A food stylist prepares and arranges food so that it is aesthetically pleasing for still photographs or motion film. He or she can style food for cookbooks, magazines, television commercials, or movie scenes, but generally does not do the actual photography or filming. While there is no specific educational requirement to become a food stylist, it is usually helpful to have extensive experience working with food.
One of the most common ways to begin a food stylist career is to attend culinary school. Culinary school can give basic knowledge on food preparation and handling. It may also offer coursework on food science, so you’ll know how food reacts under different conditions. This knowledge can be helpful for a future stylist career because you’ll know what foods are most likely to wilt or melt under hot lighting for long photography or filming sessions.
Working as a chef in a restaurant can also substitute for culinary school experience. This is a way to experience you may need to become a food stylist, such as arranging food on plates or how to add decorative garnishes. You can also practice styling desserts to put in glass displays or dessert carts.
To apply your food experience skills to become a food stylist, you first may need to develop a portfolio of your work. Many stylists start their careers by working as assistants to established professional food stylists. You can contact stylists to work with through your culinary school advisers or approach stylists who work for publishing houses or advertising firms. Becoming an assistant will give you professional experience and allow you to compile photographs or film clips for a portfolio. Assistant jobs may be unpaid internships or pay very little, so you may need another job with a flexible schedule while you gain experience.
While you’re working as an assistant, network and get contact information for the clients you and the stylist are styling for. Once you have gained a portfolio of clips, use that contact information to inquire about possible job opportunities on your own as the main stylist in the future. This can help you freelance and obtain multiple clients so you can eventually become a food stylist full-time.
Once you have worked full-time as a main stylist, you can continue freelancing or apply for contract positions. If you prefer styling food for still photographs for cookbooks, contact publishing houses that specialize in cookbooks. Approach magazine editors if you want to style food photographs for articles or magazine covers. You can also contact advertising firms to apply as a stylist for television or print advertisements. If you want to style food for movie scenes, get in touch with studios or production companies; however, the work will typically be freelance.