How to Become a Food Stylist

It is one thing to prepare a delicious batch of spaghetti sauce served with turkey, but it is another thing altogether to arrange these parts of a scrumptious meal on a plate to take a beautiful photograph for an ad.

The art of food styling entails arranging food in a way that it appears tasty, appetizing, and fresh for photo shoots, filming, magazines, TV commercials, and high-end restaurant promotion. These are the situations where the appearance of food is actually more important than how it tastes, or if it is even edible at all.

A food stylist is responsible for making food look attractive to the eye and more importantly, shining for the cameras. This requires a lot of hard work, patience, creativity, and most of the time, some level of formal training.

As a food stylist, you can work for any of the following entities: magazines, cookbooks, advertising companies, TV commercials, film and TV sets, restaurants, casinos, spas, resorts, hotels, and more. Food stylists often work closely with chefs, editors, and photographers, though in some cases they can double up for more than one of all these roles.

Prior to arranging and styling the food, a food stylist typically first chooses all the other accessories required for the shot, including plates, table cloths, and place mats.

The food stylist will then move on to preparing the food. Though some of the foods used for styling are cooked, most of the time they are not fully cooked to an edible status as they only to appear edible for the cameras. In some cases, tools such as blow-torches, or even hair-dryers, are used to make edges of meat brown and scorched.

This step is then followed by placing and arranging the food on a plate in such a way that its appearance is as attractive, mouthwatering, and sumptuous as possible. Some of the tricks that food stylists use to achieve this include:

Use of wooden skewers and toothpicks shoved through dishes like stacks of pancakes and hamburgers to maintain them in an upright position.

Undercooking meat asfood can lose a lot of moisture and/or mass if fully cooked to edible status. Meat often appears much smaller, and even shriveled, when cooked. Food stylists avoid this by cooking it until it just appears done.

Use of soap is often employed for the styling of foods that require bubbles, for example to make whipped eggs appear frothy or drinks to appear bubbly and fun.

Dye and paint are used to give some foods a better color. Typically, food is prepared first before a dye or a paint is brushed on. For instance, wood stain or shoe polish is used to give chicken or turkey the golden-brown, fresh-from-the-oven appearance you see on photographs and magazines.

Use of clear acrylic ice cubes to replace regular ice cubes in dishes such as shrimp cocktail, as well as drinks. This faux ice is preferred because it does not melt easily even in warm environments, and therefore it is less messy.

Putty or wax is normally placed in between some types of foods and hard surfaces to hold it in place and prevent it from rolling or tipping away.

Use of white glue instead of milk in, for instance, a bowl of a cereal meal. This is because white glue has a thicker consistency than milk and also keeps the cereal pieces from turning too soggy and unattractive too early. Food stylists also use some types of fast-drying glue to re-assemble pieces of food that have been torn or crumbled before a photo shoot.

Use of motor oil in place ofpancake syrup, which is often difficult to photograph.

A successful food stylist is a team player, a good chef, detail-oriented, a good listener, artistic, business-minded, and resourceful. You can learn food styling by taking a course in culinary arts, an apprenticeship from an established food stylist, or any other method that exposes you to hands-on styling skills, but more importantly you need to be innovative and a foodie at heart!


Image via Uradi sam (facebook)

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