Food Friday #11

John F. Carafoli


1. Being in the food styling business for numerous years now have you noticed any change in the way you do your job?

Over the years the business has become more restrictive do to several factors: A. There are many more layers of corporate people involved and people are always trying to please the person above them. The best result comes when the client themselves are actually at the photo shoot. Things move faster with direct input. B. The economy is tight now and budgets are watched very carefully. Everyone is cutting costs and budgets..

2. What kind of art did you major in while attending art school? Were your intentions to pursue that as a career?
I graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and majored in Fine Art and Design. I moved to Chicago and my first job was with the University of Chicago Press as Art director. I worked in Chicago for several years as a designer/art director working for magazines, advertising agencies and publishers. My last job was in publishing as creative director managing ten designers. I left that job and Chicago, moved back to the East Coast and pursued a career in food. 

3. Was it hard to get your work published? How long did that take?
I started writing for the Boston Globe, working with photographers who shot my articles. They got to know me and started hiring me as a food stylist.
4. Who was your first breakthrough client?

Boston got to small so I moved to NYC. There I continued my writing for magazines and wrote my book Food Photography and Styling the first book on the subject. There was nothing out there so it was fairly easy to get it published. It took about a year of writing and pulling it together.
5. One of your titles is a food consultant, can you explain what you actually do? Does it tie into working on set and styling food?

Under the umbrella of food stylist/writer, I am also a consultant working with restaurants and companies developing menus and recipes. I am a “conceptual” person.
6. Teaching food styling and cooking classes did you find that there were more aspiring food stylists or chefs?
I also have taught food styling course, recipe writing and development and theme cooking classes.
7. Looking at where you are in your career do you think you have more editorial work or advertising work? About equal?
My styling work consists of advertising, editorial, and packaging. I enjoy styling my own recipes for clients because if I don’t like something in a recipe like color I can change it. Lately I have been doing lots of “liquids” drinks.
8. Who was the most notable photographer you have worked with?
I have worked with so many great photographers it is difficult to name one good one. It usually has to do with simpatico (on the same wave length) more than anything else. It is a difficult business and we are problem solvers so there has to be this connection. 

9. Where do you look for your inspirations?

My inspiration comes from being open to new ideas, working with creative individuals, bouncing concepts and ideas off of them and of course traveling. Creative people cannot work in a vacuum.
 10. For your shoots do the art directors/photographers look to you for recipes or is it a joint collaboration?

I do bring my art directing background into the photo shoot if it is appropriate for me to do it with out threaten anyone.