Apr 30, 2013

The Green Room and Thomas Keller

Friend and fellow IACP member, Jamie Schler

...as I sauntered back stage to the IACP green room to wait for my appearance, there was Rick Bayless, Alice Waters and Nell Newman, all poised to present or receive. I've met them before. And they are legends and wonderful but, blah, blah, blah....or as we say, Hollywood chatter.

Then across the crowded room, sat Thomas Keller, on the edge of a counter, balanced like an eagle, or whatever bird of prey you think is majestic... but I've seen eagles before. Incredible. Thomas Keller is the greatest chef in the world, so let's not shit around with accolades, ok?

Click here to enjoy Denise's latest Huffington Post in its entirety.

Apr 25, 2013

12 Tips for New, Emerging, and Aspiring Food Stylists

Christina of The Hungry Australian was a student at our Food Styling Technique Intensive in Sydney this March. She has captured the feeling of the course beautifully, and has created a comprehensive list of tips that all new food stylists should be aware of. Super helpful, Christina. Thank you!

12 Tips for New, Emerging and Aspiring Food Stylists

1) Read and study

Study as many food styling and food photography books as you can get your hands on – the list at the bottom of this post is a good place to start. Similarly, learn as much you can about food. You don't have to be a chef to be a food stylist -- although there are more and more ex chefs moving into this area -- but the more you know about food the easier your job will be.

2) Attend a food styling course

If you're convinced you were born to be a food stylist consider attending a food styling course like Denise Vivaldo’s Food Styling Intensive. You'll learn insider techniques and tricks that'll blow your mind and fast-track your career. You'll also be able to watch techniques being demonstrated and then try them yourself with on the spot feedback. Perhaps most importantly, attending a workshop like Denise's will teach you about the food styling business and how to build a sustainable career. The friendships and contacts that you make will also be invaluable.

3) Assist a professional food stylist

Assisting a professional food stylist is one of the best ways to learn about food styling. As an assistant you're free to observe and learn, without the pressure of having to deliver. When approaching a professional stylist to request an assisting position, show respect and do your homework. He or she doesn't owe you anything so be polite and explain what you can do for them - don't make your approach all about you.

Click here to see the rest!

Apr 18, 2013

Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake

We used this great recipe from Mary Risley (director of Tante Marie’s Cooking School).  The only thing we changed is bumping up the coffee flavor by using espresso. You can buy instant espresso powder in most supermarkets, or brew an extra strong cup of coffee.

Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake
Makes 12-16 servings

Cake ingredients:
2¼ cups cake flour
1½ cups granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
6 large eggs, separated
Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coffee crunch ingredients:
Vegetable oil for greasing pan
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup espresso or very strong coffee
¼ cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon baking soda

Coffee frosting ingredients:
1½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup espresso or very strong coffee, chilled
3 tablespoons superfine sugar

Cake directions:
1.     Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.     Sift flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3.     Place water, oil, egg yolks, zest and vanilla in another large bowl and whisk until smooth.
4.     Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour yolk mixture into dry mixture and stir or whisk until smooth. Set aside.
5.     In a clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. With mixer running, sprinkle in remaining sugar, beating until glossy stiff peaks form.
6.     Gently fold egg white mixture into yolk mixture in three additions.
7.     Pour batter into a 10-inch tube pan (preferably with a removable bottom).
8.     Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.
9.     Remove from heat and invert pan onto a glass bottle with a long narrow neck. Let cake cool upside down for 1 hour.
10. Remove cake from pan and place on a cake dish. Let cool completely to room temperature before frosting.

Coffee crunch directions:
1.     Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil and set aside.
2.     Place sugar, coffee and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until temperature reaches 310 degrees on a candy thermometer.
3.     Remove from heat and let stand for 10 seconds.
4.     Sprinkle baking soda evenly over mixture, whisking until combined. Mixture will turn very thick and creamy.
5.     Spread immediately onto prepared baking sheet. Let stand until cool and hard, about 30 minutes.
6.     Break into small chunks.

Coffee frosting directions:
1.     When cake is cooled to room temperature, place cream in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very thick and nearly stiff.
2.     Add coffee and sugar and beat just to combine.
3.     Spread sides of cake thickly with frosting. Press coffee crunch pieces into frosting. Sprinkle any remaining pieces on top.
4.     Serve immediately.

Apr 15, 2013

What IACP Means To Me

IACP is a wonderful organization. Click here to learn more.

Apr 3, 2013

Easy Pavlova

I grew up taking ballet lessons. I started at a very young age and continued until I was a teenager in a local dance troop.  Many of my childhood friends went on to dance professionally. But, I knew by the time I was sixteen that I did not have the inner driving force or discipline to dance for my life.

Besides...you didn't get to eat much as a dancer.  There was the constant costume watch. I remember my first velvet red tutu emblazoned with crystals and the matching umbrella. Lord, I'd worked on point all year to be assigned the role that got that costume but long term it was still not enough to keep me from wanting to eat.

I forgot that I'd danced (it was a very long time ago), and then last month I was in Australia teaching, and on every lovely menu for dessert was a Pavlova.

A Pavlova is a meringue named for one of the greatest prima ballerinas of all times, Anna Pavlova. The folklore is that the white, glossy meringue looked like her tutu.  A crisp meringue topped with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries is a showstopper.

Here's a recipe we have perfected. Perfect for a spring party, Mother's Day or a bridal luncheon.  Non-bakers, don't be afraid, these are easy to make, and not at all as hard as a pirouette. 

Easy Pavlova 

Makes 6 servings 

These beautiful meringues are crispy on the outside and a little chewy on the inside and are as light as clouds. They make a perfect base for all types of fruit and dessert sauces. 


3 large egg whites 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, plus extra for dusting 
¾ cup raspberry, caramel or chocolate sauce 
1½ cups whipped cream 
2 cups assorted fresh berries 


Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Place egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat at high speed until foamy. Add vanilla and vinegar or lemon juice, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to medium and gradually beat in sugars. Increase speed and beat until egg whites are glossy and will hold stiff peaks. 

Spoon 6 dollops of meringue onto prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between. Bake until lightly brown, about 32 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on baking sheet. 

Spoon sauce onto dessert plates. Place meringues on top. Garnish with whipped cream and berries. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. 

Tip: To keep meringues fresh, store in a brown paper bag at room temperature. Meringues will keep for up to 3 days. If they soften, you can crisp them up by placing them in a 200 degree F oven for 5 minutes.

Tiffany Makes Us Lunch

Check out Denise's budding interviewer skills and Tiffany's luscious warm shrimp and bacon spinach salad with bacon fat dressing. To. Die.