THE FOOD STYLIST’S HANDBOOK
by Denise Vivaldo
Contact: Jennifer King
It takes a steady hand to pile chocolate curls on a cake or drizzle caramel sauce in elaborate designs on a plate. And if you need some guidance, you’ll undoubtedly want Denise Vivaldo‘s new book, THE FOOD STYLIST’S HANDBOOK, by your side. Denise shares her trade secrets with cooks looking to become master stylists. Her advice is doled out with anecdotes that range from hilarious to humiliating to victorious. You’ll especially appreciate useful sections like the Toolkit for a Food Stylist. Denise reveals her insider knowledge about how to get started, what equipment to buy, how to find clients and keep them. Simple dishes will become works of inedible art as you prepare them for the camera. Whether you need picture perfect food for your blog, or television, books, magazines, movies, menus, or advertising, this book is your entry point into the secretive world of food styling.
About the Authors
Denise Vivaldo is a professionally trained chef from Hollywood, California, and has been a food stylist in Los Angeles for twenty-five years. Discovered by television producer Aaron Spelling, she was soon put to work on his television shows creating food presentations for the camera. Her company, Food Fanatics, styles food for cookbooks, packaging, television, and film. She has catered more than 10,000 parties and events including the Acadamy Awards Governor’s Ball, and Sunset Magazine’s Taste of Sunset. Vivaldo has also styled food for TV shows such as The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Inside Dish with Rachael Ray. She lives in Los Angeles, and travels internationally, offering food styling classes and seminars.
• Angostura Bitters—an orange-brown coloring agent for food or beverages.
• Bamboo skewers—to move small pieces of food onto and off of a plate or adjust food once on the plate. Skewers can also be used to hold different foods together (example: for matzo ball soup, after false-bottoming a bowl of soup with something like shortening, you can push the matzo balls onto the skewers and then push the other ends into the false bottom to give the soup a more even and natural look so all the balls of matzo aren’t floating or sunk at the bottom).
• Can opener.
• Cookie cutters—round, in various sizes.
• Cosmetic sponges, wedge-shaped—use as a wedge to help angle and adjust pieces of food for the camera. Dipped in a little Windex, vodka or rubbing alcohol, they can also be used to clean the rims of plates.
• Cotton balls—same use as above and as non-collapsing stuffing for foods like omelets.
• Disposable lighter with adjustable flame, or a barbecue lighter.
• Exacto Knife or matte knife—used to cut a multitude of things (example: cutting Styrofoam plates to support layers of pancakes to keep them from drooping).
• Forks, table and meat.
• Fruit Fresh anti-browning powder—edible white powder that dissolves in water. Dip cut fruit and vegetables into the solution to prevent browning. Also use for reviving wilted greens and herbs.
• Garnish tools.
• Gloves, tight-fitting latex—for cutting hot chiles or handling stinky food.
• Glycerin—use straight or add to water for making long-lasting water droplets (example: controlling the exact placement of water droplets without them moving or disappearing).
• Graters—every size you can find. The smaller the better.
• Kitchen Bouquet.
• Kitchen towels, cloth—buy lint-free bartender’s towels, or use old cloth diapers.
• Knives—paring, bread slicer, meat carver, and chef’s knife are the basics.
• Ladles—in a variety of sizes.
• Metal skewers—heated on a stove and used to create grill marks on different items such as steaks, grilled fillets of fish, chicken breasts, grilled vegetables, etc.
• Museum Wax, Quake Hold putty or florist clay— to hold items very securely in place (example: a scene in a commercial where a waiter has to balance a plate of food on a serving tray while it is tipping back and forth. The wax will prevent the food from sliding and can also hold the plate itself to the tray). Museum Wax is our preferred material and we use it on every shoot.
• Needle and thread—white, beige, brown and black thread to stitch up tears in meat or poultry before cooking.
• Piping gel, clear—can be used as a lightweight food glue or thickener for sauces. You can add Kitchen Bouquet to color it and patch holes and tears in meats.
• Ruler or tape measure.
• Sharpening or diamond steel for knives.
• Spoons, assorted sizes and materials.
• Squeeze bottles—for placement of larger amounts of sauces and liquids.
• Tape—transparent, gaffer’s, electrician’s (in various colors), duct, and painter’s.
• Timer, standard kitchen.
• Thermometer, instant-read and oven.
• Tongs—in a variety of sizes. We prefer the ones with the heat-resistant rubber covering on the tips so as not to damage the food.
• Turkey baster—used to extract or add liquid to a dish, keeping the mess to a minimum.
• Vaseline—for gluing food together. Can be colored with Kitchen Bouquet or bits of food to create a food spackle.
• Vodka—an excellent cleaner of surfaces, it also slows down the browning of avocados.
• Whisks— in a variety of sizes.
• Windex—don’t leave home without it.
Remember to keep all liquids in resealable plastic bags. One of the food stylist’s rules of thumb is that if it can leak or spill, it will.