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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Denise Vivaldo: A stylish devotion to food

Denise Vivaldo, culinary consultant extraordinaire, was classically trained at the prestigious Ritz Escoffier, La Varenne and San Fransicso’s CCA and started her career as a caterer.  In 1988 Denise founded Food Fanatics, a catering, recipe-development, and food-styling firm based in Los Angeles, California and she is the author of 7 books including The Food Stylist’s HandbookHer illustrious 27-year career in the food industry comprises everything from catering events and parties for Hollywood and political stars to flying around the country teaching and leading workshops on food styling as well as styling food for TV, the movies, cookbooks and product packaging.  

We are proud to have Denise Vivaldo as our guest on Plate to Page as she takes the time to give us an inside look at her career as well as the world of food styling.




How did you get started? Didn't you start out as a caterer, adding on recipe development and then food styling? How did it all evolve?

Yes, I was a caterer that was obsessed with the presentation of food! At one of my parties, Aaron Spelling arrived, loved the buffet and put me to work on his TV show Dynasty literally the next day!   I was trained at the CCA in San Francisco and started writing recipes in school. Twenty-seven years later .... my career is still evolving!

How did you choose the field of Food Styling?

Food styling was the next step from being a chef and caterer. When you present food  to the camera - you are selling something! It can be the knife, the sauce, the recipe, the celebrity chef, a lifestyle - whatever! Food styling is about selling and supporting a brand.    







You also write books, teach and do consulting work - how do you do it all and how did you create such a fabulous, widespread business?

I do it all because I love working with food and I am very fond of making money!
For many years, few people knew that food stylists existed... until TV Food Network and with celebrity chefs everywhere our secret society emerged. Every celebrity chef I know has a team of people that help them with their media food.

From food styling to culinary producing - we create and document food trends. The internet has made food styling global. I teach anywhere they'll have me!

How did your book The Food Stylist's Handbook come about?

I had wanted to write a food styling handbook for newbies for years - it was so hard finding information early in my career  and i just thought that I could make it easier for others. And my agent made the connection with the publisher. The Food Stylist's Handbook is 20 years of tips all in one volume.




What has changed over the years in the profession and how is it continuing to change and evolve today?

The biggest change has been digital film. An experienced stylist and photographer can move twice as fast in a day as they used to. The computer image makes corrections and additions to an image, making it both easy to view and to photoshop. Like frosting on a cake.....even the smallest imperfections, a crack or a bubble, can just be retouched immediately! 
No stylist struggling to fix it!

Also bloggers - as the home cook started photographing their food, they became aware that making the food look good is harder than it looks. There are a lot of ugly images on the net! Yikes! But bloggers have also brought more of a casual feel to styling....the public forgives a few cracks in the pie crust.

If an image is being produced for a client ...then it's the client's decision how the product will look.




     


What are one or two things you've learned along the way that are indispensable?

If the lighting is beautiful ....anything can look good! If lighting is flat and dull... the food suffers. The camera's eye can be very cruel BUT easily fooled.  

Enjoy the journey and develop a sense of humor about yourself and what the job is.
It's a gift to get paid to do what you love.

Do you have any advice for those wishing to become professional food stylists?

We teach workshops in the states and internationally - come join us at one!
We have food stylists at every level come attend our classes ...we discuss business,  styling techniques and how to market your services. We also do private instruction.

I've supported myself for 27 years and I'm happy to help others. If you have a little talent and want to work hard, it's a fabulous career.  





Denise’s culinary consultancy business can be found at www.denisevivaldo.com where you can find out more about what she can do for you and your business, including teaching, product consulting and culinary production.  To find out more about her classes on food styling, visit www.culinaryentreprenuership.com.

Together with partner Cindie Flannigan, Denise Vivaldo’s Food Fanatics business is devoted to media food styling including portfolio work production credits, books and book projects, etc.
www.foodfanatics.net





To browse all of Denise’s books (including The Food Stylist’s Handbook), please visit her Amazon author page.  

(All food photos: Styling by Denise Vivaldo, photos by Jon Edwards)

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