Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and Drink

Food stylists have their challenges – especially when it’s for TV



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On the other hand, if the patty hasn’t browned enough on the grill, a little soy sauce can be spritzed on — a cosmetic touch deemed acceptable even if they don’t do that at A&W.

Once the perfect bun is selected, it is perfectly engineered. An electric knife is used to trim away any ragged edges. A hollow might be cut out of the top half — known as the crown — to better accommodate the lettuce, washed and arranged just so, then spritzed with water to portray freshness.

The tomato slice is carefully cut from the “equator” of the tomato so the sides of the slice are perfectly perpendicular. The cheese slice? Use a blow dryer or heat gun to melt it.

If the “build”, as it’s called, becomes precarious, just use a thick gelatin mixture to hold it all together until it gets into the actor’s mouth.

The joy of still shoots with no “bite and smiles” is that you can coat the bun with paraffin to keep the juices from soaking into it, or place a bun-coloured piece of round cardboard under the patty for support.

If the shoot is for editorial purposes, such as a food spread in a glossy magazine, then things get a little easier. Real food is still used, but you can pull tricks like using a mixture of shortening, icing sugar and corn syrup to make fake vanilla ice cream that will stand up under hot lights all day.

It’s a rarified world, this food styling, but one that doesn’t seem to harm the appetite. After years of doing it, Nathan says he still loves his work, and his food, cooking up a storm at home, although it’s more likely a veggie stir-fry after a long day building burgers.


Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who is going to pay more attention to her “build”.