Katrina Tekavec: Food Stylist

1. Were your original intentions to become a photographer? Was it a food photographer?
I was a photographer for a few years while also assisting a food stylist friend.   Not food, I was a music and fashion photographer.  I started doing prop styling and food styling became a natural progression.  When I started getting more styling work than shooting work, I simply followed the path that seemed more inviting (and lucrative). 

2. Is cooking something your family did or you just fell into cooking and styling food on your own?
My parents weren't terribly interested in food for the sake of food, it was always more about putting edible nourishment on the table and reconnecting at the end of the day.  I wasn't raised in an adventurous home with regard to food.  I forged my own way with food and became a self-taught pastry chef along the way, and I have done that professionally as well. I would say that styling drove my interest in food, and photography is what started it all.  My photographic sensibilities have been invaluable to me as a stylist and also as I'm moving into art direction.  

3. In your bio you explain how you almost double as a art director and a stylists. Do you think that makes you more valuable and gives you more opportunities to be hired for shoots? 
I think that it makes me more valuable on the set because I can take the reigns.  Often I am not even working with an art director, there is a client (or marketing director) and a photographer and together we figure it out.  I have a few new clients that want me to handle the project from conception through execution, including the art direction and the styling and I'm happy to oblige.  Ultimately I would prefer to art direct and hire other stylists.    

4. Is a lot of your work now through word of mouth or do you do a lot of marketing?
My website and word of mouth are the only way clients find me, I haven't ever spent much time in marketing or cold calling.  Referrals are especially nice because I know I've done a good job if someone is passing along my name. 

5. Where do you get your inspirations for styling shoots?
I find inspiration everywhere, even though that sounds like a cheap answer.  I have always liked Donna Hay's style, it is effortless and generally employs the use of a limited palette which is something that I've always done, from the beginning of my career, whenever possible. However I also really like some drama and more intricate lighting, if it's done well.  The open, natural, flat lighting for food photography is nearing its expiration date in my opinion.  It will always have its place but I hope the trend moves toward more variety of styles.  As I move more into art direction I will seek out photographers who's work isn't only about that Real Simple aesthetic.  I also see a lot of really bad, under-styled food photography out there, it makes me cringe.  Rachel Ray's magazine is the number one example, food photography should not look like a guy with a camera stumbled upon someone's kitchen at dinner time.  In my opinion we exist to elevate the whole idea of food and dining and entertaining, we should create aspirational images.  I don't want to see baked-on crud and un-ironed linens.    

6. Is the majority of your work for magazines or more commercial?
I don't do any magazine work.  I do a fair amount of cookbook work, but the bulk of my work consists of packaging and advertising, some video, some film.

7. Do you still teach food styling classes? Do you have prospective food stylists contact you for help?
I no longer teach, but I do hear from people who want to get into the business regularly.  I help out with advice if I have the time, if they aren't reaching out to me during my crazy-busy periods.  If I'm too in the weeds I refer them to another stylist.   

8. Where do you primarily work?
There is no real predictability, sometimes I'm busier in Philadelphia, sometimes New Jersey, it depends on who's got more marketing money to spend :-) 
9. Your recent work shows a variety of cupcakes. Which was your favorite to make?
I liked the Rum & Coke cupcakes because it is a meringue icing which is always a lot of fun to play with.  On that shoot I worked with a graphic designer who was very hands-off with the food and allowed me almost total creative freedom.  That's an ideal situation.