What makes a video “viral” is an inexact science. One moment, it’s innocent victims spewing spices in cinnamon challenges; the next, yet another “Harlem Shake” spoof inside an office. While the first two leave us scratching our heads, it’s pretty clear why photographer William Hereford’s simple, step-by-step video detailing the proper way to sear a duck breast went viral back in 2010 (note, it’s pre-Vine). Hereford, then a fashion photographer, posted the video on Vimeo as a test for a publishing company to show the execs that he was had the chops for food content. Soon, Grub Street and Bon Appétit were blogging their praises, and Hereford began his foray into food photography.

Since then, the Brooklyn-based shutterbug has photographed for pubs like Saveur and Kinfolk magazine, as well as clients like Le Bernardin and Williams-Sonoma. From shooting a mischievous Fergus Henderson to capturing humble hot dogs at Ian Knauer’s farm, Hereford imbues his photos with a timeless quality—portraits take on a noble air, and food an honest allure. It all looks so graceful and effortless that it’s hard to imagine that Hereford was once a stickler for photography 101 rules.

He discovered his love for photography as a student at Bates College, burying himself in technique and obsessing over lighting and color correction. Yet, as he grew as a photographer, Hereford changed it up, ditching the rules to develop the more ethereal images you see here in his top ten. When he’s behind the camera, a feast at Tasting Table becomes an architectural landscape, the revamped Le Bernardin an old-school railway car, and raw veggies for Whole Living a still-life. Seemingly every shoot becomes instantly classy with Hereford—proof that some YouTube stars really do have staying power.

Follow William on Instagram: @williamhereford