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Monday, May 16, 2011

Adventures in Food Styling: The Star Trek Episode

Here you can read my first post about Food Styling.

But for today, strap-on your Outer Limits Seat Belt as we continue our adventure in Food-Styling World. It's true, for a time the food stylist’s tweezers fit in my hand quite comfortably. And it all began with a week-long class in food styling up at my alma mater, CIA. The class was with the amazing Delores Custer, the original Mistress of prepping food for pictures. See this interview about the field.

Delores Custer interview

Things have come such a long way baby, since I scratched helpful hints on the hand-out sheets we were given! Now, behold the book she has written. Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food For the Camera

After that week, I was back in NC and staged with Janet Grennes, a local food stylist, who helped me tremendously. I really enjoyed working with her. The conflicts came up, but then I realized: ok, I can do this.

But do I want to?

Thankfully, before all wrenching analysis began, we did some crazy shoots:


  • a pasta infomercial assignment.
  • some shoots with a bunch of rednecks for house autry breading mix.
  • a “new” line of burgers with hardee’s.
  • a job over at ragazzi’s.
  • a commercial.
  • and some pics for North Carolina’s Taste Full Magazine (the spring 1995 issue contained Janet’s article on sunday brunch and mine on spring lamb).


On my own I worked as the producer and props stylist for the Tar Heel Chef’s show.
(I would tell you about Steve Dominick, chef/owner of the then New Orleans cookery in Chapel Hill who appeared on the show days before he left town--and left all his bills. But then that would be put an end to this sharing.)

After the Tar Heel Chef, then came a couple of honey baked ham shoots, followed by an off the wall assignment to do recipe cards from Neelix’s Kitchen on the Voyager Star Trek series for a Durham Trading Card Company.

Yes, you read that right.

How long did they look for someone willing to do this? And why did I jump at the chance to something so crazy? These were (are) not the deeply rooted classic french dishes I loved and loved to teach. But it certainly made me ponder what kind of food would be served in space. Would such a crew want comfort and memory? That brings up a whole range of notions, doesn’t it?

What kind of food would you want while orbiting the galaxy?



Here’s what I came up with:

Klingon Gahg
serves 4 generously (thank goodness, right?)

1 pound browned and drained country sausage
1 1/2 cups seasoned tomato or pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1 cup jumbo japanese udon noodles, cooked 1 minute

Combine tomato sauce with diced tomatoes in medium saucepot over medium heat. When hot, remove from heat, add sausage and noodles.
Arrange carefully.

Takar Loggerhead Eggs with Asparagus Chili Sauce
The idea for the appearance of these eggs comes from a classic Chinese dish where you use the same technique of lightly cracking the eggs and steeping them in tea. This could have all kinds of lovely results if you vary the flavoring liquid. For the sake of the photo the flavor isn’t important – but instead they wanted something that would be wild and colorful.

serves 12 egg lovers

1 dozen hard boiled eggs in shell, gently rolled to crack slightly and colored in
6-8 liquid or paste food colors dissolved in water (now i would use natural coloring agents such as spinach, beets, tomato, and saffron or berries.)
1 bunch italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped coarsely
1 head boston lettuce, leaves separated
1/4 cup chopped hot banana peppers (yellow and red, if possible)

Asparagus sauce: Puree 1 cup cooked asparagus with 1 teaspoon garlic chili paste.

Peel 11 of the colored eggs and arrange on lettuce on individual plates or one large platter. Slice one egg in half crosswise to use as a container for sauce. Garnish with chopped pickled red and yellow peppers.

Laurelian Blue Pudding
this one was actually pretty and good
serves 6

1 cup pearl tapioca soaked for 30 minutes in 4 cups grape or raspberry juice in large pot
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Add blueberries, sugar, and spice to soaked tapioca pearls. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring well till thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Proteinaceous Coffee Cocktail
makes 1 1/4 cup
This makes an outrageous breakfast “slurp” over waffles or pancakes. It makes a unique dessert sauce spooned over cake or ice cream.

1 cup brewed french roast coffee, cooled
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon each vanilla and chocolate syrup

Combine ingredients in a 2 cup microwaveable glass bowl or cup. Cook on high power for 2 minutes, stirring well at the 1 minute mark.

Spinach Shake with Pear


if you use all fresh ingredients, this would be a respectable raw smoothie, hmmmm?
serves 5

1 bunch fresh spinach, cooked 1 minute in boiling water
2 tablespoons frozen o.j. concentrate
1/4 cup pear juice
2 16 ounce cans drained pear halves, reserve juice


1 teaspoon almond extract

In a blender or food processor, puree the pear halves with almond extract. Pour in bottom of 5 wine glasses. Puree spinach with o.j. concentrate and drained pear juice. Spoon on top of pear puree for a two-tone effect.

Vulcan Plomeek Soup
as if you don't know by its name - the personality of plomeek soup, once made,
it begins to slowly disappear.
serves 4

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
small handful each dried oriental vegetable (radish leaves, sweet potato and taro stems, black fungus, and fernbrake)
2 pieces dried kelp
1/2 teaspoon each curry powder and tumeric
2 teaspoon sesame oil

Bring the stock to a boil in a large soup pot over high heat. Add the seasonings, sesame oil, dried vegetables, and kelp. Return to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Food styling still fascinates me: the lights, the cameras, the life. The fact it will take you places you never, ever considered before.

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