Jul 24, 2015

Pork Makes Life More Fun

I grew up eating pork. My father was a butcher and owned a small chain of grocery stores. Food supported us. Food sustained us. Food was why we got up in the morning, and that feeling is still with me.   

Years ago, I worked on a TV show with a very famous nutritionist. I always thought she was mean because she was hungry. No matter what the crew was eating, she would comment on what was wrong with it: Too much sugar, too much fat, not enough fiber...I did lose ten pounds in a month on the production but also fantasized about strangling and roasting her. I thought she'd be stringy like goat. She made me hungry for fun. 

Recently, Cindie and I worked for the National Pork Board.  We did a small video at the beach with the funny and very fun Donald Faison

There are some great tips in the video. It's part of the Pork Be Inspired marketing campaign. And guess what? I came home and thought to myself, "I used to love pork chops, why haven't I been cooking them?"

So the following evening, pork cooking commenced. 

I bought two center cut loin pork chops on the bone. There was a thin layer of cover fat and each one was one-inch thick. Not as expensive as beef and just as satisfying. One chop with vegetables was the perfect portion per person.

I mixed 1/2 cup of A-1 sauce (my father's favorite) with  1/2 cup Agave syrup, then squeezed a fresh orange into the marinade. 

I cook almost extensively in cast iron because I like it. It gives my chops or burgers a beautiful color when sautéing.  I colored both sides of my chops on high heat for about two minutes per side, then transferred them to a roasting pan. 
I finished them in a 350-degree oven for 4 minutes. They were still slightly pink inside. Not dangerous; only
delicious. While my chops were in the oven, I reduced my marinade until thick and like syrup. Put it in a small pitcher, and then cooked the green beans right in the same pan.

Plated my chops, added the beans and poured my sauce. One pan dinner in ten minutes. 

Pork is perfect for summer; simultaneously light and decadent, and tastes great with any summer fruit. The next time you're at a loss for dinner...remember pork makes life more fun!

Jul 17, 2015

Every Picture Tells a Story: 
Ten Tips to Improve your Food Photography

Introduction –How Every Picture Tells A Story: from the food to props to lighting. 

Denise’s Slide Presentation-Hamburger and Sandwich Demo and Current Work

What’s In Style Today?


Have a clear vision of what you are selling. Are you selling beef (sponsor) or are you selling a lifestyle? Are you selling a memory or your blog? Be clear on what you want to achieve with your photos.

Have at least two of what you’re shooting, i.e., burgers, pies, etc. so you or your stylist has ample pieces to play with.

Go through your product and get rid anything wilted, old or unsightly. Don’t shoot a dish that isn’t perfect or appetizing or mouthwatering. Give yourself the best product to work with. If you are unsure of a dish, just shoot ingredients!

Under-cook the food. Food looses moisture and shrinks as it cools. Cook food only long enough so that it no longer looks raw. You can always color too-light areas or apply heat with a kitchen torch or heat gun. You under-cook for the camera lens.

When designing a plate or environment for your photo, consider color (contrasting or complimentary), texture, and balance.

Create elevation and movement. Prop pieces up from the back to create definition. 
Make a hidden base under food to hold it in place using shortening, damp paper towels, cosmetic wedges, or even mashed potatoes.

Plan for the use of garnishes. Have appropriate herbs, lemon or limes, or extra ingredients to use if needed.

Know that cool food photographs better than hot food. Make cool or room temperature food appear hot by adding moisture and shine by spraying your food with PAM or water or brush with a little Karo syrup.

Study food photographs you like. What do they have in common? What don’t you like? What is your emerging style?

Less is more. Appreciate how the camera’s eye is different than your “natural” eye. You don’t need to have a sliced mushroom in every square inch of your food to know that it contains sliced mushrooms; one or two will get your point across without making the image confusing.

Click here for troubleshooting common food styling problems.
Click here for Denise's food photography resources.

About Denise
A classically trained chef, Denise founded Food Fanatics in 1988, a catering, recipe-development, and food-styling firm based in Los Angeles, California. In 2012 Denise re-branded her company as Denise Vivaldo Group, Inc.

As a consultant, food stylist, and culinary producer with over 30 years experience, Denise has helped with numerous television productions, infomercials, food manufacturers, grocery stores chains, restaurants, publishers, authors and celebrities with their projects and products.

Denise is a popular contributing blogger to the Huffington Post as well as her own blog, Denise Vivaldo Blogs.

She teaches food styling, catering and cooking classes and workshops in a multitude of locations across the country and internationally, and has been a featured guest expert on many television shows.

Denise is the author of eight books: The Food Stylist's Handbook, winner of numerous awards and considered to be the food styling bible; How to Start a Home-Based Catering Business, which has sold more than 150,000 copies and is in its 7th edition; How to Start a Home-Based Personal Chef Business, now in it’s 2nd edition; The Entertaining Encyclopedia, winner of the Cordon d’Or for International Culinary Entertainment, and its companion book, Perfect Table Settings; Do It For Less! Parties, and Do It For Less! Weddings, entertaining books with quantity recipes; and The Top 100 Napkin Folds, winner of the Mom’s Choice Award. 

Contact: denise@denisevivaldogroup.com