The interplay between a chef and photographer is often one of mutual dependence—the chef knows how to make a beautiful dish but can’t capture it on film, while the photographer’s hands are tied without an appetizing subject to shoot.

Francesco Tonelli is the whole package in one. The former chef and Culinary Institute of America instructor first picked up a new DSLR to better document his students’ work, crafting a DIY soft light box out of a wine box, some parchment paper, and a table lamp. The idea of controlling light to make food look as good as it tastes appealed to the chef-minded Tonelli, and soon he was shooting for clients like Coca-Cola.

These days, world-class chefs such as Daniel Humm and Jean-Georges Vongerichten come knocking to collaborate on projects. Whether showcasing an immaculate caviar-topped egg prepared by Jean-Georges himself, or a humble banh mi in bustling Chinatown storefront, Tonelli always lets composed dishes speak for themselves with few props and simple backdrops—and it works.

With culinary school and a host of restaurant stints in Paris, Montreal, and his native Milan on his resume, Tonelli still metaphorically wears his toque when picking up the camera: he prepares and styles much of the food he shoots himself, always as if it were to be eaten (and, most times, it is).

Here, Tonelli walks us through his 10 most memorable shots, from an al fresco lunch party with Stanley Tucci to some truly jaw-dropping pasta porn.