By Liz Tarpy
Nir originally hails from Israel, but has made a
name for himself all over the world with his exquisite
food styling for clients such as Food Arts Magazine
and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Classically
trained in the culinary arts in Switzerland, his career
in food started with restaurants in France, Israel,
and New York City. Tiring of kitchen work but still
passionate about food, Nir began a 9-year long process
of developing his skills and building a portfolio
that got him to the top of the profession. And he
hasn’t stopped yet.
What Is Food Styling?
Nir stresses that food styling is not fake food.
More than a creative and realistic presentation of
food, food styling is about skill, culinary expertise,
dedication, resourcefulness, problem-solving and patience.
The category the work falls in – advertising,
editorial, packaging, or TV – directs each job
requirements. Advertising and packaging assignments
require the stylist to be true to the clients’
guidelines, often matching the food with exact pictures.
Editorial work needs to follow a recipe, but usually
this is the only constraint, allowing for greater
flexibility and creativity in the styling.
The King of Ice Cream
There is no typical day for a food stylist, but
some of the tasks remain constant no matter the project.
Most importantly, a thorough understanding of the
job aids in the successful shopping for ingredients,
which translates to a well-organized and successful
shoot. Nir has made a special name for himself in
the styling of ice cream. Obviously a difficult product
to work with under camera lighting, he created a niche
for himself by overcoming a challenging situation
and making it work to his advantage.
Nir suggests starting with editorial work if
you are interested in pursing a career as a food stylist.
Building a portfolio takes time. Find some recipes
you like, make them, then practice making them look
exquisite. Try to barter with a food photographer:
you both get practice and either add to or create
a portfolio. Digital photography has cut some costs
for photographers making your proposal more attractive.
Then try to assist a food stylist. Nir says many
will say no, but keeping trying until you hear yes.
Food styling is very much a solo career. “It’s
you, your two hands, your brain, and a toolbox.”
But because of that it is easy to start out. Persistence
and dedication will help shape your career.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to be a chef to be a food
stylist, but it definitely helps. Yet the ability
to cook is just the beginning. Many chefs can turn
out a beautiful plate presentation but fail to realize
how a camera looks at food. Angle, light, ability
to translate image to feeling - this skill separates
the two careers, and must be mastered to be a successful
Food stylists are well paid; a day’s work could
range from $500 - $1,500. But the field is highly
competitive. In New York City alone, 50 or 60 stylists
are competing for 10 to 15 daily jobs. But it is possible.
If you have drive and passion for food styling, you