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The art of making food look good

Have you looked at a picture of a mouth-watering hamburger or a juicy steak drizzled with sauce in a magazine or TV commercial that you want to lick the screen. Ok, licking the pages or your TV screen may not be a good idea.  Anyway the art of making food look good credited to the food stylist.  In my humble opinion food stylist are the unsung hero in the culinary world. He/she painstakingly take the time to prepare and dress the food to make it look good in front of the camera.  This may sound simple enough.  This is not the case.

Earlier this month, I attended a 2 day “Food Styling for Today’s Marketplace” workshop here in Singapore conducted by Culinary Entrepreneurship.  Accompanied by  experienced and aspired food stylist from Italy, Dubai, Russia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia as well as a few Singaporeans, the group gathered in the kitchen of  Palate Sensations cooking school.  The workshop was led by an acclaimed food stylist and culinary consultant for 25 years, Denise Vivaldo.  Denise is a vivacious woman who openly shared the secrets of food styling. Her great sense of humour  kept us entertained throughout the 2 days.

On the first day, Denise showed us how to work with frozen meals and styled the food based on her interpretation.  The beauty of food styling is the creativity and there is no one style superior.  And this is what attracted me to food styling.  One of the very first exercise was to practice working with a frozen meal.  I grabbed a chicken teriyaki meal served with steamed white rice and vegetables.  The challenge is working with whatever content available.  What I have learnt in the morning is a having extra ingredients for stand in and the “hero” plate.  Since we had limited resources, we had to work with the content of one packet.  However, we had access to other ingredients such as bok choy, tomatoes and fresh herbs to help us jazz up the plate.

This is only one example of what we covered.  We were exposed to working with various ingredients such as noodles, meat, seafood, desserts and how to highlight the best best attributes for the camera. I would love to write on each styling experience taught in the workshop but best saved for a book. Whenever I see a layout in food magazines or hot pizza TV commercial, I always think of what the prep work to achieve the final result.

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Food styling is incomplete without a photographer. Photographers are the essential ingredient in making the food come alive. During the workshop, we were graced by the presence of Christopher Lee from Dream Merchant Photography.  He provided invaluable insight and experience on food photography from photographer’s perspective. He shared how lighting and angles shot can make a difference in good and bad picture. This was an added highlight and rounded the workshop nicely.  Christopher was kind enough to extend his professional services and photographed our dishes.  Many thanks, Christopher – what a champion he is!

I walked away from the 2 days armed with new-found knowledge. What I love about food styling is that there are so many ways to style the same food. It is up to your imagination.  A big thank you goes to Denise, an amazing woman.  I know there is so much more to food styling and the best way is to dive in the deep end. I am looking forward to the adventure.

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