Food styling is the art of preserving food’s natural appeal in front of the camera. It is used for editorials, print and TV advertising, packaging, marketing, public relations, and film. A food stylist is responsible for making the food look delicious and “alive” during a shoot or a project.
Last May 7, Chef Theo Zaragoza conducted a food styling seminar at the Maya Kitchen in Makati. Chef Theo talked about the difference between food styling and food presentation. Unlike plating, styling food isn’t simply arranging it on a plate to look delectable. In styling, one must work with food at room temperature whereas in presentation, cold food must be served cold and hot food must be served hot. Oftentimes, food used in styling is meant to be held and not eaten.
Knowing the camera angle is another important aspect of food styling. The stylist must “design” and position the food accordingly for an overhead shot, side view, or at eye level. One has to look out for sharp contrasts and make sure that the photo or shot is balanced, including food composition. Chef Theo emphasized that people eat with their eyes before they eat with their mouths and so it is very important to keep the food appealing to the sense of sight.
Attendees were divided into groups and were given a hands-on experience on food styling. They were taught how to fluff a salad plate by using tissue paper underneath the greens to make it “pop out”, where to spritz water beads to make it look fresh and not weighed down, how to produce grill marks without a grill. They were also taught how to layer trifles, roast chicken using a browning agent and a torch, and how to achieve that mozzarella effect in pizza commercials. He even gave the recipe for fake ice cream.
Chef Theo has a degree in Industrial Design and eventually pursued his love of food by taking up culinary courses at the Maya Kitchen Culinary Arts Center and Makati Shangri-la Culinary Academy. Later on, he attended The Culinary Institute of America to perfect the technique and art of food styling under Delores Custer. He is the Managing Director of Resultado, a food styling firm.