Food Stylist: Dan Macey

Dan Macey

1. What made you decide to change career paths?
Eventually I got tired of writing about other people. Can’t decide what to write about, so I started writing about food. I sent stuff to cooks illustrated. Started writing about business for food. QVC changed dynamics of selling. They watch sales second by second. Food stylist point of view, learned what made for better t.v. great training ground.

2. Was your prior career related to food?
I was a journalist writing about business to business. I covered Enron. There was no real food relation.

3. Who was your first big T.V. client? Did it take off from there?
 Publisher Harper Collins, and Emeril. I was under contract for QVC. You can get pigeoned hole into just getting hired for cookbook work. They don’t always know what else you can do. Let the client know your other skill sets. You may get hired for publisher not the art director. Don’t let a opportunity pass you by without following up.

4. Do you style for photographers doing still images? If so who have you worked with?
Todd Trice i’ve worked with. Dan Witts in Baltimore. I’ve worked with a guy in Arkansas. Different photographers in Philadelphia and N.Y.

5. After you got into food styling how did recipe development along with your other services start?
As a food stylists you get a recipe that doesn’t work or has never been tested. Chefs are notorious for recipes that won’t work for home. I do develop recipes for companies. You work with a lot a recipes that don’t work. Create recipes that are visually attractive. It’s a natural offshoot of being a stylist.

6. Do you work with anyone else at Dantasticfood or do you solely run and own the business?  
Generally it’s me. I usually have one assistant that goes with me. Don’t put your eggs into one basket because you can’t rely on one client or photographer. You must stay versified.

7. Do you see a lot of young people trying to break into the food styling business? What can you tell them is the most important to be successful?
It’s not a hard business to get into if you have stamina, and work hard. I can tell in one day if someone can make it or not. You have to be committed to your job. You must be flexible, family and kids you would have to choose. It’s a networking thing. Being available is most important thing. Go the extra mile. Everyone wants a good assistant. Interest is key too.

8. What is the hardest thing you have had to style?
Every job is its challenge. Pizzas are tough. Sandwiches can be too. If it’s a client with a chain restaurant you have to use their product. You sort of fight with the client to make it look good but use their product. An example: Are we allowed to use other broccoli? If you use their product you might have to go through 100 boxes to get the product to look right. Being ethical about it. We are consumers too, don’t want to be lied to. The hardest thing I had to find though was for T.V. commercial for diet food and had to find a microberry. 

9. Where do you find your inspirations to create such a wide range of styled food?
Good part of being a stylist is keeping up with trends. Knowing the inside and outside of food. I always think about plating food differently. The trend now is glass cylinders. Restaurants are really trying to keep up with current trends. I like to eat out a lot to see what other places are doing. I watch commercials. Do some test shooting. Not as much as would like because of my busy schedule. Whatever the client wants you might not have the shot, but you can do it.

10.  What has been your best resource to find props for shoots? 
A lot of food stylist don’t deal with props. I have a 20x10 shed full of props. I cook a lot of food. Marshalls and Home Goods. They can be small and different. Antique stores, vintage store, thrift stores. Might buy something without preconceived. Props are important. Always talk to prop stylist, and have a prop rental fee.