Q&A Food Stylist: Heidi Robb





1. How did you get into styling?

Chef Michael Symon is somewhat responsible! While working as recipe tester on his first cookbook, “Live to Cook”, he asked if I would assist the New York stylist traveling with the (now defunct) “Dear Food Network” that was taping some holiday segments out of his home. I worked with stylist Greg Lofts (now senior styling editor at Martha Stewart Living), which was love at first assist. From that moment, I knew styling would be the natural segue for my set of skills.

2. What could you consider your first break through job?

Greg hired me on his crew for the Martha Stewart/Hallmark production, "Mad Hungry” with Lucinda Scala Quinn. Everyone involved was the cream of the crop, which made for rapid initiation. The job was intensely challenging as a newcomer, yet so incredibly rewarding.  One show led to another, and opportunities presented themselves. Show styling is vastly different than still work. I’m deeply grateful for the cross training.

3. Do you tend to work more on still shoots or T.V. shoots?

The brunt of my current work is still with a smattering of video.

4. Have you traveled for your work? If so where’s the farthest you have been?

I travel often for work - guessing 50-50 Cleveland/travel. A repeat Nashville gig logs the most air miles.

5. Any clients you aspire to work for?

Any editorial world travel opportunity would be a dream come true, as would a beautiful cookware client such as Le Creuset or Staub. I have an abiding fondness for braising and pots.

6. Where do you get your inspiration?

Travel is the obvious answer, both for my recipe development and styling work. Creative collaborations with my talented colleagues! For visual print imagery, I frequently look to the UK and Aussie food photographers and stylists. They possess that naturally disheveled-yet-elegant aesthetic I adore and literally drool over.

7. Do you ever do propping for shoots or do you solely style the food?

Yes, I sometimes contribute or collaborate with propping. Dishware, glassware, cutlery, flowers - I’m good. There are a million other things I’d rather mess with than table linens.

8. What is the hardest food or drink you had to style?

Recently, I needed to style one of those “perfect" commercial sandwiches that was not intrinsically tricky, but the client had sent only ten hoagie-style buns to work with. Seven of the tops were damaged beyond redemption in transit while the remaining three were dry and dying. It took a good and meticulous portion of the day to achieve the hero's desired panini-pressing combined with the über-specific set of grill marks. Three was the charm with an extra three cheers going to Corn Husker’s Lotion. I haven’t used that smelly stuff in forever but you just never know.

9. For aspiring food stylists what would you tell them about getting into the business?

Make sure your culinary chops are well-honed. Most of us have logged years of restaurant, catering and personal chef experience, which not only helps with the actual shopping/cooking/styling, but in anticipating what needs to happen ten steps ahead. Next, get out and start assisting stylists whose work you admire. Cookbooks, magazines and food packaging all serve to keep your eye fresh - don't stop looking and stay inspired!