8 Food Styling Tips for Home Cooks
Ali Ramee, a Sun Basket food stylist, talks about what father-daughter cooking competitions taught her about making beautiful food.
Whenever my dad and I get together, we cook and eat ridiculous amounts of food (usually paired with ridiculous amounts of wine). Dad loves to wow people with his skills in the kitchen (he’s a lawyer by day), and as a kid I was his loyal sous chef. Since I became a chef by trade, and now a food stylist, I still love to join him in the kitchen, but these days I have a few ideas of my own. Since we’re both headstrong, competitive types, we’ve turned cooking into a sport, challenging each other to make the most beautiful presentation of the most delicious food. Then, we force our loving family to choose sides and vote for their favorite. I’m not too proud to say that dad still wins sometimes—the guy is good.
Here are a few of our tricks for styling a winning plate:
Drop it like its hot
Crank up the heat. A hard, fast sear puts a char on vegetables and meat without overcooking them and reads really well in a photo.
Assemble dishes like salads and pasta one ingredient at a time. Rather than tossing everything together, drizzle dressing and sauces on top. This keeps colors vibrant and makes the dish look more dynamic.
Ice ice, baby
Olive oil is the lo-fi filter of food styling. Brushing your food lightly with olive oil before serving will make it look luscious, fresh, and juicy.
Looks are everything
It may seem obvious, but if you’re vying to make a beautiful plate, good-looking produce will make the job a lot easier. Shop the farmers’ market to find fruits and vegetables with bold colors and interesting shapes that will catch your audience’s eye.
Not all heroes wear capes
Set aside a few “heroes”—that’s stylist-speak for the best-looking ingredients—to add to the plate just before serving. It goes without saying that they deserve a prime spot on the platter.
Swoosh, there it is
When showcasing a main protein or vegetable served with a sauce, take a large spoonful of sauce and using the back of the spoon, swirl it around the bottom of the plate. Then, place the main on top of the sauce. If you're serving dip with crudités, use the same swooshing method on top of the dip.