Friday, May 1, 2015

Asty Time, a restaurant started out of need that has become a success

                 For my final project we were tasked with creating a video of picture with sound and all the extras. Above was my video about a restaurant that I have eaten at. Below is the full story to accompany the video.

Asty Time
          Imagine driving in Southwest Detroit down Livernois Avenue. Looking through the neighborhoods single-family homes mixed in with abandoned homes. Up comes a street with kids playing in the middle of the cross streets. Cars fully line each side of the street. There are all of these people outside enjoying the nice weather, but one house is very different from the rest and stands out; just for the people. This house, a small gray-paneled single family home, has groups of people constantly walking in and out and they also line the porch. There appears to be a party or maybe you’re just seeing a home that houses a large family.
          Wrong. Inside that house is not just a normal house, it’s a restaurant.
          Inside is food made from love and compassion. A restaurant that is not like many others in the area.
          Once the door opens the smell of salted fried plantains and pinto beans wafts up your nose. The sound of fryers boiling and chicken sizzling can be heard, as well as the sound of pots and pans, and people talking. People speaking Spanish and bachata music can be heard. People eating plates full of food and the Chefs are cooking and serving food.
          The open floor plan allows for the connection of the three small rooms; to the left, a room with a red accent wall that has two aprons sporting the island of the Dominican Republic. A party table, covered with a red cloth, surrounded by a few wooden chairs and some folding beside a stereo fills the room.
          To the right, a wooden table that seats about 6 people parallels the wall leaving quite a bit of spade to travel to the next room. This room comprises a cocktail table, against the wall to the left, with only two tall chairs and a smaller table hugs the wall to the right with two chairs on either side. The kitchen resides in the back of the house.
           Four small rooms make up the kitchen. The first room, which originally was a kitchen, holds stove just left of the door way and counters line the right side. Customers gather in this area to order food directly from the chefs. This room is divided from the actual kitchen by a small wall with a door where the chefs bring the food out to the customers. Directly behind that wall stands a table with a glass display of bollitos de yucca y maiz (cassava and corn fritters filled with meat), chicharrones (fried pork rinds), and papa rellenos (potato balls stuffed with meat).
          Looking into the kitchen everything can be seen, from the food warmer that contains most of the already made food to the constantly bubbling fryers to the back left corners, to the counter used to cut up and plate the food being cooked. In the room to the left are sinks, but not the kind you would find in a regular home they put in larger restaurant sinks and about three freezers that contain food and drinks.
          The last room that makes up the kitchen is the pantry. They store seasonings and another freezer in this area.

Starting It All
          Like many others, this idea started from the need to make more money to support a family.
          “I was working for Mexican Industries, it’s a company that makes auto parts. I was making good money but it wasn’t enough because I had four kids at that time plus one on the way,” said Astiage Acosta one of the chef’s at Asti Time restaurant.
          Astiage, current chef at the Motor City casino and culinary student as well as being the gourmet chef at Asty Time, and wife Edra Tolentino, who is a stay-at-home mom as well as one of the main chefs at Asty Time, decided to start cooking.
          “The first thing that my wife was complaining about [were] the bills,” said Astiage with a thick Spanish accent. “The money that I was making wasn’t enough and one day I went to a place and bought a stove and said that’s what we are going to do, we are going to sell fried stuff but Dominican style.”
          The husband said this started out as just a need base income, but he never thought that it would grow to be this popular. The restaurant opened in February of 2007 and it was located right in their family kitchen.
          “On the first day I remember that my wife started calling most of the people that when know and let them know that we are open and that we have Caribbean food, food that people like,” Astiage recalled. “I mentioned before [food] like ‘La Bandera,’ it’s a plate with rice beans and any kind of meat, it could be beef or chicken.”
          This was the start to their catering business; Asty Time.

From the Kitchen to the table
          Asty Time is a place where people can come and be at home, and not just in the literal sense.
          From Friday until Sunday from noon until 7 p.m. people go to Asty Time to enjoy their home cooked meals.
          “In the Dominican Republic we call it like a ‘fonda’. When you come [and] eat it feels like your home, you can go [eat] and feel comfortable. It’s like a family business,” said Astiage about his restaurant.
          The family feel doesn’t just stop when you come in the door, it goes into making the food as well. Astiage said his restaurant focuses on comfort and that goes into the food.
          “It was a combination of the family,” said Astiage. “Original food, like the one that comes from Dominican Republic, is made by my wife Edra Tolentino, my sister Andromeda Acosta and my mother Lourdes Acosta. I’m the one who made the fancy stuff, like sea food, she [my wife Edra] says gourmet food. I am the one who plays around with new innovations.”
          The food served has the perfect blend of Caribbean smells. From the arroz blanco con habichuelas y chicharrones de pollo, which is white rice with beans and fried chicken, to the pescado con vegetables, which is fish with vegetables, Astiage and Edra bring the smells and taste of the Dominican Republic here to Detroit.
          “At that time we were the only one who made Dominican food, it’s Caribbean but Dominican food,” said Astiage. “When you make food with quality and it’s something that is hard to find here in Michigan, because I mean it’s from the Dominican Republic, [when] we sell a plate and people talk. “
          The food is made with traditional Caribbean seasonings such as Adobo, which according to the makers of the product, Goya, is a “perfect blend of garlic, oregano and other Latino spices” and “is the perfect seasoning for all your meat, poultry and fish dishes.” The chef’s also use sofrito, which is a blend of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and tomatoes; these two seasonings together blend to make the perfect salty smell that can usually be found in a Latino kitchen.

From a Dream to a Success
          “Okay listen, she [my wife Edra] said it the struggle but it seems like it was in my blood,” said Astiage about his reason for starting the restaurant and his love for cooking. “My mom liked to cook and all my generation liked to cook. I love to cook.”
          Edra said that for her it all started when she was younger.
          “I learn to cook since I was like 7 years old,” Edra said. “I didn’t go to school for that, but that’s how I learned. My grandma [taught me a lot] and I learned a lot from my mother in law too. She didn’t say let me teach you how to cook, but I was interested to learn [how to cook] because I was thinking maybe one day [when] I have my family and I [will] need to learn how to cook for them. My kids they love my food; my husband he’s a chef but he doesn’t cook at my house.”
          When this all started they never thought that people would like their food so much.
          “When we start this [it was just for] like fun and then it was getting bigger and bigger,” said the mom.
          They both don’t know what the future would bring but they are doing everything they can do keep their dream growing. Not only have they expanded into this house, which they have renovated to have a more culinary like kitchen, but Edra said they she took a class in food safety to ensure that everything is prepared well, and Astiage, as well as working as a chef at Motor City Casino, is going to culinary school to refine his love of food.
          “In order to do something to make money you have to love what you are doing and this is a thing that I like and I love because as a human being we need to eat,” said Astiage. “Any human being who doesn’t eat what is going to happen?  It is something that we really need. That is why we decided to cook because it something that is easy for me because I love and it’s something that people need.”
To Expand or Not
          While the couple enjoy their success, business is growing and the small house just isn’t going to allow them to keep their customer base happy. Edra said that she is happy about the space they have now and really enjoys it.
          Not only is this a different way of dining for some, but it’s also very unique to the area. According to Edra there was maybe one other family that she knew of that cooked and sold food out of their house but she said that they have since moved away from Detroit.
          The article “Trend Watch: Restaurants in Homes,” by Regina Yunghans in 2011, discusses the fact that restaurants in homes, in Lawrence, Kansas, was such a revolutionary idea. The Yunghans wrote that this experience was a first for her and wondered if there were any other restaurants in homes.
          I on the other hand, while feeling like this is an innovative idea, have grown up with people cooking out of their houses from the time I was born. Being around food all the time was nothing new to me but maybe it’s because I am a part of this community, a community that often comes together over food.
          Monet Davis, known as Sister Mimi, found out about the restaurant through a Cuban friend of hers. Davis said that she was ecstatic after having tried a plate of rice, beans and baked chicken.
          “A friend of mines that’s Cuban he told me about it,” Davis said. “He has been coming here maybe every week. I was wondering what’s going on and where is he going to get this food.”
          “I found out that the food is great,” Davis said after having eaten morsel on her plate. “I see now why he comes here. I didn’t know it was this good.”
          She even saved the chicken bones, which were clean to the bone, to share with the neighborhood squirrels that she feeds and says that she will definitely be coming back.
          People like Davis are the reason Astiage and Edra cook. They strive to serve every plate with love and make sure that it is bursting with flavor; for this reason they hesitate to expand.
          “It’s when you have that relationship with the customer they feel comfortable,” Edra said about the importance of the customer’s relationship to their restaurant. “They [the customers] say we are very nice so they want to come back. That makes them talk about us and come back [with more people].
          The customers have said that they really enjoy the homey environment that Edra and Astiage have built so far and are reluctant to let that go. Even with the building customer base, with several Tiger’s players buying their food, and the need to have a larger restaurant the couple hesitates to move because their customers are important to them.
          For the moment Asty Time is staying in its current Southwest Detroit location just off of Livernois and I-94, although future plans to move and expand are still in the works.


Asty Time Menu

Frituras (Fritters)                    $1                    Sopas (Soups)                          $8
Pastelillos (Meat Turnovers)                            Mondongo

Yanikekes (Johnny Cakes)                               Servido con tostones o arroz Blanco

Papa Rellenos                                                  (Tripe stew served with fried plantains (Fried Potato Balls stuffed with meat)                          or white rice)        

Quipe (Fried Bulgur Rolls Filled with meat)

Bollitos (Yuca y Maíz)
(Fried Rolls of Cassava or corn filled with meant)

Entradas  a (Entrees)                        $10
Todos platos servidos con arroz blanco y habichuelas, arroz con gandules, tostones, mofongo o mangú. (Everything is served with White rice and beans, rice with pigeon 
peas, fried plantains, fried mashed plantains or boiled mashed plantains.)

Pollo (Chicken):
Frito                      Al Horno               Guisado                 Chicharrón de pollo
(Fried)                   (Baked)                 (Stewed)                (Fried Chicken)

Bistec (Steak):
Encebollado                               Guisado
(Cooked with onions)                (Stewed)

Carne de Res (Beef):
 Encebollado                                       Guisado
(Cooked with onions)                (Stewed)

Carne de Cerdo (Pork):
Guisado                 Chuletas Fritas                Pernil                    Costillas al Horno
(Stewed)                (Fried Porkchops)  (Roasted Pork Shoulder)  (Baked Ribs)

Entradas  a                              $12
Chivo (Goat)                   Rabo (Tail)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking portraits is like having a conversation with your camera

Randy Lipman
Randy Lipman (left) of Mystic Kettle selling kettle korn on Wayne State University Campus.
(Photos by Angelique Harrison/ WSUPJ)
          Portrait photography for me is one of the best types of photography. It allows me to really interact with my subject and not have to be in the background just documenting the event.
          I think the hardest part about taking portraits is finding someone interesting to photograph and then making that photography look interesting and incising.
          When I look for people to photography I think I try to find someone who has a unique personality that will show in a picture or they are doing something interesting.
          For this assignment I was able to get a little bit of both. I did more formal photos of a photography teacher who, at the time, was wearing eyeball rings in her hair.
          For those photos I tried to make sure that I got a lot of different angles because I think it is important to take shots so that they best describe the person you are photographing. In my opinion taking photos from angles other that straight forward are my favorite.
          Photos that are partially elevated or that are taken from below tell a different story about the person, it adds an element to the composition. I think that when taking photos or people you really have to think of the composition and the story that it will tell.
          For the more environmental photos I really tried to tell a story about the main person in the photograph while also bringing in a little of the environment around. The photos that I took of Ben are the best example of this and also some of the ones that I had the most fun with.
          These were a little more difficult for me. I think that trying to make someone the focus while also having a background is difficult because having a background that is too busy distracts from the main focus.
          For me making sure that everything was lined up was key and taking different environmental photos of people helped. I think that the practice in taking more than just one person’s photo helped me to fixed my mistakes from one person to the next so that I would have a better collection of final photos.
         For more photos from this assignment check out my gallery.
Ben Paczkowski (left) and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors society Seniors after getting pied in the face. The Tau Beta Pi(e)-a-Senior Day was an auction to pie the graduating seniors of the society at the engineering college.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lights, camera, action...wait I missed it. Can we try that again?

Clarkston junior varsity Wolves coaches Sarah Wasilk, left, and 
Kendall Rock celebrate their teams first goal against Birmingham
Groves on March 26. (Photos by Angelique Harrison/ WSUPJ)

          When I think sports photography, I think of these great photos of the soccer starts in the air mid-kick, or the baseball players mid-swing with the ball suspended in the air.
          I thought that this assignment was going to be the easiest because I have captured some of my family member’s games. I thought that this was just going to be a point and shoot assignment and I would have no issues at all. That was not true.
          The first issue I encountered was finding a game because one season was ending and the season for spring sports was just starting. I was struggling so hard to find something, but then a classmate suggested shooting gymnastics.
          That was the most difficult sport I could have chosen to take pictures of. There were so many different areas of the event going on that it was hard to keep track of all of the kids who were doing the different events.
Artemis Thomopoulos, of Birmingham Groves, 5 , fends off several Wolves 
          After looking at the photos I was not satisfied. A lot of the photos were blurry, and there was no way for me to tell which kid was in what picture doing that event.
          I was able to find a soccer game at my old high school, which was a lot easier to capture photos during the game.
          When looking at those photos, a lot of the pictures were still blurry, but I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I have an older camera that can’t go above 1600 ISO, and can’t capture a lot of photos on continuous mode.
          All in all, I think this was a great way for me to learn a different aspect of covering sports as far as photos.

         For more photos from my sports photography assignment, check out my gallery. 

Several fans celebrate the first goal of the Birmingham Groves soccer team. This was the first goal of the game until Clarkston scored in the second half to tie the game. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Know your rights as a journalist especially the First Amendment

           “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment
          While taking photos for an article during a protest, you get arrested. The police officer tells you that you were doing something wrong yet won’t tell you exactly what it is. Knowing your rights may be the only way to get yourself free.
Photo from Cagle Cartoons Inc. The cartoon was located under
 First Amendment Political Cartoon Campaign Ads.
          Going through this assignment I realized that I really don’t know many of my rights as a U.S. citizen. I thought about how many times I have learned bits and pieces of the Constitution and my rights and, still, I know none of my rights by heart.
          Knowing your rights as a reporter is one of the most important aspects of reporting. This protects you, as a journalist, from others infringing on your rights, but it also protects you from violating another person’s rights.
          Journalists should also know that portraying someone in a false light, getting journalistic information in an illegal way, misrepresenting the subject, and publicly disclosing private or embarrassing facts is also something to avoid.
          Make sure that you learn your rights as a journalist and keep yourself protected.

Shooting feature photos was more difficult than I thought it would be

            Feature stories aren't just about taking photos of objects; they are about capturing a part of life that is timeless. These stories allow the more creative side of the news to show.
          Searching for events to cover for a feature story is relatively easy. Looking in the events calendar can offer a variety of occasions to cover. I choose to do a feature photo story on the Evrod Cassimy panel. At the panel, Cassimy talked to journalism students about different aspects of getting into the business that they would have to deal with.
Evrod Cassimy thinks about the question a student asked. Cassimy 
sat on a panel for journalism students at the building Manoogian at 
Wayne State University. (Photos by Angelique Harrison/ WSUPJ)
          The hardest part about covering this conversation was the space where the panel was held. It was in a small room that didn't leave a lot of space for me to move around. I had to get creative with the angles of the photographs because there were limited angles from which to shoot.
Looking into the panel held by the Journalism Institute for Media 
Diversity At Wayne State University.
           One of the major problems that I didn't notice until after shooting was the television in the background of a lot of my photos. It was washed out in alot of my photos and became very distracting. There was really no way to avoid it because it was right behind the subject.
            From this experience I learned to really check the photos, and when it comes to bright object, shoot them a few stops darker to make sure they are properly exposed.
Halea Fisher sits in the car while Luis Shockley
 attempts to jump start his car parked on Warren 
off of the Wayne State University Campus.
            I also had to photograph an enterprise photo, which is a photo without prior planning. This was the hardest part of this assignment. Trying to find an unplanned event was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
            For days I walked around with my camera attached to me trying to find something to photography. I had the hardest time.
            I finally happened upon a student helping another student who had car problems. This was also a hard photo to shoot because I took the photos on a really sunny day. It was hard to compensate for all of the glares and the brightness of the sun.
          From this photo shoot I learned that even what seems like the easiest photographic opportunity, it can give you difficulties.
           I think I have learned that though I feel like I know a lot about taking photographs, news photography is very different. There is no time to set photos up the way I would like. I just had to shoot what was there, and move to a different vantage point if I didn't like what I saw.
           Shooting photos on the fly was very difficult for me. I think that from this experience I have learned that practicing shooting on the spot without prior planning would help better my photojournalism skill.
            For more pictures from this assignment, please check out my gallery.
Evrod Cassimy talks to Wayne State University students about ways to prepare for the world of journalism.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Captions tell the truth but not what they already know to be true

"Awaiting President Obama's arrival in me," a questionable caption written in the article "Top 20 News Caption Fails of All Time."
What most readers usually look at when reading any news article are the photos first. Then they look at the captions and then the actual articles.
Captions, also called cutlines, are the only descriptors we have when it comes to photographs in the news. Yes we can look at the picture and guess what is occurring but to really know what is happening we must look at the cutlines.
For cutlines to really be helpful they have to tell you at least five things: who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how.  It is like writing a mini article for a photo.  Cutlines are also short and get right to the point.
To really understand what a caption is you have to first look at what it does. Cutlines give you more information; therefor, it makes no sense to write a caption that says what we can already see in the photo. Cutlines tell the story of the photo and without it there is just a picture left with no further description as to its importance.
         Cutlines are an important part of any photo in a news article. With out the cutline people will make assumptions about what is occurring in the photos and those assumptions may not be relevant to the story that is actually written.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I learned a hundred different ways on how not to take a photo

Shallow depth of field of a plant. 
(ISO: 800, f/: 5, Shutter:1/60)
(Photos by Angelique Harrison/ WSUPJ)
          My first thought was that this is going to be one interesting experiment.
Silhouette of a student using window lighting. 
(ISO: 100, f/: 5, Shutter:1/30)

          Camera phones make taking photos easy because all you have to do is pull out the camera, focus and take the picture. Using a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, on the manual setting is like going from driving an automatic transmission to a manual one.  The latter is a lot more complex.
          I didn't think this assignment would be too hard, considering I have been using my camera for years now, so I thought I knew how to use the controls. I was wrong. 
Shallow depth of field of window condensation. 
(ISO: 800, f/: 4, Shutter:1/400)

          I quickly realized that it was going to take a lot of trial an error for me to get the photos that I wanted. I knew what the shutter, aperture and ISO did but it was getting the right combination to make the perfect photo that was hard.
         I ended up taking a hundred photos of anything and everything to see what would happen with the different combinations of shutter speeds and apertures.
          The end results were a lot of mistakes that led to quite a few properly-exposed photos with a wide variety of techniques: different lighting, shallow and wide depths of field, extreme perspectives, and panning.
          Here are just a few of the pictures that I took for the assignment. For more pictures check out the photo gallery called Camera Operations Assignment.