If you’re a food stylist then you are probably very familiar with the term schlepping. Schlepping round the grocery store, schlepping groceries, schlepping props and equipment into a cab, up to your apartment, out to a studio….. schlep schlep schlep. Schelp. It should be a part of the job description if not the title. Yes, food stylists often eat the best food, work with amazing chefs, on TV or with famous photographers but it a far from glamerous lifestyle, I can assure you, personally.
Most people are unfamiliar with the term food styling and if I ate a cupcake for every time I heard the question: “you do what?” then I would be one well-rounded woman. Mind, I myself didn’t know what a food stylist was until I fell into it, literally. “Oh, so that’s where the pretty food pictures in the books and magazines that make you drool come from.” and “you mean that chef lied when he said ‘and here’s one I made earlier”? I liked food, I liked photos of food and I liked making food look nice and one day I met somebody who did this for a living. Well that was me sold! I can’t say that I wasn’t partly swayed by the vast quantity of leftover sausages that I was able to fill my University freezer with after the shoot but mostly it was the fact that it seemed so fun. It would be like working in a restaurant, only better. It would be exciting! I would work for myself with more reasonable hours, better pay, more variation, less chaos and there would be a constant change of scenery. All of a sudden I had an answer to my father’s list of questions asked hours before my graduation: “What are you going to do with your life? How are you going to support yourself? How do you intend to pay your rent?” I was going to be a food stylist. I could do more than cook for my friends and University bake sales- I could make the whole world want to cook just by making something look good! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I’m rather fortunate in the fact that I now work out of the same kitchen everyday so the majority of my schlepping is grocery bags rather than food processors. And without any schlepping I’d probably have to get to the gym more, so there is a positive.
However, that being said; if I were to write a job description for food styling now it would be as so: Food stylist needed to transform frequently rubbish recipes into mouth-watering beauties. Must be incredibly neat and organised but be prepared to have a home kitchen full of shopping bags and large plastic containers full of ingredients, equipment and props that are overloading your fridge, freezer, kitchen floor, hallway and if you have one- your garage. Be aware that you will have to schlep these items to and from the studio and up six flights of stairs. You must have keen eyesight be skilled with tweezers, q-tips and toothpicks. Hire an assistant to do your washing up for you and always order in lunch or everyone will look to you as a catering service at the first tummy rumbling. Invest in a pair of clogs to delay the onset of varicose veins and swollen ankles (may I suggest Dansko), they are not a fashion statement- but then neither are you in your curry-splashed-apron and jumper stinking of garlic and occasionally a chip shop. You should practice the art of standing for 14 hours and not going to the loo for up to six hours (a custard will curdle if you turn your back). Should you choose to go into advertising you will have to learn how to make sorting through and grading Grape Nuts for 12 hours meditative rather than soul destroying and utterly mind numbing. Must enjoy a good tipple of vodka, but even if you don’t now- have no fear, you soon will. Finally, you must have a good sense of humour and love food- nothing looks good on camera if it doesn’t taste good. Well, that’s our philosophy at work anyway.