Sunday, July 8, 2012

Food Stylist: Noah Witenoff



NOAH WITENOFF




1. How did you get into styling?
Photo Credit: Ryan Szulc 
After graduating from Concordia University with a degree in International Business, I decided to change career paths and go to cooking school to become a cook. In school, my Chef ended up being a food stylist and invited me to do my internship with her on a tv show. I fell in love with the career that I had no idea existed, and then decided I had to become a food stylist. I assisted my Chef while working in restaurants for a few years and then one day, took the plunge and quit the restaurant world. I started shooting my portfolio with photographers and started to make some connections. It took some time, determination and a lot of practice,  but eventually my career took off.
2. What did you start out doing, print of film?
My background started in print other then my internship. I worked on different kinds of projects ranging from Kraft What's Cooking Magazine, to the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Sometimes in the beginning I would be hired to replace someone who wasn't available or I would do things like style pudding in a cup. Not the most glamorous stuff but after some time, people got to know me, and my reputation got better and better.
3. Have you done work in the states? If so where? What clients?
No, all my work has been in Canada.
4. What was the hardest food to style on set? 
The hardest food to style on set for me is a pizza. You don't have much time to get it right. You will have a client (or many clients) and an art director giving opinions of elements that they'd like to see more or less of, and during this time you have to also focus on keeping that pizza alive. The cheese always wants to dry up, the pepperoni oozes grease, and vegetables tend to shrink and shrivel. The trick is to keep everything looking fresh and yummy and realistic but that takes quite a bit of work. 
5. At first working for McDonalds were you nervous? Was is a lot of prepping?
My first McDonald's tv commercial was for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics campaign. I was very nervous as it was not only my first time shooting for McDonald's but it was also my first time shooting a tv commercial! I had worked on a test shoot with a Toronto photographer named Ryan Szulc to bid on a McDonald's print campaign, and from that they requested I work with them on their tv spot. We shot 5 commercials in two days (which is crazy) and we also ended up shooting stills with the athletes. 
Photo Credit: Ryan Szulc 
To make sure I was ready for the job, I practiced quite a bit at home and tried to advance myself as much as possible. I had never seen how it was done so I had to come up with strategies and techniques on how to best move through the day. I had three assistants with me and it ended up going amazing. It was a crazy adrenaline filled two days!
As for prep, there was not too much to do. We used a food styling truck (fully functional kitchen including deep fryer, fridge, freezer, and AC)  on set and all the food was supplied by McDonald's. We just had to cook it and make it look right for the shoot. There was also a bite shot of a Big Mac in one of the spots so we must have made at least 25 non stop! Pretty insane but so much fun. You can still see one of the ads on my site of Alexandre Bilodeau and his Big Mac.
6. Who are some photographers you have worked with in the past?
Some of the photogrpahers I have shot with are:
Toronto: Ryan Szulc, Michael Alberstant, Edward Pond, Kevin Hewitt, Colin Faulkner, Yvonne Duivenvoorden, Brandon Barre and James Tse. 
Montreal: Mathieu Levesque, Louise Savoie, Hans Laurendeau, Martin Girard, Michel Paquet
Ottawa: Christian Lalonde
7. Is there a company/photographer you would love to style for?
I would love to shoot for Donna Hay magazine in Australia and Martha Stewart's magazine in the US. I love what they do and it would be a great team to be part of.
8. Where have you found your inspiration for your props/styling techniques?
I definitely look through a lot of magazines and keep an eye on what other people are doing. Magazines like Donna Hay, Gourmet, and Bon Appetit always have beautiful inspiring shots. Also when I started, I did find it useful to research techniques online when possible and read some of the food styling books that are available. I would read something, test it, and then make it work for me. I always found that these tips were great starting points but definitely needed tweaking. A lot of my techniques have been made up on the spot. If there's a problem, find a solution fast. If the solution works, write it down and use it again and again.
I also try to do a lot of test shoots with photographers. These are great because we get to play with ideas that don't have to fit in a box and are not designed by someone else for a specific objective. These shoots are for us to be as creative as we want and the end result is for our portfolios. This, I would say, is the best way to stay current and inspired.
9. From a business perspective what have you found most beneficial for yourself in your marketing? 
My website has been key from the beginning. I had the site made within a month or two of me starting my own business. It has definitely evolved through the years and I am really happy with the way it looks now. Other then my site, it would be my personal interactions with photographers and clients. Going on "go sees" and meeting people is the best way to let people see your work and what kind of a person you would be to work with.
10. What tool can’t you show up without on set?
There are quite a few but if I had to choose just one, I would say my favourite tweezers. I use them a lot to reach for things on a plate, move things around without messing the whole dish up, and sorting through different kinds of small food items. Tweezers = food stylist best friend :)

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