I am not a betting man, but I have an almost sure bet for you. Which artist have you seen the most works by? I know, and soon you’ll know why.
We all have our favorite artists. Monet, Rembrandt, Rothko, … We may have seen their works live in a museum, we have coffee table books of our favorites. Say the name, and you can summon an image. Okay, I do sometimes confuse Monet with other Impressionists, but you have the idea. Artist. Image. Artist Image.
Here’s the artist, the one you’ve see the most works by: Delores Custer. And the image is …
Oh, you don’t recognize the name? You should. Delores Custer is an artist, a great artist. And you may have seen her work almost daily for the past three decades.
Delores Custer is a food stylist, easily the best food stylist in America. As a double disclosure, Suzen and I have been friends with Delores for years. And I envy her moving from New York City to my hometown of Portland. In the Park Blocks downtown, she can open her door each Saturday to one of the great farmer’s markets in the county.
Food stylist? A stylist is the one responsible for arranging the food, all the props, and backgrounds for food shoots to go into print or video. In her 30+ years, Delores began strong and then became great at food styling, extending the techniques both scientifically and artistically. Her work has been ubiquitous. You’ve seen her work. She’s affected what you buy, what you cook, what you eat.
In terms of personality, Delores is not some crazed artistic type. Calm, thoughtful, and delightful to share a conversation with, Delores has now written Food Styling, a true encyclopedia of the business, the art, and the science of food styling.
If you want to be a food stylist, this is the one great book to buy, read, reread, and memorize. It’s a great book. What is food styling? How do you get into the business? How do you stay in business? Who will you be working with? How can you be prepared and flexible for the inevitable unexpected meltdowns? And most importantly, how do you style food for great photos?
If you don’t want to be a food stylist, but you are a foodie, you still want to own Food Styling. Why? Well, as noted recently in the Wednesday Food Section of The New York Times, more and more of us want to capture our culinary creations on our digital cameras. We can take snapshots of food, and they are okay. To take great, great food pictures, we need help.
And that’s why you want Food Styling: for Chapter 11. Titled Working with the Food: Overcoming Challenges the 160 pages of this one chapter are 40% of the entire book. From breakfast to dessert, there are precisely illustrated sections on how to photograph eggs, pancakes, sandwiches, meats, pasta, pizza, pies, cakes, … It’s all, all there. If you want your ideal dinner recipe to come alive in your camera, the pathways are here.
The production quality of this book is simple to describe: excellent. The photo, contemporary layout, and wonderful sidebars make this a fun read where you’ll learn something on every page.
Even if you aren’t going to photograph your dinner, just the ideas here about how to arrange and present food will affect the serving style of your creations. Just as her styling has affected your food life, this book will affect your cooking style.
Delores gives you great checklists for equipment, techniques and tricks. Trust Delores to tell you that you need 10 sources of heat in your styling bag. You need that hairdryer, for example, to melt the cheese on your chili for the perfect look. Want great milk with your cereal? Use Elmer’s glue, not milk. And if do need to shoot soft ice cream on a warm day, Delores has three recipes to help you solve melting. You’ll be shooting canned frosting, not ice cream.
Everyone should look at Food Styling. Any foodie will want to read and learn. The next time you see that mouthwatering food shot in a magazine, you’ll smile and ponder just what was really on that pretty plate.