Illanique van Aswegen
Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I am from sunny Cape Town, South Africa. It is a beautiful city with the best of both worlds. It is city on the coastline. I was born and still live in the suburbs just 15 km out of the main city which is ideal as I’m close to work but also far enough to not get stuck in the hustle and bustle of the city life. By far the best and most beautiful city in South Africa :)
Being so young how did you find a interest/niche in food styling?
I come from a family that is always cooking - never too little time to cook up a divine meal. We just love cooking and eating. I was lucky enough to get an interest in food styling while I was still in school. Even back then I loved magazines and drooled over delicious food images, instead of the fashion images like everyone else. I changed schools as soon as I heard of a high school close to us who offered cheffing as a subject together with all the usual subjects. Best decision ever! My passion and love for cooking grew and lead me to study cheffing for 3 years at university. I chose that specific chef school as it offered a specialization year to study media communications which included food styling, food photography and food writing. So I was in heaven! I was able to work for one of the best food stylists in Cape Town after I worked at her restaurant during my practical placement at chef school. I owe her everything I know today and she has inspired me to stay authentic and respect the produce for what it is. She has made me love the industry even more - I cannot imagine another industry that would be more suited for me.
Where are your inspirations?
I get inspired by nearly anything I see, like interior decor, nature, art, music videos, movies, scrap yards. You name it and I can see it as food on a plate :) I often see plates / crockery etc and only then can i imagine what food it needs to hold. I love beautiful, natural-looking food images that makes you want to go grab it off the page and share with your loved ones.
Do you have any formal education in arts?
I qualified in 3 years of Culinary Arts and Food Media.
Is it hard to make a living as a food stylist? Do you have another source of income related to food?
Yes it is a hard industry to get into. You need to have natural talent; an eye for detail and esthetical beauty and it is all about who you know in the industry. It is difficult because many stylists start off as freelance stylists which mean you don’t have a monthly steady income, no medical / pension benefits etc. So you need to work extremely hard to ensure you maintain your desired lifestyle.
Did you ever have a dream or another direction you wanted to go for as an occupation?
Yes I did. As a little girl I wanted to be a teacher and it later turned into me wanting to be a pre-school teacher or child psychologist. In the end I had to choose between me two passions, food and children, and food won!
What was the oddest dish/food you had to style?
I have styled tons of things that has made me think I'm totally crazy for spending hours on it, like the perfect smear of curry paste - not too much, not too little, splashes of milk coming out of a glass or even some muesli flakes on a spoon - each one placed meticulously with a tweezer. But the oddest thing has to be wet washing shot through a washing machine door!
Other than photographers, do you find food styling a needed service elsewhere?
I have been asked to style food at functions, weddings and decor-related seminars. It is all about making it look as beautiful as it tastes. To lure people into buying or eating your food.
Any dream client you hope to style for one day?
Not a client, but for another stylist. My dream stylist to work for has to be Donna Hay. I adore her books, creativity, food and business skills. If I can one day achieve to be only 1 percent as successful as her, I would die happy :)
Is social media a marketing tool your business is using well? Were you ahead of the trend? (Twitter, Facebook)
I haven’t applied social media to my job yet. But I know it is definitely a tool to consider going forward.
Your favorite food?
My favorite food to eat - warm freshly baked bread with butter, and tapas that are relaxed easy food served in bowls and sent around the table.
My favorite food to shoot
Veggies, salads, cheeses and desserts.