage door.  I set up a simple one light set-up with a neutral grey backdrop.  For that I used on of my Yongnuo speedlites attached to a light stand.  Diffusing the light was a 48" octabox with grid to keep directional light, and avoid light spill on to the backdrop.  

 

Below are some of what I consider to be the best of the best images I captured during my afternoon at Watson Martial Arts.  If you are interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, do yourself a favor and contact Watson Martial Arts, visit their website HERE, and check them out on Facebook by clicking HERE.

Again, a huge thank you goes out to Kyle Watson for allowing me to come to your gym and take some fantastic images during your class!  Another thank you for sure goes out to Matt Middeke for accepting my request for this short personal project!  Thanks Guys!!!

Jason & Sadie Redman by Derek Coffman

Jason & Sadie Redman, I have known these two since high school.  Jason has been one of my best friends since then.  Jason and I have gone through a lot of things together, from less than legal street racing that ended up in a wrecked Mitsubishi Eclipse, Blue Thunder with as many subwoofers that I could stuff into the trunk, a Dodge Neon with a body kit a huge spoiler and the ever popular chrome Arelli Assassyns (go ahead and google those…. Not my proudest moment.) to his marriage to Sadie in September of 2016.

 

Sadie reached out to me for this specific shoot, a vintage inspired spring shoot.  Prior to the shoot, I wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page as to the direction the shoot was going to go.  Spoke a few times regarding wardrobe and things like that, then I had a solid idea of the look I wanted for the photos.  We had also talked about incorporating their two dogs, Jimmy Chew, and Frank.  This, in my mind was                                                                                             going to look really cool.

The photoshoot took place at Bee Tree County Park, specifically at the Eugene Nims House, which, if you haven’t been is a really neat place in a nice park that overlooks the Mississippi River.  I had brought with me an older wingback chair that has seen other shoots of mine.  I thought that this piece would give an overall warmer feel to the otherwise colder (because of the actual temperature) images.  Also, the velvet like upholstery of the chair photographs extremely well, and the vintage look of the wingback design has a timeless aesthetic presence.

 

Jason and Sadie arrived ahead of schedule and we started discussing the physical location and the different looks they were after.  “I want a dark and moody feel, something like Kingly and Queenly.”  Jason said to me.  I knew that they were going to be printing some of these photos for a large accent wall in their house.  From what Jason had described, I knew what direction to go artistically.  From there, we had a few different poses including the chair that turned out really cool, stately, regal, and somewhat Vogue-esque.  Now, getting these shots wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, that’s for sure.  The location was nothing more than a walkway behind this mansion that had a pretty steep grade that I almost fell down on more than one occasion.  As well as the terrain, the fact that I am 5’9” and Jason is about 6’3” proved to be difficult to boot.

After Sadie and Jason, I photographed Jimmy and Frank.  With the location, other people at the park, and just the fact that they are dogs, I knew I had to capture them in the poses that Jason and Sadie wanted as fast as possible.  Sometimes animals don’t cooperate as well as you would like, but these two were awesome!

When we were finished with that specific location, we walked around the Eugene Nims House to get some other shots that were requested.  Overall, the shoot went according to plan and very smooth.  Although it was a little cooler than we would have hoped for it to be outside, everyone, including my beautiful wife Kim (aka, my assistant, aka, my voice activated light stand, lol.) braved the slightly less than favorable temperature and were happy to wrap up yet another successful photoshoot.

Thank you Jason and Sadie for allowing me to photograph you guys and your pups!  And gosh darn it, next time you are south of 44 you guys better come to our house and hang out for a bit!!!!

Below are some of the incredible shots from Jason and Sadie’s shoot.

thiS Old HAt's Skye Keene and her Lafayette Park shoot by Derek Coffman

As I'm driving down highway 44 west, towards Hampton, I start to see some flurries.  Now, being from St. Louis, I know that at any given moment the temperature could be 80 degrees and sunny, then BOOM!  out of nowhere, golf ball size hail and temperatures plummeting down towards single digits.  This typically wouldn't bother me at all, however, the very next day I knew I had a shoot scheduled, outside....  Then, after about a quarter of a mile, as I am about to take the exit ramp to get onto Hampton north, I see a wall of snow completely engulf a billboard just off the highway!  The wind was extremely strong, pushing my Subaru around without any effort.  It was hard to see anything further than maybe a car length or two ahead of me.  At this point I am freaking out, wondering what the weather was going to be like the next day for the shoot.  At the next red light I quickly checked my phone to confirm the forecast.  Luckily, the forthcoming day was going to be much milder than the weather I was currently experiencing.  

Fast forward to roughly 9:30 AM, the next day.  I sent a couple emails to Skye ( the Owner of ThiS Old HAt; name sake is an homage to the lovely neighborhood of South Hampton, St, Louis often known as simply SOHA for short. ) detailing the location of the shoot, where to park and stuff like that.  Now, it's about 10:00 AM and I am arriving to the location of the shoot, beautiful Lafayette Park in St. Louis, Mo.  As I am setting up, preparing for the arrival of Skye I am starting to get a bit chilly.  The high temperature was forecast to be in the low to mid 40's.  The temperature was not about to get in our way for having a successful shoot!

Skye pulled up to the park, and she started to unload a few of her most recent pieces that she had been working on.  Wow, some seriously cool stuff!  If you guys haven't already seen the type of restoration she can do make sure you head on over to her facebook page here

“I want to live in a world where we can stop and appreciate the ugly things for the beautiful life they have ahead of them.” so eloquently put by the owner herself. 

 

As we carried the furniture over to the small bridge situated at the southeast corner of the park.  We began to talk about the history of thiS Old HAt.  Here is a brief history of Skye and how ThiS Old HAt Furnishings came to be:   "I have not always been refinishing Old, tired and ugly furniture.  I graduated High school from Doniphan High school in 2002.  I quickly enrolled in Three Rivers Community College and  received my Associates degree as well as a Paralegal degree while working full time as assistant to the superintendent at Southeast Missouri Residential Services (DMH).  During this time I was helping care for my papa.  He was really sick, but we became closer than ever.  As cliche’ as it sounds he was my very best friend.  He made me promise to do what I could in this world to be happy doing what I loved.  When he passed away I  moved to the St. Louis area to be closer to my family.  My life changed.  I loved STL, but wasn’t passionate about where I worked.   Skip to 5 years later I was working in a Tax Preparers office working 60 hours plus at times.  I needed a way to channel my stress.....wouldn’t anybody?!?"  Clearly my memory isn't thaaaaat good, that is straight from Skye.

And....that’s how “Distressing to Destress” was born!  I started refinishing anything I could get my hands on.  Once I sold my first piece I was hooked!  My family and friends encouraged me to start a business so I took that advice then ran with it.  I love the feeling of being able to take a piece of furniture that’s been neglected, abused and left alone and making it lively again.

We began the shoot and everything had a great flow.  Skye was a natural!  I had some ideas, she had some ideas, and together, I think we captured exactly what Skye was looking for in regards to her new marketing material.  

Again, if anyone is looking for some really great furnishings for your home or office, make sure you check out This Old HAt Furnishings.  

I was very happy to help a local entrepreneur that has a great eye for detail.  Thank you Skye for allowing me to capture these images for you and your furniture restoration business.  I wish you all the best and look forward to future business!!

Here are some images from this awesome shoot with Skye Keene: