Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hello hello hello

Hello and welcome to my blog!  As I wrote on the little blurb about myself I have bagged an amazing internship with a food stylist, home economist and interior whiz kid. As a food lover this is a dream come true. Days filled with shoots, prop shopping and recipe testing are up there with a candle lit dinner with George Clooney in my twisted opinion.

I am still brand new to this and already I have learned so much about what's needed if you want to deliver as a food stylist, from the tricks of the trade to the hard work and prep that every shoot requires. I am going to document what goes on behind the scenes for a food stylist and hopefully you'll stick with me as I work my way From the Ground Up.

And so it begins...

Now please don't think I'm an unworthy sod, but when my new boss phoned me up and told me that my first day would be working on a shoot for Catherine Fulvio, my initial reaction was a little fearful (read terror). I watch Catherine's shows, I have her cook book, the first day on a new job is always a bit hairy but adding a celebrity chef into the mix was a touch overwhelming.  My lovely boss told me to be excited, not nervous, displaying a faith in me I thought wise not to question.

Catherine met us and showed us around Ballyknocken House. Can I just say at this point that I am not working for or getting paid by the Fulvio team, but if you haven't been to  Ballyknocken House  you should pay it a visit. It is country chic heaven! Swings dangle from thick old trees, herb gardens make little paths through the grounds and the buildings themselves are gorgeous! But anyway, reeling back from that tangent...Sharon and the photographers, Jack Caffrey and Carol Dunne, set to work creating flower 'theatres' to house the gorgeous little raspberry mousses' (meeces?!) topped with whirly swirly meringue crowns while I got started on making the dishes we were to photograph.
Raspberry and Lime Mousse
on the Flower Theatre 
I didn't click straight away onto just how much cooking is involved when you are a food stylist. That changed pretty quickly! While the recipes are provided the stylist often cooks the food you see looking all dressed up in the ads and mags. Maybe this is common knowledge but it was news to me!

When I had finished cooking I went out to help (stand and watch from a safe distance) Sharon and the photographers style the shoot. It was great seeing them play around with the flower 'theater' and various collections of crockery to show off the mousse, not to mention the savoury tarts and freshly picked salad leaves that Carol 'casually' placed on a railway sleeper draped in gingham. In fact while we're on the subject of gingham and sleepers, let me just state that while food is obviously numero uno when it comes to styling foods, props come in a close second. More on that later.

So day one ended on a high, food was cooked, food was styled, food was even eaten - something that worried me. It's one thing cooking a tart and making it look appetising, it's another thing having your new boss and her colleagues eat said tart when all you can do is pray the pastry is cooked through.
We piled the props back into The Van, said goodbye to the photographers and on the way back into the city I found out that I had officially started my internship. Boom baby!

Photographers Jack and Carol in the salad garden for
 the Irish Country Magazine shoot.

Props...not just for Christmas.

So, day one had been a blast, I met lovely people and got to cook and help style on location. I wasn't entirely sure what it was like to not be on location but everyone assured me that on was better than off and I had no reason to doubt them.

The next step was to go prop hunting for an upcoming piece on Irish Food Bloggers for the March issue of Irish Country Magazine. I mentioned The Van and the props on my last post but I didn't pay them the attention they deserve. Let me make amends. The Van is Sharon's Batmobile. She is a glam chick who wouldn't look out of place in a cute and slick little runaround. Imagine my surprise when I was introduced to The Van. The name says it all really. It is a van and it is 100% necessary. If Ballyknocken hadn't demonstrated why with the railway sleepers, table and chairs and countless plates and cups, then our trip to Avoca did!
We arrived with a good idea of what we needed thanks to Sharon's 'Peasant Chic' vision and Carol's fab mood boards. Sharon and I had spent the day before going through her props and picked out items that fell under the brief. That helped to strengthen the concept in our minds and show up any gaps in the props that we needed to fill.
Armed with a trolley and a desire to style, we boldly Avoca'd where no one had Avoca'd before. Blankets and baskets and cups...oh my! We debated the merits of various flasks and jugs, different heights translate well in photos. Sticking to the theme without being too 'matchy matchy' was the task at hand and you can see the result of our labour in the photo Carol took below.
Carol's snap of our trollies in Avoca 

The staff in Avoca were great, letting us dash upstairs for a delicious lunch of spiced chicken wraps and a cup of coffee. One conversation about horoscopes and The Secret later and we were downstairs again where our trollies full of props had been wrapped up ready for us to whisk away (on a prop loan).

So that was my baptism into prop hunting. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement. A legitimate reason to bulk up on colourful kitchenware and cool meets kitch home wares is all I have been waiting for.
The following day we worked from Sharon's base testing recipes. Well testing a recipe. Pancakes. Took me four hours. In my defense the pancakes were lace edged, fabulous and I may have been low on caffeine. There will be much more on my experience of recipe testing in the post to follow as we will be testing more, but let me say one thing -measure everything!
Back to props... so lace edged pancakes deserve a fitting stage and hat is exactly what they got - a lace edged cake stand. While the amount of props on this particular shoot was less than the others I had seen, Sharon has ALOT of cake stands, not to mention platter, plates, serving get the idea. This showed me just how important it is to have a good variety of props to choose from and more importantly, to pay attention to the smallest detail. It doesn't matter how gorgeous your food looks, if you want it to look snazzy in a photo then you need a keen eye and a problem with hoarding.

What I've learned so far:
  • Stylists cook....ALOT! 
  • Food is a way of life - you have to love it to do it justice.
  • Ditto for props.
  • Hoarding is no longer a bad habit in my house.
  • When testing recipes, weigh, measure, weigh, measure and weigh. And measure.
  • As the pancake marathon taught me (and my mother actually) - If it at first you don't succeed....


  1. lol, love it! as 'the boss woman' & The Van driver, let me be the first to congratulate you on surviving your first week delivering my diva demands!! there will be many more mad & nutty weeks ahead...s x

  2. Haha! Glad you like it, thought it only fair to give The Van the respect it deserves!I'm looking forward to it all...x

  3. Love the blog! So excited to read about all of your adventures! x

  4. Love the blog dude! Adventuresome times ahead! :)x