When I meet someone new and it comes up that I’m a food stylist, I’m often met with intrigued looks, and a little confusion. Many people have an idea of what food styling is about, but aren’t sure what it entails exactly.
The line between my everyday and work life is blurred – I feel so lucky to spend my days doing things that I love – which mostly don’t feel like work. Because of this, I get very excited talking about what I do, and love answering people’s questions about what it means to be a food stylist. These are the 3 questions that I’m asked most:
1. How did I become a food stylist?
Like most career paths, it was a journey. I graduated from the University of Cape Town with a social science degree in philosophy and politics and I couldn’t see myself working in the areas I had studied. I loved food, creating and beautiful things and felt drawn to a creative career.
I enrolled at Silwood School of Cookery in Cape Town and instantly found my place in the world! It felt so inspiring to be doing something that I loved, and felt I was really good at. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to be in restaurant kitchens forever, and had ambitions of being a food stylist or product developer. My favourite part about cooking was presenting my food, so in a way it felt like food styling found me.
Part of my studies were spent in restaurant and product development kitchens, and after graduating I became a full time freelance food assistant. I assisted some of Cape Town’s best food stylists for a few years – they were so generous with sharing their knowledge and it was incredible experience being an assistant on such a wide variety of shoots.
After my years of assisting, I built up a portfolio as a food stylist in Cape Town, and was then offered the job as food editor of Food & Home Magazine. I moved to Johannesburg and felt so inspired by the excitement of moving and the opportunity to work on a food magazine, full time. I spent my days styling food, conceptualising shoots, developing, testing and editing recipes and representing the magazine at functions. After 3 years as food editor, I decided to concentrate my experience and focus entirely on my food styling business. If you'd like to know more about my food styling service, you can head here.
2. Who makes the food I style?
Usually, I make the food and if not, I oversee the making of it. Often I need extra hands in the kitchen, so I work with talented food assistants. Being a proffessionally trained chef, I am very comfy in the kitchen, and love to be hands-on for shoots.
Having a solid understanding of food, cooking and ingredients is essential to making food behave as required for shoots. If something isn’t working, I call on my experience to help fix it – cooking and styling food often involves quick problem solving to make a dish look beautiful.
3. Do I use fake food?
Generally, no. The best part of shoots is sitting down at a bountiful lunch table and eating the food that has been shot!
My understanding is that in the 60s, 70s and 80s food stylists often used fake food – it was all about perfection back then. The trend in food styling now is beautiful, natural, imperfect food that makes consumers feel like they could have made it themselves.
Every now and then, I’ll whip up fake ice cream for a shoot, or may use a few sneaky tricks on food that is difficult to style. But generally, the food I style is all real and edible, aside from times when it has either been out of the fridge for too long under hot studio lights, or had my fingers all over it.
I recently saw this short YouTube video, and on the topic of fake food, I couldn't not share it!
If you have any questions for me about your next food shoot, I'd love you to be in touch. You can find my contact details here.