Food Friday #6

"I love to tie history and food together."

1.) With your Broadcasting degree did you think you were going to end up as a food stylists?
No. I didn’t even know what a food stylist was back then.

2.) What made you decide on going to school for a culinary degree?
I had been working for CBS at channel 10 here in Philadelphia and at the same time was the sales manager.  When CBS sold channel 10 to NBC in 1995 or 96 I stuck around with NBC for a year. The way they did business wasn’t the way I wanted to, so I left the station. I just decided, being a very successful sales guy with money in the bank I have always wanted to work in the restaurant industry and wanted to go back and learn what the chefs were doing.  Learn the “secrets.” I have cooked and bartend in the past and I knew there were things out there I didn’t know.

3.) You have a substantial list of chefs you’ve worked with, do you think that’s where the majority of your work still comes from or was that a door that opened into more possibilities?
Neither. I came to be able to work with all those chefs in one or two locations. When I was in culinary school there was a job posting on one of the bulletin for food stylist for QVC . I didn’t know what that was so I just went to see what that was all about. I went to work for QVC. I started meeting clients out there that needed a food stylist.  Worked with industry clients T.V. styling that way.  I started with the Christina Pirello show. Started to work for Banyan Productions. At the time they were a production company that handled Christina’s program for PBS.  That’s how I got into T.V. styling production. Then started producing another show for Discovery Channel Epicurious. Which there is still a version of that on internet.  I was the kitchen director for that show. Had a team of food stylists working for me. The T.V. production business is a small inbred group that move to together to production companies. If you don’t know anyone you won’t get anywhere. Wants your in, your in. If you do a good job also. You gotta believe you can make a clients vision happen.

4.) Did you start out doing T.V. food styling or was it still photography?
Started out doing live T.V. styling with QVC. What’s great about still photo now is its digital.

5.) Do the chefs you’ve worked with have their own restaurants or was it primarily individual chefs that had recipes and cookbooks?
They were all very well known chefs with their own restaurants, cookbooks, and recipes. Paul Prudhomme, Emeril...

6.) What do you enjoy styling the most?
I like styling more than anything. Very tough to style drinks. You can recreate anything in photoshop. Digital has made it easier from a food stylist and photographer’s standpoint. Also clients get images immediately.

7.) What kind of garden do you have at home?
Vegetable, fruits, herbs. An Organic garden. I started with my seeds in the basement. Things I tend to grow are things that are usually more expensive. Eggplants, peas, tomatoes, green yellow beans. I grow my own culinary herbs. Fresh is the best!

8.) Who was your breakthrough client?
Christina Pirello. She played a pivotal role in my food styling career.

9.) Have you ever worked or been hired directly by a photographer?
 I’ve been hired by a photographer through a client. Never directly by a photographer. Usually a creative director between photographer and myself. Or a production manager with a company or magazine. I’ve been directly hired by photographer Dan Engongoro. His studio is Studio E Imaging in Lambertville, NJ. 
10.) What is your favorite home meal to make?
I don’t cook like I used to. I changed my eating habits in the past 2 years. Chicken Marango is my favorite dish. There is such a great story behind that dish. Sauteed chicken breast which is served over a piece of toast. On top of chicken is crawfish which have been sauteed in vermouth toped with a fried egg. Great backstory: 1804-1806 Napoleon found himself on battlefield near Marango in Italy. Moved around a lot for battle and left his supplies behind once. He was hungry and had to eat something so he finds a chicken and had cognac and vermouth. Finds crawfish at local stream and goes back and cooks a meal. Apparently first use of chicken and seafood on same dish. “Culinary legend”