Friday, January 27, 2012

Food Stylist Cindy Epstein

Photo By: Carl Kravats
Cindy Epstein
Food Styling & Culinary Consulting

1. Did you grow up in Philadelphia? How did you end up on the west coast?
Actually, I grew up in a small town in NE Ohio. I transferred to Philly in 1980 with the company I was working with at the time, and spent 20 years there. It's a great city and with a wonderful history and fabulous architecture! I lived in Chester County and I miss all the old buildings and homes; I also miss fall colors and walking in the woods.

In 2003 my husband and I moved to San Diego. It was time to leave the snow and ice and we both owned companies that could easily relocate, so we sold our house, packed up, and moved to San Diego.

2. Did you ever have a dream or another direction you wanted to go for as a occupation?
I've had several careers. I usually do something for about 10 years and then have an itch to do something new. I'm an entrepreneur at heart. Prior to food styling, I owned a very successful catering company and gourmet market in suburban Philly. I'm actually thinking about starting an artisanal ice cream company.

3. How do you handle syrup on a pancake shot?
Dark Karo syrup, chilled, in a squeeze bottle, with the top pancake sprayed with Scotch Guard.

4. Does the majority of your work put you in a studio setting? Elsewhere?
Yes, most of my work is in a studio, but TV commercials are often on location. Studios are often usually easier to work in because I have a kitchen, but I've had to set up kitchens in garages, on patios, and outdoors. I did one huge job for a client on the second floor of an office building with no elevator or sink and I had to cook in the copy room. The stairs would have been fine, but we had huge coolers, over 150 pounds of food, and it was just my assistant and I.

5. Do you feel you’ve learned the most with experience on-set or by reading books about styling?
Books are wonderful learning tools, but a good stylist is always learning and practicing new techniques. Practice, practice, practice: the best advise I got from two of my mentors. On the set it's about being an excellent problem solver, and often new techniques are created in a pinch.

6. Where do you go for your inspirations? Are you able to incorporate them into your styling?
I subscribe to a number of food magazines, and although I don't always have time to read all the articles,  I do study all the photos. I also look at food photographers' websites for lighting ideas, but inspiration comes from everywhere: looking at fabrics and textures, antique stores and garage sales, gardens, grocery stores, and a lot of day dreaming. Photography is all about light, so learning how to carefully observe and play with light is a lot fun, and of course, lighting sets a mood allowing me to adapt the food to the mood. I love to do still lifes with food to create painterly images.

7. Other than photographers, do you find food styling a needed service elsewhere?
Sure, there's a lot of work in TV and film, especially for TV commercials and movies. I also do a lot of TV segments for cookbook tours and satellite media tours.

8. Any dream client you hope to style for one day?
I already did: Martha Stewart and The Food Network.

9. Your favorite food?
By far and away, ice cream!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Citypaper | Drew Lazor

 Thanks Drew for your insight on Philadelphia! :)

1. How long have you worked for the CityPaper?

I started at CP in 2006, right after graduating from La Salle University. I did an internship as a college senior, which was when I began writing Feeding Frenzy, the print column about restaurant openings I still write today. I was an assistant when I started; nowadays, I oversee our food/drink coverage in print, our food blog Meal Ticket and various special publications, in addition to web/social media duties. I also review crappy movies (anything with ninjas, vampires, aliens, zombies or Jason Statham) for CP's movies section.

2. Was food/drink something you were always interested in or did it happen by chance?

My entire family is very passionate about food and cooking so it's always been something I've loved to learn about. My dad has an Irish and Slovakian background so we had a lot of awesome dishes to those ends growing up, while my mom's from the Philippines, where food is a bigbigbig deal. While I didn't set out to land a job in food writing (just writing in general), I'm very lucky and happy that it worked out this way.

3. How long has Meal Ticket been in production?

We launched Meal Ticket in October of 2008 because there were just way too much Philly food/drink stories out there to tackle in print alone.

4. Do you have a large part in Meal Ticket?

Very large...maybe too large, as I'm constantly obsessing over it! I'm the editor, so I work with our restaurant critic Adam Erace, plus our awesome interns Katie Linton and Alexandra Weiss. I also write stuff for it a bunch.

5. Do you see yourself reviewing food outside of City Paper? Have you?

One distinction about my current job is that I don't consider myself a food critic or reviewer — I cover food/drink as comprehensively as I can, but I'm not the guy who tells you whether or not XYZ restaurant's sweetbreads suck or not. That's Adam Erace! But I'm the guy who picks the restaurants that Adam goes to for his writeups. As far as food writing outside CP goes, I've contributed work to, Zagat and others.

6. In your opinion what is the best restaurant in Philadelphia?

I get this question all the time and I can't answer it! There's no such thing as the best anything. There are dozens of places that I love and I don't think there's any value in "ranking" places above or below one another. What's the point? How about I just name five places I personally love? In no particular order:

- Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
- Vic Sushi
- Mémé
- Wah Gi Wah
- Kanella

7. What has been the weirdest food you've tried?

I love to try new things. Weirdest off the top of my head is probably the grasshopper tacos I ate a few years ago when chef Dionicio Jimenez was still at Xochitl. They were good!

8. Do you cook on your own or go out to eat?

I really love cooking but I'll admit I don't do it as often as I should — there's always a new spot to get to. Last couple things I've made...braised chard, pan-seared trout, dill scrambled eggs, roast chicken (and chicken noodle soup), nachos. Easy stuff.

9. Any restaurants your looking forward to in 2012?

Absolutely! I'm looking forward to the Italian beer bar Alla Spina, the izakaya coming to Queen Village, the BYO Russet, Ramen Boy in Chinatown, Pizza Brain in Fishtown and a bunch more.

LINKS Check it out:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Where Am I?

It could be a dead giveaway... BUT can you guess where I am? 

One of my favorite places in Philadelphia and for a lot of others.

This is Me

This is my lunch

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food Styling by Nanci Miranda...


Photo By: Jean Desjardin

What made you decide to be a food stylist?
Over two decades ago I was the chef and manager of a restaurant. One day a friend who was shooting a short film asked me if I would be a food stylist to create the shots he needed. They wanted a pot to boil over and popcorn to burn. But they needed this to happen on cue. Not only did I not know what a Food Stylist was, I had no idea how to create this. I spent the next few days working through my ideas. It was a real challenge. Very different from preparing meals in a restaurant. It was also exciting to see how a film crew works and to learn how to flow with all of that. By the time the day of filming was over I knew this was what I wanted to do as my career. Within one week, I quit the restaurant business and took steps to become a food stylist.

Where did you grow up? Was there an influence from there with your food styling?
I have lived in Toronto, Canada my whole life. As a major centre in Canada, I get to experience all major trends in food as they happen. This helps me stay up to date with what is new and exciting in food. I also live in a city that shoots a lot of food. Toronto is where many American or even International food companies do there packaging. As you can see with the pack shot of Japanese cereal.

Who are some notable photographers you have worked with?
Over my 20 years as a Food Stylist I have worked with some of the best Food Shooters in Toronto. Bob Wigington, Gary White, Colin Erricson, Brian MacDonald and Ryan Szulc. There have been so many more over the years, but these names stand out for me.

Where did you find it the easiest to get work? To start out?
At the beginning I had the privilege to assist one of the top Food Stylists in Toronto. Her name is Olga Truchan. She allowed me to come on board with some of her most important jobs. This helped me meet some of the best Food Photographers in the city. Without this support, I don't know if I would have been able to break through.
I also approached new photographers who were just starting out and collaborated with them on promotional shots for my portfolio. This is a great way to work on your craft without the pressure of a client watching. Plus it sets up a relationship with a photographer so he or she will call you in when they have a new account.

Photo By: Colin Erricson

Where have you looked for your inspirations?
I find inspiration in all kinds of places. Once I had a shoot scheduled with McCormick's Canada. They wanted to shoot cookies that had been decorated with their tube icing. I wanted to create something really special. Not your regular everyday decorations. At the time I was watching a mini series about Victorian times. I noticed their clothing and I was inspired by the beading. This lead to the way I styled the image I've given you of the heart cookies.

Where do you go for ingredients? Props?
I will go to many different shops. Some of them are St. Lawrence Market, Harvest Wagon and Pusitari's. As well, if I have a commercial that requires cases of produce I have a great relationship with the manager at Freshco. I find that this store takes more time to make sure what I have ordered is beautiful and fresh. Or I will go to the corner market in China Town. It isn't always the high end stores that count.

7. How do you challenge yourself on each shoot?

I take each shoot as a new experience. I try and stretch myself. This is how I still have a passion for my job after 20 years. Even though I have a great confidence with the level of skill I have, I try and create something new each time. My clients deserve that.
Before everyone went digital Food Styling was much more challenging. If the art director drew a strawberry a certain size and shape on the layout, you had to find one just like it. This sometimes meant purchasing cases of strawberries. Now with the use of Photoshop, they just alter the strawberry you used. We also shoot different components and later they are fused together to make a great shot. Like in the Select Tea shot.

Do you do more work in print or in motion?
Over the years I have worked on a few feature films. One  really stand out for me. It was "A Long Kiss Good Night" with Gina Davis. I had to create a stunt lemon meringue pie that she had to throw in the face of a killer. This pie had to shatter and appear to cut his face. The Props Master created the pie dish. It looked like a regular Pyrex dish, but it was made out of liquid sugar. I layered foam, blood packs and lemon filling into the dishes. I had to brown the meringue, but I couldn't put the pie in the oven. This would have melted the dish. So I used a miniature heat gun used for stamp collecting. On the day of the shoot, Gina Davis, the director, a stunt man and myself went into the showers that were located in the studio. We all put giant garbage bags on. Gina practiced throwing the pies at the stunt man until she felt comfortable. The shot had to be perfect. She had to throw it really hard for it to break.  I had to make over 30 pies for this job. I would say that was one of the most exciting jobs I have done in my career.
Now most of my work is in print with the exception of the occasional commercial. My favorite form is packaging. I love the detail that is required. You can see this in the salad bowl package shot. I enjoy editorial as well. This is where I can just let go and create something beautiful, which you can see with the mushroom burger shot.

What is your number one tool on the job?
My favorite tool is my tiny pallet knife. It gives me control when adding things to the shot. Its smaller than my pinkie nail. I used it with both the Chocolate shot and the Spice shot. It allowed me to move the chocolate curls around on set without damaging them. Sometimes tweezers can leave a mark. I never do a job without it.
I would say that a tool no stylist can do without on any job is a selection of brushes. There are so many different situations that require brushes. Adding oil, or brushing away crumbs or adding just a touch of sauce to a plated dish. Each of these jobs require a special brush. I probably have over 15 different brushes in my kit. I am using a brush to apply makeup to the pizza crusts in the image.. I use sable brushes for that. They are soft and smooth. So there are no streaks left behind.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Philadelphia Tradition

Every year on New Year's Day broad street fills with Philadelphia's finest and people that have traveled from all other. Philadelphia's traditional Mummer's Day Parade is always a good time and great way to ring in the new year!

I always make an effort to get up and attend the day of festivities. I like to see the bands perform in their glittery costumes, watch the locals dress up in the best Eagles gear (not so much this year) and all the little kids spray silly string at each other.