The Restaurant Project

Visual storytelling for restaurants.

The Restaurant Project provides restaurants with creative direction and a consistent, fresh catalog of editorial-quality images and videos to use on their websites, social media and marketing platforms.

Eliesa Johnson, photographer and founder of The Restaurant Project

Hello from Eliesa!

My name is Eliesa Johnson. I am a photographer and the founder of The Restaurant Project. 

Over the years, my team and I have had the pleasure of photographing restaurants for various publications, including Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Delta Sky magazine and even the 2016 - 2019 James Beard Awards. I also received national recognition as a Five-Time winner at PDN's Taste Awards as one of the best Editorial Food Photographers in the world.

After working with so many wonderful restaurant owners during editorial shoots, our new friends started to invite us back! As we helped to create gorgeous content for websites, marketing materials and social media content, the idea for The Restaurant Project started brewing — an easier way for restaurants to tell their stories and connect with their customers.

Find me here:
@eliesajohnson | 

MEet the Team

The Restaurant Project is made up of a team of amazing creatives — photographers, videographers and strategists who value collaboration and love food.

Melissa Hesse, photographer for The Restaurant Project

Melissa Hesse | Photographer

Melissa is a photographer, bringing the best energy to her photo shoots. Melissa joined Eliesa Johnson Photography in 2013, and has grown into an invaluable colleague and collaborator over the last five years. In addition to helping build The Restaurant Project from the ground up, she is a lead wedding photographer for Rivets and Roses. Her work in the hospitality industry has been featured by Eater, North Corp. and Andrew Zimmern's blog.

Find Melissa here:

Annie D'Souza, strategist for The Restaurant Project

Annie D'Souza | Strategist

Annie is a storyteller, strategist and builder of online empires who believes community is the new marketing. Annie spent nearly four years as the Minneapolis Community Manager & Marketing Director for Yelp, where she grew a gigantic, engaged community from the ground up. In 2014, she launched The Midwestival and built another amazing community (now 26K strong on Instagram). And now she helps brands and small businesses do the same, specializing in food, travel and mission-driven companies.

Find Annie here:
@anniedsouz |


Lauren Schneck, Videographer | The Restaurant Project

Lauren Schneck | Videographer

Lauren's first documentary was on Wisconsin karaoke, so there's that. Lauren discovered a love for the visual arts way back in junior high, and eventually wound up working in reality television production with networks like MTV, ABC, Oxygen, TLC and Animal Planet. In 2014, Lauren took a leap back into the work she loves and established Tucker Fox Co. She and her production team create stories for brands, non-profits, small businesses and everyday folks.

Find Lauren here:
@lorsie7 |


Forbes | 30 Under 30: Food & Drink - Marco Zappia of Martina
2018 PDN TASTE Award Winner | “Best Editorial Food Photography”
2018 PDN TASTE Award Winner | “Best Commercial Food Photography”
2018 PDN TASTE Award Winner | “Best Personal Work Food Photography”
2017 PDN TASTE Award Winner | "Best Commercial Food Photography"
Food & Wine | "Top 40 in Trend Spotting"
Food & Wine | "Young Joni"
Food & Wine | "Jim Christansen's Elegant Chicken Liver Tart"
Food & Wine | "The Best Croissants in America"
Bon Appetit | "Ramen Around America"
Eater | "Where to Eat Inside Midtown Global Market"