Jul 31, 2009

Personal Chef Magazine: Chef Garbo And Cindy Pawlcyn


Personal Chef Garbo put her food styling skills that she learned from Denise to the test after she was recently asked to do her very first cooking demo for Wolf Ranges. Oh, and Cindy Pawlcyn would be there as well. No pressure.

Following is an excerpt of Garbo's very adorable article in Personal Chef Magazine:

"I wondered how I was going to execute this “demo thing” anyway? I essentially signed up to prepare Cindy Pawlcyn’s recipes where she might sample her own creations. YIKES… The pressure was on and I had to perform. Surely the food styling skills I learned from the renowned Denise Vivaldo class that I took with Gail Kenagy (now our President) would help me out."

Click here to enjoy the article in its entirety.

Jul 27, 2009

Female Chef's Roundtable Starring Leah Chase



Miss Leah Chase: I want to call her the Queen of Creole Cuisine, but that doesn't do her justice. I had read Leah’s cookbooks last week before I arrived in New Orleans, and I was excited to meet her for the first time.

Lucky me. A friend and chef member of the USPCA, Sue, who is very close to Leah asked me if I wanted to meet Leah and maybe the three of us would have dinner. I immediately said yes.



President Obama tucking into some of Chase's gumbo love.



The dinner was EXACTLY what I needed.

I’ve been cooking for 25 years. Good, bad, and wonderful. My life is food. I’ve worked like a mule and enjoyed (almost) every day.

There have been wonderful mentors in my life: Julia Child, Anne Willan, Kit Snedaker and Irena Chalmers, to name a few. These are women that got up every morning and lived their lives through food. They cooked, studied and worked some more. Along the way, they mentored me through their cookbooks and their friendships.

When you read a cookbook, the soul of the author unfolds to you. You can taste the words and the food in a well written recipe. I think cookbooks are quite intimate when well done…I’m almost to shy too read. What, me shy? 'Tis true as I believe you learn so much more about a cook than just cooking when the book hits the right notes.

I met Miss Leah and Sue at Bayona where I enjoyed one of the most delicious meals and was reintroduced to Susan Spicer; a chef so very talented and equally humble.

Miss Leah is funny, warm, interesting and generous. Truly remarkable!
She loves to eat, drink and laugh and she works everyday. At 86 years young.

I couldn’t wait to reread her Dooky Chase cookbook. In case you don’t know, Dooky Chase is the name of her husband and her restaurant. She has been in charge of both...for a very long time.

I left our dinner party with my soul refreshed from laughing and listening to
Miss Leah Chase. Do read the Dooky Chase cookbook. The personal stories that start each chapter of Miss Leah’s life will inspire you. I promise.

Denise Calls In To The Saucy Sisters From NOLA


The Saucy Sisters get the lowdown on what’s going on in the Big Easy and share their personal (embarrassing) escapades from past visits to the city. Denise calls in from New Orleans to share her thoughts about making great gumbo, and to compare hangovers.

Click here and enjoy the show!

Jul 24, 2009

Where's Denise? At The USPCA Conference In New Orleans



Denise will be speaking at the 12th Annual USPCA Personal Chef Conference this weekend in New Orleans, and looks forward to catching up and chowing down with some of her favorite people including Brent Evans, Sharon Wooster and USPCA President Gail Kenagy.

Click here to read a wonderful profile on Gail, how she came to be CEO of the USPCA and the Culinary Business Academy. It's truly inspiring to read how powerful an association can be, and how empowered it makes a community of personal chefs who are dedicated to excellence.

Stay cool, Denise, and bring us back some pralines!

Jul 21, 2009

Patti's Back: Food Photography Tips & Tricks IV – 10 Easiest Foods to Shoot



Our lovely Patti at Worth The Whisk has posted a follow up article from her visit with us on set a few weeks back. We talked about the easiest foods to photograph and she has outlined it all beautifully (and there's an amazing Peanut shot). Check it out!

Jul 20, 2009

Denise In Martha Stewart Weddings Summer Edition: The Well-Spent Wedding


Denise's Do It For Less Weddings got into the hands of Martha (or, Martha's assistant's assistant's assistant), and promptly asked her to contribute some thoughts for a feature article in Martha's summer 2009 Weddings magazine. The article is quite helpful and is on stands now, or click here to check out 50 money saving tips every bride can use.

Jul 16, 2009

A Tea Challenge Conquered


A Food Styling Conundrum

Awhile ago, a former student of ours from Cairo emailed us with a problem she didn't know how to solve. It was a new one for us so we put on our lab coats and started experimenting.

The Challenge: how to get tea to gradually color water without using hot water. The client didn't want any condensation forming on the glass from the steam.

After a few false starts, we came up with this:

1. Spread tea leaves over paper towels.
2. Spray leaves with Kitchen Bouquet until completely saturated.
3. Spread onto clean paper towels and let dry completely.
4. Fill tea bags with treated tea.
5. Dip a tea bag into a glass filled with water.
6. Swish around to color water as needed.

Voila! We documented our experiment, of course...






Kitchen Bouquet to the rescue once again! We should buy stock in this stuff.

Jul 13, 2009

Infomercial: On Location. The Final Day.


After a blessed day off on Saturday, we were back for a final day of CTA shots (call to action). Here is Cindie and Jenny in the food truck. In Van Nuys. In July. Yes, Jenny is wearing all black, which she realized was a bad idea, only problem is she realized whilst driving to location. This is what happens after a 60 hour work week. She was a trooper.


Jenny and Mandy were expecting much worse. We visualized a UHaul with card tables and a frat fridge. Not so! We were fully equipped with two fans and air conditioning (see yellow tube above). Although the power was intermittent, and it was still 100 degrees easy, Cindie kinda loved it, which puzzled us all, even Cindie herself. She said it was like camping, which is true. She must have a lot of fun camping...do tell.


Inside the house, this was our staging area. Well, one of two staging areas actually. We also had one outside, which is where Denise, Jeff and Mandy were.



Here was our view: lovely pool and beautifully landscaped lawn. Jeff is "sitting while he can". Surprisingly (and thankfully) the day was smooth and without panicky moments (no "can we have hot dogs instead of chicken salad?" or "let's do side by side demos of tricolored snow cones!" moments). This worked out, because after being in valley heat all day, you kind of feel like you've been zipped inside a Glad bag. After ingesting a Xanax. Can't move too fast.


This was the lovely cabana with our bathroom that passed through to a shower and sauna. Beats a porta potty. For sure.

Yes, Mandy neglected to take photos of the last shot. It was a bunch of extras under said cabana, sipping on frothy drinks and getting "funkalicious" (straight from the mouth of the AD). Denise had enjoyed one of her "special" diet cokes and did not stop saying funkalicious until she was dragged off set. Only kidding. We danced and laughed through our stinky sweat and rejoiced at the end of the long shoot. Denise even styled the extras. We were just a LITTLE punchy.

Today is pajama day. We are catching up on paper work and Mandy can vouch that at 2:37pm she has not yet brushed her teeth. Poor Cindie, on the other hand, was called for jury duty. We're sure that's nothing like camping.

Jul 10, 2009

Infomercial: What It Is On Day 3



It’s day 3 and Mandy is kind of losing it. When you’re on set, you need to be quiet when cameras are rolling (duh, right?). Well, when it’s day 3, apparently Mandy’s motor skills aren’t what they once were.

She managed to have the volume on her laptop at maximum velocity (she’d done some 5am yoga online-crazy girl) and when she saved this very document, a mighty Blllinnnng! rang from her laptop and the entire crew glared at her. This was after she crashed her chair into the wall and the oven Cindie was using set off the fire alarm. Twice.

Cindie says food styling on an infomercial is like going to a carnival. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes you throw up.

One of the themes of this particular shoot is “ice wars”. This wonderful product can actually make snow cones (for reals), in addition to countless creamy, yet low cal, creations. However, the machine is partial to a certain type of ice, especially under the set lights. We’ve made ice cubes by hand. We’ve bought bagged ice. We’ve flown in ice from Denmark. What does the machine want? The kind of ice a home freezer makes and because we have one tiny fridge that makes said ice, it is being rationed.

The set is not without drama, of course. The talent has cried, the scripts have been rewritten countless times, the extras (aka “breathing props”) are hooking up with PAs and the food has stood up to it all. Miraculously. Yesterday, we had the “abbodanza” (translation: big ass shot of 50 plates of random food) and it looked fabulous. Never mind the turkey loaf had been sitting on a shelf since Tuesday and the pulled pork was really chicken wing meat. We didn’t let the breathing props eat (much).

Next up? Special Sunday shoot on location which means we will be cooking in a truck. In the valley. In July. Vodka snow cone, anyone? Denise will have the IV drip of Diet Coke and rum. It’s her leg medicine.

Breaking News: our lovely morning was abruptly interrupted by inpatient requests from various producers for audience food: “Smoothies! Chicken sandwiches! Coffee drinks! Souffl├ęs!” Ok, the last one didn’t really happen. Needless to say, this crap was not on the list but apparently food stylists are also short order cooks. The only thing that gets us through is the hilarity's that Denise mutters under her breath about probable homicide. Love. Her.

The Beginning Of The Infomercial



Here is a mini kit Denise just bought. Fancy. Notice the leopard print. She's ready for anything, so watch out!



Denise and George (our favorite Director) smiling. Yep, it's day one.



Our "kitchen" on set = 3 tables, one outlet and a whole lot of hope.



Jenny and Cindie in the back kitchen. Cindie is in front of the stove (fire hazard) that has only set off the smoke detectors 3 times.



Denise and Jeff on set with the talent. Talent is giving a big thumbs up. Yep, it's day one.

The Abbodanza!

I just learned this word. Abbodanza. It means abundance. I swear, you can't be around Denise for more than five minutes without learning something new.

Here you will see the breathing props (I know that's mean to say, and Mandy was a breathing prop once upon a time herself-in a grass skirt and bikini top no less). They are getting ready to taste the pizza we made the day before. Boboli and Ragu with canned pineapple. Enriched flour and corn syrup. That's what we call "deluxe".





The abbodanza!



What Cindie created with those burnt meatballs deserves an Emmy for best infomercial prop food.


Notice Jenny's genius pesto chicken salad sandwich.

Jul 7, 2009

Worth The Whisk: Patti Londre On Set With Food Fanatics




Patti Londre, long time friend and colleague in the world that is food, came by to say hello to us today on set of yet another infomercial. She also gleaned a few tricks from us to share with her fellow food bloggers and food photographers. We love that.

Click here to enjoy her post (and check out a very adorable picture she took of our crew, including Peanut).

You must visit her blog. It is gorgeous. The photography is bonkers. The recipes are tantalizing (Mandy is excited to make the lemon pound cake for her birthday next month). To be honest, our blog is a little jealous.

Click here to learn a bit about Ms. Patti and check out her amazing pound cake recipe.

Jul 6, 2009

Rehearsal Kitchen Nightmares: The Movie

The Glamorous Side of Food Styling

We rehearsed for an upcoming infomercial at a legion hall in the valley. You may be asking yourself why...because we need a kitchen to work in and the rent is very cheap. Their kitchens don't have to pass health department inspections as they don't actually sell food. This means the kitchens are just a wee bit on the dirty side. Watch the video only if you have a strong stomach.



Jul 3, 2009

Denise Is (In) Yummy!



Denise had the pleasure of teaching a food styling class in Singapore this past Spring. Angelo Comsti, a journalist and one of Denise's students, wrote a beautiful article about his experience for the June issue of Yummy, one of the largest food magazines in the Philippines.

We think it turned out great and wanted to share it with you.

Click here to enjoy the article in its entirety.