As a food stylist, I am often asked to style food that is not that easy to work with. One food that is sometimes overlooked regarding it's difficulty to style is bacon. Although most people love bacon, including many who dabble in being vegetarians, love bacon. It's salty, smokey, chewy or crunchy, it goes great as an ingredient in so many things. However, in order to get that mouth watering reaction from people that is necessary to make bacon look as good as it sounds, some steps must be taken (cheating).
I have styled bacon for almost every major bacon company out there. Oscar Mayer, Hillshire Farm, Smithfield, Farmland and of course Hormel Black Label Bacon to name a few big ones. Each variety has it's own personality. Some kinds of bacon you may need to style or shoot include raw thick cut, raw thin cut, center cut, cooked, uncured, low sodium, turkey bacon, pre-cooked pieces and crumbles, or even flavored bacon like maple, black pepper or jalapeño. Every one of these has it's own set of hurdles to clear in order to achieve visual beauty. I could probably write a small book on how to style bacon, but there is no time for that. This article is designed to show a few examples of how bacon can be styled by simply changing it's application. Below there are five completely different kinds of bacon recipes which required different techniques. There is a bacon wrapped doughnut, bacon wrapped tater tots, a bacon breakfast sandwich, a bacon bourbon manhattan, a bacon covered cheeseball shaped like a football, bacon caramel corn and a BLT pizza. All of the images were photographed at Studio H by Cory Howe for Hormel Black Label Bacon.
These shots were fun to style. Not because they were easy, but because they were difficult. Sometimes achieving a great final image using a difficult to style medium like bacon is all you need to get job satisfaction. The next time you need to style or photograph bacon and you think "it's bacon, how hard can it be?", try wrapping a doughnut with bacon, bake it and see what you get. Food stylists are sometimes the only two people who can change a response from "YUCK, that looks disgusting, to "WOW, I need one of those right now!". When you want the latter of those two responses, give me a call. See you soon.
I love, love, love salted caramel! I love it as a sauce, as gooey caramels, I love it in brownies, or in ice cream shakes. The combination is too incredible to say no to. As both a food stylist and recipe developer, I wanted to have fun for a day playing with caramel and took a recent trip to the twin cities to hone my skills on styling a few salted caramel recipes. I like to call them The Good, The Bad, and the Totally Awesome!
My salted caramel excursion took me to Tony Kubat Photography Studio in Minneapolis, MN to work with a talented young photographer named Nikki Santavy. Nikki and I have worked together quite a bit for companies like Jennie O Turkey, Saag Sausage and a few others that escape me right now. We decided after some brainstorming to try our hand at shakes and brownies. Although neither of us had much time to think about it, we both embraced the challenge head on. The idea was to create two extreme shakes and a stack of brownies with salted caramel sauce. Tall, messy, and lots of wow. Doing shakes can be a challenge because you want the ice cream to look thick, but not too melty. If you pile it too high, it just runs over the edge as it melts, which is quite quickly.
Our first shot of the day came with a tasty and gorgeous shot I refer to as the "good". I say that, because sometimes a shot just works and you get it on the first try. The shot was of a salted caramel coconut shake. To offset this dilemma, I thickened the ice cream mixture with xanthan and guar gum until you could almost hold it in your hand it was so thick. It gave me time to place the popcorn, and coconut on top, add the caramel sauce and have Nikki shoot it before it went south. When doing caramel pours, it is usually a crap shoot. Sometimes it drips the way you want. Sometimes it doesn't. This time we got a great combination of drips coming down the glass without too much effort. One shot done.
The next shot was a chocolate mocha shake with toasted marshmallows, peanuts, hot fudge, and a mini brownie on top (The Totally Awesome). It was the extreme dessert version of the extreme bloody mary shots everybody is showing these days. Oh wait, you can see my version of that if you scroll down to the bottom of this page. This one was a challenge, because we wanted a swirled effect in the ice cream, which meant making two kinds of shakes, then pouring them together to make a nice swirl pattern. A couple resealable plastic bags got the job done. From there, it was just like the other shake. Pile on the toppings and shoot it. After a little massaging of the hot fudge, we got our shot done. One problem. It was 2:45, and Nikki needed to be at a pre-pro meeting in 15 minutes. No problem, we simply powered through the last shot in record time. I stacked the brownies, poured the caramel sauce, and she took the shot. Done at 2:58.
All in all, I'd say it was a little much for a throw together shoot, but thanks to a talented photographer with good propping skills and a little luck, we got 3 great shots done. It is always fun working with caramel. Especially when you get quality finished shots, and you can eat some while your doing it. I love doing portfolio work. Ever since Jena Carlin and I started doing Little Rusted Ladle, I realize that keeping current and challenging myself is not only important, but it keeps me young. If that's my fountain of youth, then I'll take it. Besides, I still have the best job around, so I got that going for me, which is nice.
P.S. For a copy of the Gluten Free Peanut Butter Granola Brownie recipe, click here.
Potatoes can sometimes get boring. Yesterday, while working on a cookbook idea with Jena Carlin Creative, I developed this recipe for Wasabi & Parsley Potatoes. They were so good, I thought I'd share the recipe with you. No more boring boiled potatoes this St. Patrick's Day. If you use really small potatoes, and you can put them on picks and serve them for your next March Madness party as well.
1 Lb. Baby creamer & red potatoes, washed
1/4 C. Fresh parsley, chopped
3 Ea. Scallions, thinly sliced with greens
1 Tbsp. Wasabi paste, or fresh horseradish
2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. Spicy brown mustard
1/2 tsp. Sea salt, coarsely ground
1/4 C. Shaved Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. Cracked black pepper
1. Place potatoes in a medium sized saucepan and cover one inch over potatoes with water.
2.Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes or until a knife can be inserted easily.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine parsley, scallions, wasabi paste, olive oil, mustard, sea salt and parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine.
4. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.
5. Add wasabi mixture to potatoes, and toss until potatoes are well coated.
6. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with black pepper and serve.
Rude On Food has become massive. As in creating some ginormous, mouth watering images that defy gravity. Want to know how I pulled off these shots? Simple. Skill, skewers, mashed potatoes, and some luck. When Shane Van Boxtel, a photographer at Image Studios approached me with creating some vertical images for portfolio purposes, I was all in. I've done a fair amount of this kind of food styling for companies in the past. Most notably Culver's Restaurants. I always enjoy seeing these larger than life images because they really get the mouth a watering. The gooey cheese, the succulent, juicy meat, the fresh looking vegetables and the oozing sauces. There's just no substitute for in your face food.
Well, we set out to accomplish this larger than life task with some creative versions of classic foods. After putting our heads together, we came up with these four shots. A Mambo Mary, Vertical Surf & Turf, Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs and A Smoke Shack with Mac Sandwich. Each one presented it's own challenges, most of which didn't present themselves until well into the shot.
Let's start with the Mambo Mary. I jumbo bloody mary with a slider cheeseburger, shrimp cocktail, pickle, beef stick, cheese skewer and celery stick on top. This one was the easiest when all was said and done. However, the toughest part of this shot was to arrange all the items in the glass so that every item was visible. Since the cheese on the burger were going to be done last due to the ooey gooey look that was needed, the glass needed to be spritzed perfectly prior to adding the elements on top. We knew where we wanted the items on top to be placed by doing a stand in or "stunt double" before going to final food. I achieved the long lasting spritz by dipping a denture brush, which looks like a large, stiff bristled tooth brush, in mixture of clear corn syrup and water. By flicking the bristles with my finger, I am able to get droplets of the mixture to hit the glass and stick. As the water evaporates, the corn syrup hardens, creating the look of a icy cold beverage. The other items are put at perfect heights by positioning them on wooden skewers hidden to the viewer. The ice in the glass is fake, which made the placement of the other items a little trickier. The last detail was the melting of the cheese, and the addition of the ketchup and mustard to give the burger that hot and sloppy look. Easy breezy!
The Vertical Surf and Turf posed the usual problems a food stylist encounters when dealing with sliced steak. Getting that perfectly medium rare doneness, while still having it look juicy and not too raw looking. In this case I wanted to get that grilled and peppery look on the edge of the slices to show at the same time to contrast the red of the cut steak.
Because this was so vertical, it took some time to get the final placement. Of course skewers were used to keep the steak held together and keep it from falling apart. The skewer also made it possible for the crab to be placed in angles that would have normally toppled the whole stack. I know that because it toppled a couple times at the beginning when I thought "hey, maybe this will stay on it's own". Yeah, right! The asparagus near the top his the skewer nicely and added color right where we needed it. We did a version with hollandaise sauce, but I preferred the version without because it showed off the meat better. We had quite a pool of blood by the time we finished, which we planned on cleaning up when we were ready to shoot the final shot. However, Shane and I both thought it was more graphic leaving it, and since graphic is what we were craving, we left the bloody pool. Yummy!
The next shot was the classic Spaghetti & Meatball shot. The hardest part of this shot was determining the size of the meatballs. After playing around with multiple sizes of homemade meatballs, we determined that three stacked looked better than the planned single ball resting in a nest of spaghetti. Getting the sauce the perfect thickness was a breeze thanks to a little guar gum/xanthan gum combo I like to use. It helps eliminate that watery look you can get with spaghetti sauce. The skewer in the top is a nice visual to add textural interest, and the small basil sprig on top worked perfectly to draw your attention. A normally boring shot made a little more dramatic thanks to dramatic lighting and being vertical. That's Amore'!
The last shot was a Smoke Shack with Mac Sandwich. A towering mixture of mac and cheese piled high on top of a smoked pork mixture of pork rib meat, beef brisket and pulled pork. Yes, this mixture tasted as good as it sounds. Did I mention it was topped with buffalo sauced tator tots? Well, it was. I added bibb lettuce just to give a little color and pretend like it was somehow a little healthy, ha, ha.
What made this shot a pain in the ass was that everything kept falling off on the sides. Everything was saucy, which made it slippery too. Have you ever tried balancing cheesy macaroni on top of anything and then try to get things to stack on top of it? Well don't, because gravity will make you pay for that decision. It took some mashed potatoes on the back of the bun, some pins and some quick shooting to get this one shot before it collapsed like a house of cards. Next time I'll stick with a standard burger for the base. Well, that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Food Photo Fun. See you next week.
Well, it's been a day, so I might as well get at it and start this blogging thing with a bang. This article is called "Gotta Go if there's GMO's. Since I've been on a new anti-inflammation diet for about two months, I've been much more aware of packages that say "No GMO" I'll be discussing this a bit.
The buzzword, or should I say letters for 2016 just might be GMO, as in Genetically Modified Organism. This is a term that has cropped up quite quickly on packages lately without a lot of fanfare. For the most part, and you'll have to excuse the Pun, it happened organically. There have been quite a few states that have tried desperately to get laws passed that would force food companies to add GMO to their packages. Well, thanks to an extremely healthy lobby, the house last year passed a bill banning GMO labeling.
You would think that would be the end of it right? Not so fast. You see, when the consumer wants something, they usually get it. Even if Congress or the food industry is reluctant to provide it. In this case, I personally am seeing more and more products that say "Non GMO'" on the package like the ones above. Natural food companies are seeing an increase in revenue by providing products that don't contain GMO's. As a matter of fact, most small organic food companies get gobbled up by larger corporations to make their portfolio more diverse. Plus, with the health food segment increasing, so will their profits. I've added a picture with a link below that shows the large number of small brands that are owned by large companies. What it boils down to is that food companies may not be required to put GMO labeling on their packages yet, but as the demand for Non GMO products increases, so will the food companies need to provide them or get lost in the shuffle.
In the coming months and years, you will see more and more products showing up in the "normal" section of the grocery store with those six simple letters "Non GMO". Personally, I think that is a good thing. Not because I have to have food labeled "Non GMO". As a matter of fact, I have come to the realization that if you want "healthy food", maybe the best place to look is in the produce department and not the middle of the store. Talk to you soon.
Hello 2016! Can you believe it's another year? I am definitely ready for it. With a new year comes new beginnings and new enthusiasm. This is definitely the case with Rude On Food. This January marks the 3 year anniversary of the food blog I share with Jena Carlin called Little Rusted Ladle. It's a great outlet for us to just have fun playing with food we'd like to play with visually or as a way to experiment with recipes. What I've realized though is that it doesn't give me the opportunity to talk about other food topics I enjoy such as equipment I like to use, styling techniques I've learned, recipes I've developed just for fun, other creatives/artists I admire or images I really like. So I decided to start a weekly food blog to talk about all things food. I hope you will be as happy to see my posts as I will be to write them. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I welcome them all. Whether it's about food styling, food products I prefer or what movies about food you think I would like. It's all up for grabs. Here's a list of topics I plan on discussing in the near future.
Food Trends - I will discuss recent food trends and my perspective on them
The Lab - This is where I will discuss my recent experiments with food, both good and bad.
Food Photo Favs - This could be my work, or other food photos that I love, or hate. Who knows.
Great Gadgets - Equipment I love to use, or stuff I want. Think of it as bling for the kitchen.
Cool Creatives - This is a hats off to those who inspire me.
Food Favs - These are food products you must have in my opinion.
Styling Tips - Every once in awhile I come up with a trick that is pretty cool. I'll share those here.
That's it for now.