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How do you make food look so appetizing on a shoot?
There are a lot of little tricks for every type of food but I try and make things look “real.” For me, real means slightly messy, full of ooziness, crumbs, and gooey cheese.

Event planning like food styling, makes you think on your feet and troubleshoot, something that happens on every job

How did you get your start as a food stylist?
I previously had a career in event planning that helped train me to become very detail oriented.  Event planning — like food styling — makes you think on your feet and troubleshoot, something that happens on every job.  After a few years in the event planning world, I switched gears and embraced my passion for food. I worked for a well-known chef who led me to the recipe development mecca: America’s Test Kitchen.  At the Test Kitchen I developed original recipes, wrote articles and was head of the Cooks Country Magazine photo shoots where I developed my expertise in food styling and prop selection.

Did you have a big break?  
I’ve built my business with several large, national clients in a short amount of time, which is great, but of course, I always want to do more!

What’s the most photogenic food (needing the least help to look delicious)?
I think cakes.  You take so much time and care in making them that they pretty much style themselves.

What is the hardest food to style?
Ice cream, hands down.

Will you take us through a typical food shoot?  (like prep time, etc. so they see how much work you do before anybody even gets there)
Prep is ALWAYS needed but not always given; sometimes it feels like a luxury.  Simply having time to set-up your tools, what you’re using in the kitchen and on-set and setting out a plan for the day goes a long way in making the rest of the shoot run smoothly. Typically you’re “cooking” each component of a plate separately so organization is crucial.

Is the food usually edible?  If so, who eats the leftovers after the shoot?
Most food I style is technically edible but I wouldn’t suggest eating it.  Anyone who’s worked on a food set knows not to eat (or touch) the food!

Most food I style is technically edible but I wouldn’t suggest eating it

What is the strangest item you have in your styling tool kit?
Oh it’s filled with many strange items, I’m always worried what security sees when I have to travel… I’d have to say the strangest is my baby “snot sucker” aka baby aspirator. I use it to remove very small amounts of liquid. I recently used it on raw oyster.

What is the most challenging thing about being a food stylist?
Schlepping around all your gear!  You never really know exactly what you’ll need so if you’re like me, you bring EVERYTHING!  (Don’t look in my hall closet…)

What is your favorite thing about working in Texas?
I’m a fairly new “Texan”, I’ve only been here just about 3 years but it’s becoming home.  Moving from Boston, Texas feels very welcoming.  As a Midwestern girl, I appreciate a “good morning” or smile from a stranger. I’ve been lucky to connect with great food photographers, designers and restaurants and am excited to build more relationships in the industry.

What projects have you done lately?
For the past two years I’ve worked on the new Whataburger campaign with local food photographer, Jody Horton.  The campaign has been well received and we’re really proud of our work (it’s also pretty great seeing it in billboard form).

I’ve also been working in Houston with Ralph Smith (and recently, NYC at Michael Schrom’s studio), for Joe’s Crab Shack, which has been a fun and challenging project.

I also styled the recipes in the new Salt Lick Cookbook. Austin photographer Kenny Braun shot the book in its entirety and the local Pentagram office led the design.  I enjoyed working with these talented people and the pictures will make you want to drive straight to Driftwood for a BBQ fix.

What’s next? Exciting projects coming up for 2013?
I’m excited to continue working with Joe’s Crab Shack.  I’m also looking forward to adding a new burger client.

The start to the New Year also means I get to work with a regular client, the National Mango Board.  I develop mango recipes for their promotional materials and website and have recently begun styling those recipes since they moved their photo shoots to Texas.

How do you define success in your own career?
I think success is when you get called again for another job; you know you’ve made that client happy.

I think success is when you get called again for another job

What advice do you have for aspiring food stylists or photographers interested in shooting food?
Practice and assist. It’s a difficult career to wrap your head around and can’t really be learned except by doing.

Favorite breakfast taco?
Shocking, I know, but I really don’t do breakfast tacos, I prefer going straight to lunch… The Democrat from Torchys is the best.

Photos by: Kimberly Davis, Jody Horton, and Ralph Smith

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