Food Fanatics Styling in Hollywood — Stylisme culinaire à Hollywood

food fanatics styling LA

Class Projects

What happens when you put sixteen women, a few men and a Peanut dog in a photography studio in L.A. for a 3-day class? You are intrigued and curious at first when you arrive, you start the class somewhat shy, but by the end of the three days, you are feeling so at ease that you actually ask whether there is a spare bed somewhere in the studio for you to crash on. You are not too fussy, anything will do. Because you have so much fun that you wished you could stay a little longer.

This is what I was lucky to experience this past weekend in Los Angeles, when I attended a three-day food styling workshop at Food Fanatics with Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flannigan. We talked and laughed — you know, the kind of laughter that really comes from down your guts — we listened to amazing food styling stories they shared with us, we dug in and styled food; in a few words, we learned a ton. I had never been in Hollywood or even L.A. before beside flying through the city a few times on my way to Australia and New Zealand, so I had everything to discover. But can you really see this massive American city in three days? So you wish again that you could have stayed somewhat longer, especially after you meet such a bunch of nice people, including wonderful Matt and Adam, who both came to visit for a few hours, and Karine from Le Carrefour, whom I knew through her lovely blog and was delighted to find at the workshop. The world is getting smaller!

Let’s start with the beginning, shall we?

Smile!

food styling fanatics workshop

food fanatics styling LA

The happy bunch

I do not remember the last time I attended a class that captivated my attention as much. Our group was composed of really fabulous people. Our hosts, Denise and Cindie, are two special women who have so much energy that I seriously wonder what they eat for breakfast every morning; the students, fourteen of us coming from all parts of the world, from Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica, to the United States, all coming from different backgrounds, wannabe professional photographer, personal chef, caterer, graphic designer, event stylist and food bloggers; and Victor Boghossian, a talented and friendly photographer: together, we formed a happy bunch. We had come to the studio to work with Denise and Cindie with the same purpose: learn about the tricks of the trade of the food stylist profession. Amazingly interesting!

food fanatics styling LA

Karine and Jaz; Food Fanatics Studio in Hollywood; Sabrina and Sylvia; Valerie and Peanut

food styling fanatics workshop

The first day was devoted to speaking about logistics. Denise started by showing us what a typical food stylist kit looks like — think one or several plumber-looking bags full of stuff, des trucs et des machins — making us realize that a food stylist really has to be a jack of all trades. Food styling is not an easy job: it requires patience, precision and focus. You are not convinved? I was when I saw Denise pull a magnifying glass out of her kit. What a clever tool to have!

Imagine hours spent to perfect that unique plate of rice or noddles that a client has asked for, making sure that not a single detail is going to be left out. Is the shape of the garnish herb on top straight? Does it look fresh enough? What about the background used against the food, does it distract the eye from focusing on the food? Balancing the picture is obviously key; using the right amount of props essential. In fact, as a general rule, making it simple can become even more challenging. “What are you trying to sell?” is the question to keep in mind while styling any food project.

We also learned about the business side of the profession, and received precious information about pricing, insurance, taxes, how to build a portfolio, how to get clients and mainly, how to keep them happy. A food stylist is going to work with a photographer to make the food look beautiful; he or she will offer suggestions according to his or her sensibility but in the end, both the art director and the client will be the ones to decide. Normal, c’est le client qui paie ! As Denise and Cindie pointed out, there are a lot of good jobs but there are also a lot of bad ones. There are those that have a very small budget, and those with bad products. Some jobs pay well while others pay little. And for some jobs, you can have a fully-equipped kitchen, when for others, there is not even a sink or a stove. In short, you as the stylist need to make sure that you receive as much information about a job from the client beforehand. C’est vital ! The more prepared you are, the better off you will be.

food styling fanatics LA

Jaz prepping the herbs; Cindie

During the workshop, we received the opportunity to practice on building an image for our portfolio. We were divided into five groups, and each group was assigned a project to work on. Our task was to style the food we chose, and work with the photographer to produce a food image. Could you guess which one my group worked at?

I am caught by Karine; photo courtesy of Karine from Le carrefour

Is this the hero?” Victor asked with a cunning smile when he saw us bring the first plate to our shooting set. “No, not yet,” I responded. “We are preparing it.

You see, every single time you prepare a dish to be shot, you are going to have one preparation dish, and a final one, called “the hero“. It has to be a winner, hasn’t it?

Shooting tethered (that is with the camera directly connected to a computer screen) is a great advantage since you receive immediate feedback because you are able to see every picture detail right away, and can decide whether you are happy with it.

food styling fanatics LA

food styling fanatics workshop

Denise; Ellen working on cornish hens

We learned how to use a blow torch, how to keep herbs fresh and crisp*, how to prepare and pamper a chicken to make it camera-ready — a food stylist’s holy trinity is Pam, Kitchen Bouquet and water — or how to plate rice or noodles (wet paper towels stuck under help to give shape). Since most food shoots last for hours, the food will almost always not be consumed. Would you really want to eat lobster that has been sitting on a table for two hours under bright spot lights or eat a chicken that has been painted with Kitchen Bouquet and is hardly cooked? A food stylist will be much better off if he or she understands the mechanics about food very well. Having a culinary background helps tremendously, but is not necessarily essential.

* Put the fresh herbs in iced water, then wrap them in a wet paper towel. Place them in the fridge until ready to use.

food fanatics styling LA

Cindie overlooking a project on drinks

food styling fanatics LA

Our Salmon Project

I loved working on our project. With the help of Jaz and Karine, my two adorable teammates, we prepared the concept of our image the day before we shot with Victor. What props would we use? What spacing would we have between the food and props? Would we use one or two plates? What kind of depth of field would we want? What type of mood would we give to the picture? Answering each one of these questions helped us choose the colors, size of plate and arrangement of the photo. We wanted a minimalist, simple and clean image. Then, with the talent of Victor, the magic tricks he played with the lights and his fancy Hasselblad camera (hear, jealousy here), we produced a picture together. Et voilà !

What do you think, do you think that we managed?

Three days passed quickly and I learned plenty. I left with the memory of many faces and people that I wish to meet again. I was sad to leave them — and my friends S. and J. who had to cope with me while I stayed at their cute house — but then, I was happy too: in January there is two-day Master’s Food Styling Class. I do not know about you, but I am planning to be there!

PS: Tell me that I am not alone in this situation here, and I will feel better. When was the last time that you forgot to change back a setting on your camera until too late? Will you believe me if I tell you that I shot most of these pictures with a 1000 ISO?

Sigh…

Check Karine‘s and Sabrina‘s stories too.

Denise Vivaldo
P.O. Box 351088,
Los Angeles, California 90035
phone 310-836-3520
fax 310-836-3422
DVivaldo@earthlink.net

46 comments

  1. quoi ? suis la 1ere ??! bein pour etre honnete, je prefere voir le resultats que tout le tralala derriere… j’aime rever sur les belles photos uniquement ! Suis pas tres patiente…
    Merci tt de mm pour ces beaux billets quotidients Bea !

  2. Tout ca est bien au dela de mes competences, et de mon materiel. Mais je suis admirative, et tant que ca t’eclate, c’est le principal. Merci de nous devoiler un peu les coulisses.

  3. Superbe billet; détaillé et juste. J’aime beaucoup la photo de cette caméra qui m’a tant impressionné (à 39 mégapixels, qui ne le serais pas ;-). Et oui, ça m’est déjà arrivé de photographier en plein jour en 1000 d’iso, c’est tellement frustrant, je compatis! Merci pour ce beau résumé bien illustré et j’ai beaucoup aimé travailler avec toi sur ce projet.
    On se revoit en Janvier!

  4. Wow, what details, what a class, what work! All of that is so fascinating and I am very grateful you shared it with all of us, including the camera setting! (I do it all the time!) You are already an amazing food stylist and photographer, I can’t imagine an improvement. May we never stop learning, eh?

  5. Bea! I am so envious- what a fabulous thing to do! I love Los Angeles- we were there in September. Our plans are to move there- soon. You did a beautiful job writing this up- and your photographs- as always- are eye candy. I’m so glad you enjoyed LA!

  6. Thank you for sharing all this information Bea. My sister is very interested in the world of food styling, and I am studying graphic design, and I hope that one day I will be an art director of a food magazine or cookbook.

  7. It sounds so wonderful. If you ask me, you could be teaching a class like this yourself, your food styling is always so beautiful. And I am completely laughing at that last remark. You have no idea how many times I’ve taken photos and then realized I didn’t change one of the settings that I wanted to.

  8. Bea,
    I had a chance to take a class with Denise in the Bay Area and she was fabulous! It looks like you had a such a great time in the class!!

  9. Great write up Bea. I am so jealous, this seems like such a neat thing to get to be part of.
    Oh and I always forget what setting my camera is in.

  10. il est toujours Intéressant de voir les coulisses! merci pour ce reportage.

  11. So much energy leaping out from those pictures, it certainly looks like you had a great time! And thank you so much for sharing what you learned.

  12. I forget the settings on my cameras often, it’s such a bad habit. On the upside your photos are lovely as ever and it’s always a treat to hear about the actual composition of the foods we see in all those lovely magazine shots (undercooked and painted, yum)

  13. Les photos culinaires sont très réussies..magnifique reportage que tu nous fais partager…maintenant quand je prends une photo, je pense automatiquement à ton blog…je recherche le détail qui fera la différence. C’est bien et cela éveille l’oeil à la découverte. Beau programme. Passe un bon dimanche.

  14. thanks for sharing the experience with us, Bea. I wish I could find this kind of workshop without traveling out of town.

  15. All beautiful .. lovely candids too! Love the shot of the women against those tall rods of fabric. I am jealous of those and the Hassy.

    One day the hassy will come true :-)

    Your food styling is already stellar, will be great to see what happens next to your style.

  16. Reportage très intéressant… je suis certaine que quelques petites séances comme celle-ci me conviendraient parfaitement. On imagine pas toujours le travail qui se cache derrière une belle photo.

  17. Je suis tout simplement stochée derrière mon écran. La qualité et les couleurs sont superbes… Je me prends à rêver…

  18. Quelle super aventure! Merci de toutes ces infos et belles photos! A propos, ma mere se propose de t’envoyer directement les derniers numeros de Saveurs et Regal, avant les vacances de Noel. Ca t’interesse?

  19. Bea – It was fun to share the wonderful experience of this class with you! You did a terrific job of capturing our three days. Great job on the photographs and your site! Merci!

    Sally

  20. The time I’ve wondered how great it would be to be you for a day, Bea.

    Sure, it would mean both a sex change, and a Nationality change, but it would be so worth it for an adventure like the ones you have!

  21. This is so interesting, what a great experience, thank you for sharing. It does make me realize how professional food photography is rather detached from the experience of cooking.

  22. Vous faites des envieux(ses), ça a l’air tellement bien, tellement enrichissant,l’atelier mais aussi les rencontres qu’il suscite, l’expérience partagée, les questionnements autour de passions communes.Merci de nous faire partager ça.

  23. The class looks like a great time! And congratulations on your new Boston Globe gig! ; )

  24. Merci Corinne! AHah moi non plus en général, pas très patiente.

    Gracianne, merci. Oui comme tu le dis, c’est un monde qui me fascine.

    Karine, ah oui, très contente de te voir à nouveau en janvier.

    Jeni, thank you. Always tons to learn indeed.

    Rosa, merci.

    Karina, thank you. Good luck with your move.

    Kat, thank you.

    Lisa, I hope she will too.

    Kalyn, thanks for your kind words. Yes I am SO frustrated when I realized about my camera setting. I guess there are worth things in life…

    Anita, oh good for you. I am glad you had a fun class. Denise is so much fun!

    Peabody, check the classes should there be some in your area.

    Dixie, oui contente que cela te plaise.

    Clotilde, thank you. It was such a fun class indeed. Our group made the whole difference too. SUch great energy indeed. Wonderful women.

    Hilda, yes shooting commercial is obviously different in many ways. But it all depends on each photographer’s personal choices.

    texmex, merci. ;-) et tant mieux.

    yaiAnn, thank you for your visit.

    Flo,oui!

    Eleonora, ah j’en suis bien contente ;-) Bon courage pour ta continuation.

    Mandy, check around. There might be one closer than you think.

    Nika, thank you. I bet you would have enjoyed the workshop, and trying the Hasseblad ;-)

    Yoyo, thank you.

    Valerie, I am sure you would have a blast at a workshop like this. Right up your alley.

    Sophie, ;-)

    Helen, merci a toi, et a la generosite de ta maman! COmment dire non?

    Sally, it was so much fun to meet you. ANd fun to write our experience. SO much more to say.

    Mary, merci.

    Graeme, ahah, I don’t think anyone said this before. Believe me, it is not always rosy.

    Mercedes, yes interesting. I love the logistics behind.

    Cécile, contente de savoir que ce billet et sa lecture vous ont plu.

    Anali, many thanks!!!

  25. Bea, what a fun experience, and a great group to share it all with. If you ever decide to do your own class here on the East Coast, I’d love to attend!

  26. You know, I always love photos of food. But knowing a tiny little bit about food photography, it seems like in order for it to look good it becomes ineditible (or began that way). Is this always the case?

  27. Bea, what a beautiful website! I look forward to visiting it often. It was wonderful to meet you at the workshop, and thank you for sharing your experience and photos of it with us. Take care,
    Sarah

  28. Quel groupe sympathique. Le genre de journée où l’on ne voit pas le temps passer. Dommage qu’il n’y ait pas ce type d’atelier à Montréal…

  29. wow!! i think it’s amazing how you’re a chef and a food photographer as well. Its really inspiring that people like you are so creative and talented. I’m in high school and currently enrolled in a Prostart Culinary class. The things we learn there are wonderfu and every time we have an up comming lab, we are encouraged by our teacher to bring a camera. so we could take pictures of our presentations and how we were cooking it.
    Seeing your pictures and the desserts you’ve come up with, inspire me to work harder and try new things, that may improve the dishes i make. When i was little, i wanted to become a photographer, maybe now, i could work on becoming a food photographer and a pastry chef. yes, maybe i could fulfil two of my dreams. =] thank you, for giving me an extra mile of hope and an ocean full of courage. God Bless you always.

  30. Pingback: Le Carrefour » Les petits plaisirs de la culinosphère…

  31. Hi Bea! How fun to visit your website. It’s terrific. Fun to read about our class last fall 2007 at Food Fanatics and see the pictures. Great call and memories. I must take the next level class but have been too busy! Hope you are well! Obviously you have been busy!

    Sally

    Chef Sally Cameron
    Everyday Gourmet
    http://www.evgourmet.com

  32. Hi Bea! I wish I had been there attending the photography/styling workshop with all of you. Just the photos of all of you guys are so… inspiring. Having 15 years of experience in food styling but not being able to network with others as passionate about food is very depressing. The community of food stylists in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur are but a handful. Most of them maintain secretive about they achieved certain effects. I do admit I am a purist when styling, rarely using fake stuff. I believe in timing in cooking, freshest ingredients and it really matters as to how good the photographer is. A photographer who understands about food and passionate about how the pix turns out to be is as crucial. Fortunately I work with the best who is non other than my other half. We are collaborated on more than a dozen cookbooks, some sold on Amazon. One of them, Food From The Heart, garnered an World Gourmand Award just last year in 5 categories. I also take on research and developing recipes and used to write for the Star Publication/Press for about 5 years.
    I hope we can keep in touch and if any of you ladies are coming over to this part of Asia, do email me. A Bientot. Regards to all.
    Peng

  33. :) I took that workshop too in June 2006. But i didn’t have a food blog then and no plans really for food dtyling, so i guess i didn’t make the most of it and am only learning now.
    Your blog is very inspiring. I love to see your works from the begining of your blog to where you are now. What an amazing journey!
    And I hope I will improve too. Trying to learn as much as I can…

  34. Pingback: Married …with dinner » Blog Archive » My stylin’ weekend

  35. I am really interested to attend food styling workshop
    Is there someone can help?

  36. öyle zerzevat dergisinde kediyle fotoğrafmı çektirilir lan gancık….

  37. Hello I am a student in the art institute and I love food! I want to be a food photographer, can I intern for you?

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