Food provides an all-around appeal to our senses; starting from the way it looks, to its smell, its texture, quantity and of course, its taste. However, before ordering something to eat, our pre-conceptions, attachments and preferences for a particular food, decides what gets paired with our palate and stomach.
The first thing one notices about food is the way it looks; that is what triggers our drooling glands. The instinct to eat something that looks appetizing is immediately followed by its smell. A major part of the food industry is dedicated to commercializing and channeling our consumerism by making their foods look delectable on TVs, books, web and other non-immediately-approachable mediums where visual appeal matters largely.
Behind these beautifully dressed up and decked up images is a team of food stylists that work up the deliveries. Also, less known are many facts that food stylists perform to bring out the foods as stars.
Once you get to know these lesser known secrets that food stylists never normally reveal, you would not look at photography and food the same way again.
The food looks delicious, but you would never want to eat it: A cappuccino is painstakingly built with piped soap foam 'froth' that stays up on top until the photo session is over. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, and even milk are prepped the same way.
It takes a lot of rejects before a 'hero' emerges: For a photo-shoot of a sandwich bun, the food stylist probably has to go through dozens of buns to find a 'hero'—the perfect example (in case something happens to the ‘hero bun’ during the shoot.) Those seeds on top of buns are 'heroes' too, as they are meticulously glued on top with tweezers to fill in any flaws and produce just-so to an unearthly-looking bun.
Cut into a stack of pancakes and you are likely to hit cardboard: Stacked food – pancakes or burgers often are perked up with cardboard support in between the layers; the griddlecakes can then be sprayed with water-repellent Scotch Guard so the syrup easily glides over the edge.
That glistening bird; it is raw inside: Whole turkeys are first sprayed—usually with a browning sauce, water, and food coloring—and then blowtorched till they gleam the perfect color. But inside, they are uncooked. Some are also stuffed with paper towels to plump them up further.
Looks like ice cream; tastes like lard. Generic ice cream is typically made from fat and powdered sugar and colored to simulate different flavors. A food stylist might also fake ice cream by combining canned frosting with confectioners' sugar: it scoops perfectly and stays camera-ready for hours.
Melted cheese is actually simmered cheese: Food stylists heat up a little water and gently dip cheese in it for a couple of seconds before laying it on a cold burger to achieve that dripping, gooey look.
Perfect grill marks; painstakingly made one at a time: Some stylists use a paint stripper, while others heat up individual metal skewers so they can place evenly spaced char lines on the food.
Cut fruit that never browns: It is often put in a cold-water bath with a sprinkle of a product called 'Fruit Fresh'. Some add lemon juice to water for a similar effect. To redden berries, a food stylist might use lipstick to cover any white spots.
Bacon that looks so good: To get the perfectly curled effect, food stylists weave the strips over and under tubes in the oven or they drape them over squished aluminum foil. Highlights created by sprit-zing oil on the finished product make it look less dry and more mouthwatering.
Getting sandwiches to stay together: They are built layer by layer, with toothpicks holding each level in place. Larger stacks are held together with skewers.
Cheap water but expensive ice cubes: Because ice would melt under hot lights, a food stylist uses carved plastic blocks that cost up to $50 each. The drinks are also likely fake, made from granulated gel squeezed into water. Even the condensation on the glass could be a mix of corn syrup and water, sprayed on.
Styled nature: Food stylists sometimes even go to the extent of styling nature. For instance, if they find that an orange tree for their photo-shoot lacks sufficient number of oranges, they then laboriously sew the fruits on to the branches to make it look naturally bountiful.