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Behind the Lens of La Jolla Native Eric Wolfinger

Wolfinger takes us behind the scenes of his James Beard Award-winning photography career

By Seth Combs



When The New York Times describes you as the “Annie Leibowitz of food photography” and Food & Wine knights you “one of the world’s best food photographers,” it’s safe to assume Eric Wolfinger could rest on his laurels, content in the fact that he found his true calling.

But the multiple James Beard Award nominee is downright self-deprecating at times. Credit his La Jolla roots, his proletariat beginnings as a food writer for his college newspaper and, later, as a bread baker’s apprentice in San Francisco. Or, perhaps it’s his almost-daily surfing habit. Either way we slice it (pun intended), Wolfinger is as zen as they come.

“I’m still the same dude I was pre-award,” says Wolfinger, referring to the James Beard Award Media award he won in 2020 for his photography in the stunning James Funke cookbook, American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta.

Since beginning to photograph food in the mid ’00s, Wolfinger’s intent has remained consistent: to bring a “sense of humanity” to every picture. That even when it’s a picture of a piece of bread or an elaborate spread, the viewer stares not just at a picture of food, but at the world itself.

“It’s not just food on a plate, right? It came from somewhere, it came from someone, and it arrived in front of you with some intention,” says Wolfinger, who recently returned to La Jolla after living in San Francisco for the last 20 years. “I want to convey all those things. I want to capture that, and I want the viewer to feel that absolutely.”

Fresh off the recently released Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul, we asked Wolfinger to pick and reflect on his all-time favorite shots from his nearly two-decade career, and while it wasn’t an easy task for him, both the images and words speak loudly.

Follow Eric Wolfinger on Instagram at @ericwolfinger

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