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Inside Food Styling

Food styling isn't about using motor oil and staples to make food glisten or hold it in place — it's about making food look delicious and relatable to the home cook.

by John Kirkpatrick

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People get excited hear that one of my jobs at Cuisine is as a food stylist. I make the food in images look good no, look “jump off the page delicious”. Many people think that I’m doing advertising food styling, a different discipline than editorial food styling. Look at any Old El Paso commercial and you may see that it is detailed perfection that allows one to see all the attributes of that taco.

They also believe that I use Elmer’s glue for milk and Crisco shortening for ice cream. That’s not my assignment. My food styling is based on What You See Is What You Get, WYSIWYG as it’s known. If our readers can’t replicate the food in the image, then they distrust the recipe, and if they don’t trust the recipe, then it cascades from there. I still show all the attributes of the recipe but more like it just came from your range. It’s real. Kinda.

It would be lying if I didn’t disclose that some of the images have an “enhanced” reality that you don’t see. Take for instance this glazed spiral cut ham from 2013. This roasted ham is picture perfect; in real life those beautifully draped slices of ham have more T-pins, toothpicks, tacky wax, found objects, and even petroleum jelly propping up and/or filling some holes created by the instant read thermometer created while roasting than I came to remember. I’d say it took longer to style than cook.

Want to learn more about food styling? Read Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera by Delores Custer or The Food Stylist's Handbook by Denise Vivaldo for an in-depth look at what it takes behind the scenes to make food look beautiful.

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