As we mentioned in our earlier post, we want to share with you some of the extraordinary work that our participants produce during the 2.5 days we are together for our workshops. Today we share a piece from Denise Kortlever and Hayley Harland, two energetic and lovely participants from our Tuscany 2011 Workshop. The assignment was to write and photograph for an article titled "Eating in Tuscany" in the style of a magazine about women's health.
They had to consider not only how the images would illustrate the article, but also the placement of text on the photos; the tone of the magazine; and its target audience. In doing so, they practically applied all that they had learnt about both writing and photography over the course of the weekend.
We hope you enjoy this piece as much as we did!
Eating and Drinking in Tuscany
Nourish your body as well as your mind.
It’s early morning, the fertile and earthy Tuscan hills greet you from your window. You slip on your jogging shoes and step down the ancient stone stairs of Il Salicone, within seconds you’re running free between grape vines, swollen amethyst gems hanging in a luscious leafy backdrop.
Breakfast on the terrace is antioxidant rich pomegranate and fresh probiotic yoghurt. This is the perfect fuel to sustain you through the morning’s yoga lessons, set in a peaceful olive grove overlooking miles of flourishing landscape.
Breathe in the cool still air and forget about work, this time is only for you.
The menu for your entire stay is carefully planned by trained nutritionists to suit your needs, yet it keeps the traditions and values of the local cuisine. Dishes you could expect are porcini mushroom salad, the aromatic funghi picked from the
forest just that morning. Green petals fall away from lemon zested artichokes, dipped in that heart-friendly Mediterranean nectar, extra-virgin olive oil. Bistecca alla fiorentina, a steak dish so rooted in this area, is cooked crimson on the inside. Upon plunging your fork into it, a juicy gravy bursts forth. You would think that this moment on the lips would cost you on the hips but the wonderful thing about this dish is that it’s under 200 calories, the cut of meat thoughtfully selected from a nearby biodynamic farm.
Il Salicone is just one of the many retreats all over Tuscany opening their doors to people searching for a peaceful getaway. They all offer a range of packages from serene and silent meditation to the slightly more vigorous pilates. You
always come away feeling rested and restored. There are retreats like Villa Michaela near Lucca that also offer gentle cooking courses so you can take the healthy Meditteranean diet home with you.
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 includingThe Food Stylist’s Handbook. Her 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 Vivaldoas our guest on Plate to Pageas she takes the time to giveus an inside look at hercareer as well as the worldof 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
Our Plate to Page workshops are designed not for the instructors to impose their style on others, but to help participants hone their own skills. We believe that all who attend Plate to Page are talented in their own right, even if they are personally feeling uninspired or in a creative rut. Often, inspiration is just waiting to be unleashed and all that is needed is the right environment, guidance, push and motivation. Our time together over the 3 workshop days is often very intensive and emotional, but as instructors the four of us are always amazed to see how our participants progress so rapidly, working in teams with strangers that they have only recently met and producing extraordinary work under pressure on the assignments they are given. We are so proud of each and every one of them!
To give you an idea of the fantastic work produced on the workshops, we would like to present some of these assignments to our readers. Hope you enjoy this wonderful piece, an excerpt from what was produced by Marta Majewska and Elizabeth Pizzinato when asked to produce a foodie article and pictures in the style of a gossip magazine like Hello!
Contessa Marchesa di Vescova – or Marissa as she insists I call her – has had a love affair with cookery since she was a child. “I used to beg to go in the kitchen and help the cook,” she says laughingly. “All I got for my troubles was a cookie and a gentle but firm push out the door.” That didn’t stop the Contessa from pursuing her passion. While studying economics at the University of Siena, she fell in love with her future husband, the Count di Vescova, over pizza at Il Pomodorino, the local student hangout. “The pizza was fantastic, and Vittorio would always say my scent reminded him of the freshly baked dough,” she recounts, blushing. “I knew I had to learn how to replicate it for us to enjoy at home.”