When I met Clarissa and Richard for the first time, just a few months before their wedding, I developed a huge friend-crush on both of them. They’re just warm and enjoyable people to be around – you can’t help but love them! Richard loves cats (scroll down for a picture of his amazing cat Zach) and photography and Clarissa is a strong, intelligent and independent woman who has a soft side too (it sounds kinda familiar, hmm…). In the hours that we spent chatting at our local pub, I found out about their histories and one of them and this indirectly led to an pretty amazing experience for Kristen and I.
Anyone who knows us absolutely knows that we love South East Asian food – Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, the list goes on. But if I could name any one dish in particular that Kristen loves above all others, it’s Xiao Long Bao, a type of Chinese dumpling. She would eat more of these in one sitting than I thought would be possible for a woman of her size. But sadly, in 2013 she was diagnosed as having coeliac disease (an auto-immune condition which prevents her from eating gluten which is present in all wheat, barley and rye). This diagnosis sadly meant had to say goodbye to so many delicious things she loved, including dumplings. But Clarissa and Richard offered her hope, at least on the dumpling front. We found out that Richard’s dad Simon is from Hong Kong and works as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. He’s been involved with food since the age of 13 when he started off as a dishwasher in his home country and he’s owned a bunch of restaurants but now, simply prefers to cook. And it turns out that Richard could organise to get his dad to teach us how to make dumplings (including gluten free ones). The deal was well and truly done!
A few months later we drove to Richard’s parents’ place in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne to share in an experience was pretty special. It turns out, dumplings aren’t actually that hard to make, even the gluten free ones – but you can be assured, they’re ultra delicious! We both appreciated that culturally, it’s not particularly normal for two people to come in and simply ask someone to teach them a skill which has taken years of training to master but Simon was gracious and extremely kind in showing us how to do everything. A part of me hopes it was even a little exciting for him to be able to teach two rookies like us! We were humbled that Richard’s mum and dad allowed us into their lives so generously, especially considering that I was yet to photograph Richard and Clarissa’s wedding! I guess it was no surprise that their wedding was filled with love, kindness and smiles – just the way they are. I don’t need to really say anything about it, I think you can feel it from their photos.
I’m going to stay at Richard and Clarissa’s house next weekend before shooting a wedding near where their place is (this will be sleepover #3 now). Who knew that cooking dumplings and spending a wedding day together would forge a friendship like this! But that’s honestly the beauty of this career, I meet the most amazing and wonderful people that I can count as friends and as a bonus, Kristen gets to eat her dumplings too.