Aug 31, 2011

A Very Memorable Job: Promo for Top Chef Just Desserts

A couple of months ago, we were contacted for a food shoot by Kelly Morrison, somebody we’ve worked with off and on since she was a child (she was actually 20 years old but she seemed younger and she called us “dude”). Anyway, she was working on a promo shoot for Top Chef Just Desserts on Bravo and was looking for people to do the food. We love Kelly so we said yes.

The first thing we did was talk it over with the guys at Dan Appel Creative. Their vision was dizzying and exciting:  They wanted a mosaic of dessert plates that would spell out the program logo when the camera pulled away. It seemed like one gigantic puzzle…I love puzzles…I thought we could do it. 153 desserts in full color where the logo design would be and in white for the negative space.

We did a test with just two of the logo letters to see if the idea would fly. The test went well but I saw just how much work it would take to get it done. In addition to Tiffany, I brought on Ana Osgood and Paty Winters. Denise was out of town until the last day of shooting, so even after 11 years of food styling, this was a big job for me to take on. It helped that we had total support from Dan Appel and Rob Knox. Their directions to us were “be awesome.”

We had a whole sound stage to prep in and a twenty-foot ladder that we could climb to check our work. That’s the first time I ever had to do that! We all got energized when the mosaic started coming together. Every time Dan came in to check on our progress he was pleased and said so.

We had the logo finished about midnight and were back to refresh anything that needed it at 7:00 a.m. Denise was there for the last day because we still had the hero “big” desserts to make and I sent her several “please oh please oh please I need you help” emails. We also brought Louise Samora-Mellor on for the last day for a badly needed extra pair of hands.

Then the whole thing went out to the set. Below is a link to the promo that shows the mosaic being put in place by the Top Chef Just Desserts contestants. I went out onto the set to watch it come together. I felt like a proud mama! Then I got antsy standing around and made Tiffany work the set.

This was an experience I will never forget. We started with a really fantastic idea, had total support and encouragement from our guys Dan and Rob, had the talented brains and hands of Ana, Paty, Denise, Tiffany and Louise, and (this is a biggie as it NEVER happens) got a disc from Dan and Rob of the entire thing when it was finished. And Tiffany learned an enormous amount in 4 days.

Thank you!

Tiffany says:

I’d only been working with Food Fanatics for about a year when we did this job.  Denise and Cindie always told me stories about past jobs that were incredibly artistic with unimaginable budgets – but I’d pretty much only heard about them. This job showed me the light.

The clients told us what they wanted to achieve and basically set us loose. The 153 plates for the logo was a test of endurance and creativity. Cindie just kept telling me how “once in a lifetime” this job was. Playing with the rainbow of sprinkle choices and inventing a new plate design for every empty plate felt like the most awesome summer camp ever rather than a styling job. But when I stepped onto the completed set the day of shooting, it finally all hit me. It was beautiful. And everything the producers wanted and described. In the middle of it all was our logo. Our huge, 153 section masterpiece logo.

I think it still didn’t hit me how hugely awesome this was, but I finally got what Cindie was talking about. Plus, I got to make a pink marshmallow cake.

Ana and Tiffany hi-fiving in the middle of the night.

Paty happily making all-white desserts.

Tiffany on marshmallow patrol.

Denise's artistry:  The towering croquembouche.

Here are some working photos of the entire piece nearly finished:

Aug 28, 2011

Latest Huffington Post: Creating A Meal You'll Love


...getting engaged to my first husband at 20 years old. We were in a little Italian restaurant in Mill Valley, California. It was 1969. I was pretty and he was trying to avoid the draft. I barely remember what he said, and I did think the diamond was small, but the eggplant Parmesan was perfect. We were married for seven years. It is a lifetime ago, that young woman is long gone, and that tiny diamond has been reset, but the eggplant Parmesan I still cook today and it is inspired by that moment.

Click here to enjoy the post in its entirety.

Aug 19, 2011

Denise Reveals How To Get Food Styling Clients (And Keep Them Happy)

Learn Food Photography speaks to Denise about how she got her start, and why her food styling career continue to thrive.  Denise gives some great advice, and reveals that Angelina Jolie loves brownies.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Aug 15, 2011

Making Guests Happy When Dining Al Fresco

Denise had ABC Food Coach Lori Corbin over to talk outdoor dining during the summer.  Denise shares tips on how to keep guests happy with her Basket of Comfort: Sunscreen, bug spray, fans, hats, even pairs of sunglasses placed at each table ensures everyone will stay cool and cheerful no matter what mother nature has planned.

Here are a few outtakes from the shoot.  It was a summery day indeed!

The lovely and talented Lori Corbin.

The Basket Of Comfort make your guests feel at home.    

Grill Chili. Totally possible.

Aug 11, 2011

Careers, Connections & The Art Of Reinvention

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at IACP's regional meeting, themed Careers, Connections, & The Art Of Reinvention.  The topic could not have been more timely in this very tough economy. Newbies and seasoned culinary pros must be creative, diligent, and flexible in order to survive and thrive.

Patti Londre was the brains behind the operation, and I thank her for doing a marvelous job, yet again.

Here is a recap if you missed it...

My next appearances will be a one-day seminar in September, Are You Ready for Prime Time?, and Food Styling in Atlanta in October!

Aug 8, 2011

Ludo Bites America. We Heart His Chicken.

We started our week styling and food prepping a news segment for the infamous Ludo Lefebvre.  His show, Ludo Bites America, has created quite the buzz. LudoBites is a restaurant with no address.  Ludo and his business partner/wife are traveling across the country, making stops at restaurants open to new menu ideas, and together they create culinary magic (LudoBites currently resides at Gram and Papas in downtown LA, and we've heard it's next to impossible to get in).  It's truly an inspired concept, and we loved working with him.

His complex, completely delicious chicken sandwich had the news crew all a swoon and trust us, it was a bit early for chicken.

Fried Chicken Sandwich with Cole Slaw and Béarnaise Mayo

Serves 4

8 chicken strips (white meat, no skin)
8 brioche buns 6 inch, or French baguette

Flour mix

3 cups flour
3 cups corn starch
1/4 cup iodized salt
1/2 cup crushed black pepper
3 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onions powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
500 ml cold water

Mix flour and cornstarch, add the black pepper, garlic powder, onions powder, salt, cayenne.

Take half of the flour mixture and make a batter with the water.

Dip chicken strips into dry flour, into the batter, then back to the dry flour mixture and deep fry for four and a half minutes at 350 degrees.

Béarnaise Mayo

4 diced shallots 
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
1 bunch fresh tarragon
1 cup mayonnaise
zest of one lemon
kosher salt

Place diced shallots, fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar, black pepper and bunch tarragon in a saucepot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Final mix will be thick, almost the consistency of jam.

Remove the mix from the heat and take out the tied tarragon. Blend the shallot mix in the blender until it is completely smooth.

In bowl large enough to hold the entire batch, mix together blended shallot base, mayonnaise, chopped tarragon, lemon zest and salt.

Cole Slaw

1 cup Savoy cabbage, sliced
2 tbsp celery, sliced on mandolin
2 tbsp red onion, sliced on mandolin
8 slices of jalapeno pepper, sliced on mandolin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons picked Italian parsley leaves

Toss everything in a bowl to mix all vegetables. Add vinaigrette.


3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
juice of one lemon
kosher salt to taste
black ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive extra virgin oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Mix everything in a bowl with a whisk.

Slice each piece of bread in half. Toast the bread with butter in the oven.  For each sandwich, spread the béarnaise mayo, two pieces of chicken, add slaw on top, and enjoy!

Aug 3, 2011

Perfect Table Settings Review In Herald Tribune!

If you haven't gotten your copy of Perfect Table Settings yet, here's a few reasons why it is a worthy investment:

For additional information and tips on centerpieces, flowers, silverware, place cards, party favors and the importance of the RSVP when you're invited to an event, invest in this book. It's a useful manual on entertaining to keep with your cookbooks. You'll refer to it often and, who knows, you might get hooked on napkin folding, too.

Click here to enjoy the review in its entirety.

Aug 1, 2011

Mark The Calender. We're Food Styling In Atlanta!

Attention all East-Coasters: We are teaching a food styling course in Atlanta, Georgia this October. Y'all better be there!

Food Styling for Today’s Global Marketplace. 

Click here to learn more.