Life Life

04/09/2018 - 07:30

Food stylist

Food, as we think about, is just to be eaten. However, through the hands of young food stylists, each dish carries a simple, yet colorful story with it.

A food stylist’s job is to create a style for food via arranging, decorating and using special effects to make the dish looks tastier and more irresistible. Kira Creation and Brand Development Joint Stock Company, founded by Nguyen Quoc Tiep and Nguyen Trung An is the first agency in Hue to pursue the path of professional food stylist.

Aside from Hue, the agency also has clients from Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. “Photos of food and beverages which are subtly and creatively decorated are the highlights for culinary units to promote their signature dishes to the public – it is the fruits of a Food stylist,” Quoc Tiep said.

Delicately presenting and taking beautiful photos of food is a hobby of Quoc Tiep and Trung An.

Harmoniously cooperating

Meeting Quoc Tiep and Trung An on a sunny afternoon, we did not rush to chat but quietly observed so that the two friends could focus on their work. The office was filled with the fragrant scent of banh nam, banh loc wrapped in phrynium leaves, along with the saltiness of the fish sauce and spiciness of chillies.

Quoc Tiep gently arranged each cake, each slice of chả (grilled chopped meat or shrimp) to be more harmonious and alluring. Sometimes, his eyebrows slightly frayed as he was not yet satisfied with the dish or one cake is bigger than the other causing an imbalance. Organizing food looks easy but very time-consuming.

At the shooting corner, Trung An held his hand firmly with the camera, carefully choosing the standard angle to take photo, with auxiliary lights along two sides to ensure the best lighting for the photo. “To have a satisfactory photo, it takes roughly an hour to prepare and shoot”, Trung An shared.

As they were students in university, Quoc Tiep and Trung An had been a perfect duo. The pair worked together for a non-profit media project promoting Hue agricultural products and handicrafts called “Ao nhà” (Home pond), where they took photos of the products, wrote and posted articles on websites and Facebook.

From that first job, the passion of organizing and photographing food has been raised. “At that time, we started to learn about Food Stylist, which was still a relatively new industry in Vietnam. Especially in Hue, there wasn’t any professional business majoring in this field”, Quoc Tiep added.

After four years, from the first baby steps, the duo studied, both by themselves, and participated in courses on food styling in Ho Chi Minh City. Two years ago, Tiep and An started together to work on as a true food stylist; and three months ago, Kira Creation and Brand Development J.S.C. was officially established.

Sophisticated and simple

Quoc Tiep said, the finesse of Food stylist was not just about arranging dishes, choosing the right accessories, such as bowls, chopsticks, spoons, dishes, but also searching for unique materials to make an impressive image for the food. For example, Western food would need a different type of tableware, which can be more modern. Traditional Vietnamese food, on the other hand, required a simple type of accessories, such as bamboo handicrafts, to make a highlight and create a harmony in general. In addition, the color and texture of the food are also the dominant factors in choosing accessories, with each concept, there required a unique arrangement to highlight the message conveyed, and more importantly, never reused ideas boringly.

Food that are well decorated seems to be more tasty

“There are three factors deciding the success in pursuing a career as a Food Stylist: organizing and managing problems, aesthetics, and the cautiousness and meticulosity in all stages. Food photos need to be beautiful and clear, so you need to know how to handle defects, to ensure food fresh to get good photos. Moreover, you also need to know by heart the principles of lighting and layout to ensure image quality. Although it requires high aesthetics, Food Stylist cannot interfere technically and photoshop too much in order to keep the photos minimalism, tend to the most genuine beauty, and show the soul of the dish,” Trung An shared as he took a shot.

The pair added that the Food stylist career required non-stop creativity and imagination. As the needs of the customers are constantly changing, the food stylist has to change themselves constantly to meet their customers’ demands. In order to attract customers at first sight, many restaurants don’t hesitate to carefully invest in the images on their menu. That’s why people come to food stylists to get professional products that meet their needs.

Ms. Phan Minh Hien, the owner of the Thao Bakery - Coffee brand, said: “Tiep and An take their work very seriously, have good aesthetic sense, and are able to convey the content, meaning, and highlight the value as well as the attraction of the dishes. These factors helped me choose and decide to stick with them for the high-quality products to promote my brand.”

Quoc Tiep and Trung An are currently working on a project called “Hue in Basket” – an album of photos of Hue’s specialties in vintage style, which evokes the sense of memory and time. This is expected to be a suggestion for visitors to Hue to choose and bring back local products with them as unique souvenirs for their relatives and friends.

Story and photos: Phuoc Ly