Q & A With Food Stylist: Randy Mon

Randy Mon


1. Any one in your family come from a food background?

Both my mother and German grandmother were good cooks and entertainers, and would on occasion help a family-friend who was a caterer.  I was definitely influenced by them.  I learned, already in high school, that my composed fruit platter, when brought to a potluck, would receive more positive attention than even the best-tasting casserole.

2. How did you start your career in food styling? Did you have friends in a similar field or photography friends?

I didn’t have any friends doing anything like what I would eventually do. After only two years of college, I worked in a multitude of restaurants in San Francisco, Aspen, Colorado and NYC, usually as a waiter, and I did my own catering on the side, out of whatever home I was living in (even though I always had 4 and 5 roommates, they put up with me because I would feed them.).  I liked food presentation, but I was clear I didn’t want to “grow up” to be a caterer nor a waiter, and for a long time, I had terrible career-crisis-blues, not realizing I was preparing perfectly for my dream job all along. 

When I started out, food styling was not a commonly known obvious profession.  My epiphany came when a friend suggested, “there must be someone making that McDonald’s hamburger for the advertisements who is getting paid well to do it”.  At the time we didn’t even know the term, “food stylist”.  I continued to work in restaurants, familiarizing myself with a variety of different ethnic cuisines and their ingredients, and eventually I began noticing credits for food stylists under images in the Sunday newspaper.  Since the internet still didn’t exist, I had to look those people up in the phone book to call them, and eventually I began assisting.

3. What are your inspirations for projects, any notable stylists you admire?

Eating out at innovative places is helpful. 
Donna Hay, the famous Australian food stylist, is amazing.  Food stylists aren’t generally chefs, and chefs rarely are food stylists; she is both.  She is so good, I hate her ;-)

4. Do you have a preference over editorial or advertising work?

Each are gratifying in their own ways.  Editorial work allows me to cook naturally and more freely, which I sincerely enjoy.  While advertising can be quite controlled, it does appeal to my meticulous nature.  There are great opportunities for problem solving and I do love realizing an art director’s tight layout.  
With both, collaboration is essential, and can often be quite exhilarating!
Left and lower right photos: Iain Bagwell for Sunset Magazine Upper right photo: Rory Earnshaw

5. Was there something you styled that was harder than you imagined?

There is a beer pour that I did for a T.V. commercial once that comes to mind.
My job was to prepare the beer glass with fake frost and condensation and pour the beer in an exact 2 seconds while simultaneously producing the perfect head.  Once the crew was done lighting the glass of beer, they had made it literally, physically impossible to get near the glass.  The huge motion picture camera was butted right up to the set, and they had built a plexiglass corral, about 3 feet high, which surrounded the set.  I had to screw a plastic pitcher to a wooden broom handle to pour the beer from.  I was given a camera stand to use as a bridge to steady my broom handle.  In the end it worked out really well.  To see it, please check out the advertising section of my website.

6. Any dream clients you want to work with? Already worked with?

Over the summer, I had an incredible job in NYC, arranging vegetables around bottles of V-8 juice.  Being there for a week was really fun, and still-life arrangement is a specialty of mine.  Last spring I worked with an amazing crew on a really cool T.V. cookie commercial that can be seen on my blog,
http://lookingatfood.com/ (it is a handful or so of posts back)
The production company from St. Louis was great to work with and hang out with, and they made my styling look so good. Recently, I had an inquiry from a local producer to work for a resort in the Yucatan.  Sadly, it went away as quickly as it came, and I’m hoping it comes back.  Traveling for work is wonderful.

 7. How hard was it to get the vegetables to stay on the mannequin in the advertising image on your site?

That dress form was lying flat on the ground and shot from directly above, so I didn’t have to fight gravity too much.  The salad ingredients were literally pinned to the padded form.

8. Must have tool on set.

Chopsticks; I can’t imagine styling food without them.