Write, Cook, Paint What You Know

The other day, while working on a plate of jambalaya I realized what it is I love about my job. Bingo!

“What do you love about your job”, “How did you get into it”, and “How much do you earn?” are the three questions I am asked most often about foodstyling. The first and second I can’t answer without talking for at least 77 minutes. By then the listener is long gone. The third I hate to answer, although it certainly perks up the listener.

No, I’m not going to tell you what I earn, and I am not going to bore you with my history, but I will tell you what I love about my job. I have finally put it into a sound bite – a sound bite from the days when our attention was longer than 9 seconds. Had a revelation the other day, a jambalaya related revelation, that brought my work happiness quotient into sharp focus.

Sitting in front of a plate, small brushes + bamboo styling picks + a pair of dental forceps within reach, water + vegetable oil + plate ingredients alongside me, the work feels like painting (not that I have much experience with painting). I go into a bliss zone – tweaking, changing, adding, removing, moving, moving again, moving again, burying, lifting, looking, looking, looking. Watching the plate in “person” and on the monitor, accessing the contours, colors, textures, contrasts, balance. Painting with oils must be similar, right? Well, even if it is not, I enjoy my zone. It is often very brief and constantly interrupted, but it is there.

Building something like a sandwich, or a slice of lasagne…same experience, although more sculptural. Build a bit, step away to see it, build a bit more. Color, contrast, contours, textures, balance.

Balance is key.

It is looking and absorging and adjusting and looking again. Like art, right? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself an artist, not by a long shot, but I do think the mindframe might be similar. And I use my hands, and materials. Tactile is us.

That’s what I love most about my work.

Arlington Cable Access interviewed me for their show “Food for Thought”. They visited Renée Comet‘s studio one day when we were working on the Mt Vernon cookbook, too. I was super impressed by Matt Kraft and Katie Greenan and the rest of the staff. This is the first time I can say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed an interview. Usually I am nervous. Not this time. Having my hair done was key.


6 responses to “Write, Cook, Paint What You Know

  1. I’ve seen some of your work, and I think it is art! Speaking from personal experience with cookbooks, the food styling and photography can be the critical factor between buying the book and leaving it on the shelf. Or having it and actually using it.

    Lucky you to have a job you love and are good at!

  2. Thanks! Lucky indeed. Don’t know how I got here : )

  3. You are da bomb, I love you, and miss you, you who I dreaded and then fell madly in love with, xo

  4. Truly, madly, deeply, darlin’. Mutual love fest indeed!xo!

  5. Hi Lisa!
    What a great interview! It was fun seeing you in action. The segment turned out great.


  6. You are fab, Katie. I hope we can do something else together in the future!

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