Food Stylist Cindy Epstein

Photo By: Carl Kravats
Cindy Epstein
Food Styling & Culinary Consulting

1. Did you grow up in Philadelphia? How did you end up on the west coast?
Actually, I grew up in a small town in NE Ohio. I transferred to Philly in 1980 with the company I was working with at the time, and spent 20 years there. It's a great city and with a wonderful history and fabulous architecture! I lived in Chester County and I miss all the old buildings and homes; I also miss fall colors and walking in the woods.

In 2003 my husband and I moved to San Diego. It was time to leave the snow and ice and we both owned companies that could easily relocate, so we sold our house, packed up, and moved to San Diego.

2. Did you ever have a dream or another direction you wanted to go for as a occupation?
I've had several careers. I usually do something for about 10 years and then have an itch to do something new. I'm an entrepreneur at heart. Prior to food styling, I owned a very successful catering company and gourmet market in suburban Philly. I'm actually thinking about starting an artisanal ice cream company.

3. How do you handle syrup on a pancake shot?
Dark Karo syrup, chilled, in a squeeze bottle, with the top pancake sprayed with Scotch Guard.

4. Does the majority of your work put you in a studio setting? Elsewhere?
Yes, most of my work is in a studio, but TV commercials are often on location. Studios are often usually easier to work in because I have a kitchen, but I've had to set up kitchens in garages, on patios, and outdoors. I did one huge job for a client on the second floor of an office building with no elevator or sink and I had to cook in the copy room. The stairs would have been fine, but we had huge coolers, over 150 pounds of food, and it was just my assistant and I.

5. Do you feel you’ve learned the most with experience on-set or by reading books about styling?
Books are wonderful learning tools, but a good stylist is always learning and practicing new techniques. Practice, practice, practice: the best advise I got from two of my mentors. On the set it's about being an excellent problem solver, and often new techniques are created in a pinch.

6. Where do you go for your inspirations? Are you able to incorporate them into your styling?
I subscribe to a number of food magazines, and although I don't always have time to read all the articles,  I do study all the photos. I also look at food photographers' websites for lighting ideas, but inspiration comes from everywhere: looking at fabrics and textures, antique stores and garage sales, gardens, grocery stores, and a lot of day dreaming. Photography is all about light, so learning how to carefully observe and play with light is a lot fun, and of course, lighting sets a mood allowing me to adapt the food to the mood. I love to do still lifes with food to create painterly images.

7. Other than photographers, do you find food styling a needed service elsewhere?
Sure, there's a lot of work in TV and film, especially for TV commercials and movies. I also do a lot of TV segments for cookbook tours and satellite media tours.

8. Any dream client you hope to style for one day?
I already did: Martha Stewart and The Food Network.

9. Your favorite food?
By far and away, ice cream!