Food Styling For The Home Cook by Jennifer Oppermann
Let’s face it, you have spent hours shopping and planning your dish and spent even longer in the kitchen prepping, and you want to wow your guests with a stylish delicious plate of food, don’t you?
Then why put all that effort and time in and just to throw it on a plate so it resembles a dog’s dinner, albeit a very tasty dogs’ dinner but the truth of the matter is that we really do eat with our eyes.
In this world of Instagramming our breakfast, lunch, dinners and all the snacks in between, there’s food porn at every blink of an eye and tap of a screen so it’s hard not to want to up your own food styling game.
With a couple of Food Styling hints and tips to help you style it like a pro, nobody will leave your baby burrito in a corner or no one will swipe the wrong way on your food photo.
Size does really matter when choosing your ingredients. Don’t choose the biggest parsnip, carrot or food item in the shop choose smaller ones as they look better more refined on the finished plate. Always always choose the freshest of food ingredients.
The three pack rather than a six pack, the “rule of thirds” comes in to play here. Imagine a grid of 9 even squares on your plate, the idea is to place the pieces of food on the intersection of the grid as this is the science of styling. Your smart phone will help you here as you can enable a grid on your photos to check your placement of food. Don’t overload the plate, if you are like me, a feeder who has a tendency to overfill plates and bowls. In this case less is more for better looking plates of food.
The serve ware colour has a huge impact on how the final dish looks you don’t want clashing colours. Choose neutral shades, white classic plates or white plates with a darker rime draw the eye to the center of the plate where your food is sitting. Colours of your serve ware interact with the food and can make your food pop off the plate but be careful as it can also have the opposite effect. Check out the colour wheel as this will help you with a complimentary colour palate. But if in doubt white plates or bowls are the way to go. Layering smaller plates on top of larger ones or a charger beneath your serving dish can add interest to your dining table. The size of your plate or bowl plays a big part in the overall impact of the look of your dishes so choose smaller plates so the food does not get lost on an expanse of empty space.
Food preparation is most important, so think about the way you prepare your vegetables, fruit and other ingredients, trying out different cuts to see which looks more appealing. Add lime or lemon juice to red onion or red cabbage for a vibrant pop of colour. If you are using apples or avocados rub them with lemon juice to stop them browning. When cooking vegetables such as green beans or asparagus, broccoli blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes and then shocking them in an ice bath will keep the bright natural color as well as keeping it looking fresh but cooked.
To keep your lettuce fresh and crispy add a layer of dampened kitchen paper to a bowl add lettuce leaves and cover with another layer of damp kitchen paper and store in the fridge until using. The garnish is one of the most important things to finish off your dish so always buy fresh herbs and cut the bottoms off, put them in fresh water, cover the top loosely with a plastic bag, then store in the fridge until you are ready to use them Proper sea salt and crushed black pepper add another layer of texture as well as taste.
There are a few food styling essential pieces of kitchen equipment which will help you in your food prep.
Potato peeler – Not only for potatoes as you can use it to cut ribbons of cucumbers, carrots or courgette. It can also be used for making butter curls, thin slices of cheese or curly orange rind to top off a dessert.
Small squeezy bottles– To add sauce to the plate as you have more control over where it goes and how it looks.
Pastry brush – is great for brushing egg wash or milk on pastry for a glossy cover but also for brushing sauces and oils on meat for a succulent look.
Micro plane/fine grater – This tool is amazing for grating parmesan cheese, nutmeg, citrus and chocolate.
Palatte knife – for lifting food and plating, spreading cream and sauces.
Knife Sharpner– This is the most essential piece of kitchen equipment.
All the equipment can be purchased at kitchen equipment suppliers and some supermarkets.
Jennifer Oppermann is a Dublin based food stylist, photographer and recipe creator. Fine art, particularly sculpture, was her first love until she discovered food. She now combines her artists eye with her love of food to create visually beautiful food.
She has honed her craft in styling and has styled both food and props for advertising campaigns, editorials and TV commercials for many of the largest food retailers in Ireland.
As a photographer she has worked on cookbooks and photographed for many of the top restaurants and hotels in Ireland.
Jennifer has been exposed to a wide variety of cuisines and cooking styles which has added to her culinary expertise. She has a vast ingredient knowledge and a very keen palate which she uses to create and develop unique delicious recipes for brands and food producers.
She is a staunch supporter of locally sourced great quality food which has led her to become involved with Irish food awards judging panels in the last couple of years.