Among other things…I am a food stylist.
Not many people know what a food stylist is, and to be honest, I never set out to become one.
I was very fortunate early in my career to have been given a chance, straight out of uni, by one of the best food stylists in Melbourne, if not Australia, at the time – Ann Creber. Together with Phil Wymant they were the dynamic duo of food photography in the 80s and 90s, producing cookbooks and outstanding imagery for advertising campaigns and publications.
Ann’s very patient approach, keen eye and attention to detail, not to mention her love of picking perfect produce was a fine combination. Patience is not one of my virtues…although I have had to develop this muscle a bit…but I think that I do have that picky eye that does sometimes drives everyone around me a bit crazy.
I went on to a career as a Home Economist and Test Kitchen Manager, later moving into Marketing Manager and Food Communications roles before starting my own food consultancy 10 years ago now…
Along the way I experimented, took chances and sucked up every opportunity to learn about food and, importantly, how to make it shine as well as taste amazing.
So what does a food stylist do?
Typically the work is project based. My clients are usually food marketers and I work with a variety of food brands to create images used in various communications – print, video, online – to showcase their product or its use at its best.
Because my skills range from cooking to writing to marketing, I may create the recipes to suit, write the copy or come up with the campaign strategy to hero the product. Along the way I work with brand managers, ad agencies, designers, art directors, technical experts, producers, suppliers and, of course, food photographers.
When it comes to photographers, my long term alliance has been with the amazing Louis Petruccelli – a friend, mentor and creative partner. Together we have created a body of work that I am quietly very proud of.
How do you become a food stylist?
Becoming a food stylist is not something that has a set path. Many I know have started with cooking backgrounds and through luck or fate, found themselves either assisting a stylist or being thrown in the deep end to create something purely by chance. You find out pretty quickly if you have what it takes…
Opportunities do not come easily as it is an expensive exercise and a lot is at stake. When you combine the man hours for stylist, photographer, assistants, art directors and clients together with production costs, it all adds up. Then, at the heart of it, is you, the stylist who has to develop the vision as well as the execution – while all eyes are on you and everyone waits to see the creation come to life.
It’s a job that requires a curious blend of organisation and creativity – both sides of the brain. I often feel like I have to switch from being the ‘roadie’ who is making sure everything is procured and arrives in time for the shoot, often carting a bootful of groceries and props to the studio myself…to then magically transforming into a creative sorceress who gets to play with colours, shapes and textures that delight the eye and whet the palate…
I love it when my clients are happy and at the end of the day our little team can look back and feel very satisfied about the chemistry that has come together to capture that moment…and it make it last forever.
What a job!