Food Styling by Nanci Miranda...


Photo By: Jean Desjardin

What made you decide to be a food stylist?
Over two decades ago I was the chef and manager of a restaurant. One day a friend who was shooting a short film asked me if I would be a food stylist to create the shots he needed. They wanted a pot to boil over and popcorn to burn. But they needed this to happen on cue. Not only did I not know what a Food Stylist was, I had no idea how to create this. I spent the next few days working through my ideas. It was a real challenge. Very different from preparing meals in a restaurant. It was also exciting to see how a film crew works and to learn how to flow with all of that. By the time the day of filming was over I knew this was what I wanted to do as my career. Within one week, I quit the restaurant business and took steps to become a food stylist.

Where did you grow up? Was there an influence from there with your food styling?
I have lived in Toronto, Canada my whole life. As a major centre in Canada, I get to experience all major trends in food as they happen. This helps me stay up to date with what is new and exciting in food. I also live in a city that shoots a lot of food. Toronto is where many American or even International food companies do there packaging. As you can see with the pack shot of Japanese cereal.

Who are some notable photographers you have worked with?
Over my 20 years as a Food Stylist I have worked with some of the best Food Shooters in Toronto. Bob Wigington, Gary White, Colin Erricson, Brian MacDonald and Ryan Szulc. There have been so many more over the years, but these names stand out for me.

Where did you find it the easiest to get work? To start out?
At the beginning I had the privilege to assist one of the top Food Stylists in Toronto. Her name is Olga Truchan. She allowed me to come on board with some of her most important jobs. This helped me meet some of the best Food Photographers in the city. Without this support, I don't know if I would have been able to break through.
I also approached new photographers who were just starting out and collaborated with them on promotional shots for my portfolio. This is a great way to work on your craft without the pressure of a client watching. Plus it sets up a relationship with a photographer so he or she will call you in when they have a new account.

Photo By: Colin Erricson

Where have you looked for your inspirations?
I find inspiration in all kinds of places. Once I had a shoot scheduled with McCormick's Canada. They wanted to shoot cookies that had been decorated with their tube icing. I wanted to create something really special. Not your regular everyday decorations. At the time I was watching a mini series about Victorian times. I noticed their clothing and I was inspired by the beading. This lead to the way I styled the image I've given you of the heart cookies.

Where do you go for ingredients? Props?
I will go to many different shops. Some of them are St. Lawrence Market, Harvest Wagon and Pusitari's. As well, if I have a commercial that requires cases of produce I have a great relationship with the manager at Freshco. I find that this store takes more time to make sure what I have ordered is beautiful and fresh. Or I will go to the corner market in China Town. It isn't always the high end stores that count.

7. How do you challenge yourself on each shoot?

I take each shoot as a new experience. I try and stretch myself. This is how I still have a passion for my job after 20 years. Even though I have a great confidence with the level of skill I have, I try and create something new each time. My clients deserve that.
Before everyone went digital Food Styling was much more challenging. If the art director drew a strawberry a certain size and shape on the layout, you had to find one just like it. This sometimes meant purchasing cases of strawberries. Now with the use of Photoshop, they just alter the strawberry you used. We also shoot different components and later they are fused together to make a great shot. Like in the Select Tea shot.

Do you do more work in print or in motion?
Over the years I have worked on a few feature films. One  really stand out for me. It was "A Long Kiss Good Night" with Gina Davis. I had to create a stunt lemon meringue pie that she had to throw in the face of a killer. This pie had to shatter and appear to cut his face. The Props Master created the pie dish. It looked like a regular Pyrex dish, but it was made out of liquid sugar. I layered foam, blood packs and lemon filling into the dishes. I had to brown the meringue, but I couldn't put the pie in the oven. This would have melted the dish. So I used a miniature heat gun used for stamp collecting. On the day of the shoot, Gina Davis, the director, a stunt man and myself went into the showers that were located in the studio. We all put giant garbage bags on. Gina practiced throwing the pies at the stunt man until she felt comfortable. The shot had to be perfect. She had to throw it really hard for it to break.  I had to make over 30 pies for this job. I would say that was one of the most exciting jobs I have done in my career.
Now most of my work is in print with the exception of the occasional commercial. My favorite form is packaging. I love the detail that is required. You can see this in the salad bowl package shot. I enjoy editorial as well. This is where I can just let go and create something beautiful, which you can see with the mushroom burger shot.

What is your number one tool on the job?
My favorite tool is my tiny pallet knife. It gives me control when adding things to the shot. Its smaller than my pinkie nail. I used it with both the Chocolate shot and the Spice shot. It allowed me to move the chocolate curls around on set without damaging them. Sometimes tweezers can leave a mark. I never do a job without it.
I would say that a tool no stylist can do without on any job is a selection of brushes. There are so many different situations that require brushes. Adding oil, or brushing away crumbs or adding just a touch of sauce to a plated dish. Each of these jobs require a special brush. I probably have over 15 different brushes in my kit. I am using a brush to apply makeup to the pizza crusts in the image.. I use sable brushes for that. They are soft and smooth. So there are no streaks left behind.