Food Stylist: Chris Lanier

1.) How did you get involved in styling?

About 8 years ago, a friend of a friend recommended me to Alison for a job.
She called and asked if I'd like to help out. I had no idea what food styling was then.
I assisted her on a shoot for Williams Sonoma and after that she started calling me for more jobs.

2.) It sounds like you have a cooking background. Did you attend school for that? Self taught?

I went to a small cooking School in Austin TX in a strip mall when I was 18. I worked in restaurants while going to school and continued working in restaurants into my 30's.

3.) Any creatives in your family?

 My family is from a small town in Texas. My Dad was a janitor and also worked in a leather factory. He just retired after many years as a rural mail man. My Mom is a nurse, and my sister is in PR. I am the only one in my family doing anything like this.
Everyone thought it was a little weird that I wanted to become a chef but they all supported me. My inspiration to become a chef came from my Mom and Grandmother who were both amazing cooks.

4.) What kind of farm do you own in upstate New York?

My fiancé and I own a four acre former goat and horse farm in the Catskills. We are in the process of converting the property into a vegetable farm. We are working on infrastructure and amending the soil before we start planting. We will grow specific crops for chefs in the city and local restaurants. We will also grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for our seasonal supper club called "Ravenwood" which we have at our apartment in Brooklyn or upstate on the farm.

5.) How did you start assisting for Alison Attenhorough? Was it always food?

Alison needed an assistant for a job and a friend of friend gave her my info. We worked well together and have continued to work together for the past 8 years. We have done everything from Grey Goose to Dog food. We've cooked in mansions and dingy hallways on hotplates. We always have a good time, and make the best of it. We are traveling to northern California in August for a Food and Wine story.

6.) Who is your favorite client you have worked for?

I really like working with the new Bon Appetit team. They are all such great people and they love what they do. It's refreshing to work with a group of creative people who are excited about every part of the magazine they produce. Everyone in the test kitchen is great. They are so professional and they take their job very serious to make sure the recipes work and taste great.

7.) Any photographers in the industry you want to work for? Any clients you want to work for?

I would love to work with Gentl and Hyers. I think what they do is so beautiful. They capture the most rich and amazing color and shadow. Their photos are like still life paintings.
 I would love to do a cookbook start to finish with an awesome chef.

8.) What’s your favorite food to style?

I think my favorite food to style is grilled, BBQ, roasted over open fire, cooked in a outdoor oven, cooked on the beach, next to a stream, or on a farm type things. Growing up in Texas, this is how I learned to cook. I think it photographs well, and looks delicious.
I love shooting outside in natural light with elements of the environment peaking in. Food looks best when it's super fresh, and I always find the freshest ingredients.

9.) Is Bon Appetit a continual client for you? Is editorial work the most interesting to you?

 I work for Bon Appetit whenever they call me and I am available. They spread the jobs out between a lot of different stylists, so I'm always excited when they call me for a job. I think editorial work is more my style. I like things that are more natural and real. Although I've learned all the tricks of styling for ad jobs and commercials, it's not something I often feel proud of. Sometimes you have to doctor up the food and smear so much goop, oil and chemicals all over it, so it can hold up for hours or look a certain way. I prefer to work in a more spontaneous environment with photographers who know when to stop. When you get the shot, its nice to move on and keep the pace up.