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Mar 28 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Lesson in Food Styling from Hollywood’s Food Stylist

Published by at 8:35 pm under Foodie Events

Ever since we’ve become a Featured Publisher with Foodbuzz last year, we’ve had so many great opportunities to meet fellow food bloggers that share a passion for food like we do. On one occasion, we were invited to an LA dinner event at Beso in Hollywood where we met Nancy Goodman Iland, who was also part of the Foodbuzz community. Since that event, we’ve still kept in touch with her both online and off. I have mentioned Nancy before on our blog, but for this special post for Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24 event, I proposed to have an event that is different than what we’ve done before.

Food bloggers are always trying to improve their food styling skills when they take their photos, and so I thought it would be fun to have a lesson in food styling with Nancy, who happens to work on dozens of TV shows in Hollywood where food styling comes into play, such as Murder She Wrote, Kitchen Confidential (yes, she’s worked with hottie Bradley Cooper!), the new Melrose Place, and many others. Nancy was gracious enough to help us make this event happen by coming over to our kitchen to help us plate some dishes – basically doing what she loves best! In addition to what we created, she also shared some photos of her more recent work on Melrose Place. And finally, we’ll wrap up this post with a Q&A Session with Nancy to get to know her better and learn some great tips for food styling!

Here is Nancy in our kitchen with her signature pink chef's coat. It's time to style some food!

There are a lot of elements to this dish, which includes seared sea scallops over a bed of cous cous, which we added some chopped dried cranberries and apricots for texture and color. We drizzled a cilantro caesar dressing over the scallops and finished it off with some bell peppers and beets cut up into matchsticks, and a side of spring mix salad and cherry tomatoes. As you can see, there are a lot of colors, height, and dimension to this plate - this is all important when food styling.

This chocolate molten lava cake would be naked without all of the trimmings that Nancy added. A dollop of whipped cream goes on top with a sprig of mint and a pretty vanilla orchid that we got from our garden. Alongside the cake, she added fresh berries for color which she laid on a green leaf. To eliminate too much white on the plate, she added a line of balsamic glaze and sprinkled the plate with lemon thyme. This is all for visual appeal and isn't meant to be all eaten. When it comes to food styling for TV, it's all about how it looks because most of the time it is in the background.

This pretty apple tart dessert isn't just laying flat on the plate. Instead, she lifted the tart up by laying it against some berries. Some peach blossom petals are used to decorate the plate and the leaves give it a splash of green. The "height" element of food styling is definitely something we'll have to use more often!

As you can see, we really spent a lot of time on desserts! This pear was poached in red wine until it became soft, and plated with sprinkles of ground cinnamon and more usage of flowers, leaves, and chives. Who would've thought?? It definitely gives this poached pear dish a lot more color and style.

Finally, we finished our cooking and plating event with this simple shrimp plate that is a feast on the eyes. By propping up the shrimp, we gave it some height. The rosemary on top helps your eyes move to the center of the dish, which is the main focal point. To complete the plating, we chopped some sun-dried tomatoes and lemon thyme and whimsically sprinkled it around the shrimp and drizzled some infused olive oil over to blend all the components together.

Nancy was definitely a great coach in food styling; we’ve learned a lot from watching her work and the great tips she’s given us. Although she does more TV work than print work, we could always use any help and advice for our own improvements with our food photography.

This is a photo of Nancy on the set of Melrose Place where she had to create a seafood buffet on a yacht. Her job is to make the background look great during filming, while making sure the food stays camera-friendly for the entire day.

This is another section of the buffet on the yacht where she used plenty of desserts and fruit to give it color. The 3-tiered tray gives it nice dimension.

This was also done on the show - Fig with duck, creme fraiche and chives.

Questions & Answers with Nancy Goodman Iland – Food Stylist to the Stars

1. What do you like most about your job?

What I like most about my job is being the variety of being creative, doing research (if needed) and also being an entrepreneur and running my business. I also get to work with everyone on the set from the writers/creators, directors for food ideas on how food would be made or presented, to lighting and camera to make the food look it’s best and to working with the actors to make them look like real chefs/cooks. I also have an amazing and creative crew that I enjoy brainstorming with to come up with new and unique ways to cook and present food. I also like the free-lance aspect that I am not working everyday, but when I do work they are very long days with great people and at different locations, food themes, etc. You never get bored with doing the same thing over and over!

2. What are the technical aspects of food styling that you follow?

Technical aspects of food styling… using color, texture, different heights, items to create movement for the eye are what I use for plates, platters and buffets. I also enjoy being a food tech and teaching the cast and crew how to look/act like they really know what they are doing in the kitchen.

3. What’s been your favorite TV show to work on and why?

Favorite TV show that I have worked on is  ‘Murder She Wrote’  because there was always a party or restaurant scene in every episode and the crew was like a family – we spent more hours with them than our own families. I also loved working on ‘Kitchen Confidential’ (you can see it on because each episode was shot in a week and in each episode, the writers put a special food in the episode to peak the foodies interest, usually up and coming food trends.

4. Describe a day at work as a food stylist to the stars.

The day before we are on the set, I shop for all of the food products and we prep as much of the food as we can so on set days we can get in and create! A typical day on the set is unload the car and get organized and then depending on the scene, we start prepping the food and setting up the set where the food will be seen. If it is a restaurant, we need it to look like a real restaurant: some people will be just sitting down, some with menus and ordering, some being delivered food, some mid-meal, some finishing meal and paying the bill… with lots of movement and back ground people crossing past the camera to make it look real. And if they are shooting in the kitchen, I will be placing all of the food for back ground to be working on from chopping vegetables to sautéing, cooking, putting things in the oven, plating food with background people crossing to put things in the oven, etc.  It is usually a rush to set up and then depending on the shooting schedule, I may be sitting down for a while… I once waited 10 hours for my scene to be shot, ahhh! At the end of the day, it is cleaning up and throwing away any food that has been sitting on the set (unless it is fresh veggies or something salvageable, but most food has been out for too many hours).

5. What has been one of the most challenging food styling you have done?

One of the most challenging food stylings I have done was the show Kitchen Confidential, because it was 80 hour weeks for 12 weeks non-stop. The producers also wanted all of the back ground really eating so the challenge was to produce an abundance of food and keep it healthy for all of the hours of filming.

6. What advice would you give to food bloggers who want to capture better food photos?

My advice for food bloggers to capture better food photos is to make the food look delicious with use of color, texture, different heights, and the use of movement in the shot whether is is a sauce dripping, or sauce sweeping across the plate or a napkin flowing around the plate…. and the use of natural light!

7. What’s your favorite food or restaurant you would recommend?

That is a very hard question to answer because living in Los Angeles, we have every kind of food available to us and I enjoy it all… Right now some of my favorite spots are “The Patty Wagon” which is an amazing food truck that you can find on twitter. Also, my favorite restaurants are Tattoria Ameci and Bay City Deli in Santa Monica. When the holidays are here, I love the comfort foods that my mom and dad make (they used to own a B&B and both are amazing chefs)… brisket with potatoes and carrots, matzo ball soup and the works! Yum!!

8. Finally, any last thoughts?

To sum it up… I have my Dream Job!!! It is not for everyone, but it is for me!!! It combines my two passions of Food and Art and that is why I named my business FoodArt. You can check out my work at

With that, we end this post with a very special thank you to Nancy, who has contributed her time and guidance to make this event happen. We couldn’t have done it without you! And, of course, thank you to Foodbuzz for sponsoring us for March’s 24, 24, 24 event. We are so happy that we got chosen and we hope that we taught and inspired many of the food bloggers out there on the basics and fundamentals of food styling. Be creative and think outside of the box. Before you know it, you’ll be turning your food into art!

48 responses so far

48 Responses to “Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Lesson in Food Styling from Hollywood’s Food Stylist”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Food Addicts. The Food Addicts said: The Food Addicts Presents!: Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Lesson in Food Styling from Hollywood's Food Stylist [...]

  2. Christine @ Fresh Local and Beston 28 Mar 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Hey guys! This is a brilliant idea for Foodbuzz 24,24,24, one that is visually tantalizing and helps and inspires other bloggers to create more beautiful food. Each one of the dishes are exquisite and gorgeous!!! I particularly like the red wine poached pears. And that picture of the towering fruit on the yacht excites me, those figs are huge!

    Great job guys!

  3. lanon 28 Mar 2010 at 9:40 pm

    yummmy..great post!

  4. thatssoronon 28 Mar 2010 at 10:06 pm


  5. noobcookon 28 Mar 2010 at 10:38 pm

    how lucky you are to learn from the professional. love the use of flowers and leaves in your plating :)

  6. [...] from: Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Lesson in Food Styling from Hollywood's … AKPC_IDS += "3403,";Popularity: unranked [...]

  7. Spicy Green Mangoon 28 Mar 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks Food Addicts for such an informative post. You’re right about the opportunities that come from being a Food Buzz featured publisher. I’ll be attending the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in April, so it will be a feast for my eyes (and tummy) when I can see the masters up close and personal with their food styling.

  8. Mardi@eatlivetravelwriteon 29 Mar 2010 at 3:55 am

    What a fabulous idea for a 24 event!

  9. [...] original post here: Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Lesson in Food Styling from Hollywood's … Posted in recipes | Tags: featured, featured-publisher, foodbuzz, last-year, meet-fellow [...]

  10. bunkycookson 29 Mar 2010 at 6:06 am

    What a great post! How awesome to be able to work with a food stylist! I know that every food blogger would love to get that chance.

  11. sweetlifeon 29 Mar 2010 at 7:44 am

    what a great much wonderful info..I love the plating with thte beautiful flowers..yum


  12. Carolyn Jungon 29 Mar 2010 at 7:45 am

    Wonderful tips for styling. It just goes to show that taking photos of food is much like taking photos of supermodels. Both may be naturally pretty, but both get an extra boost when they are decked out in appropriate finery. ;)

  13. ravenouscoupleon 29 Mar 2010 at 7:52 am

    Awesome post!! Bravo to Nancy and your cooking to make it all happen… I should have stayed over and learned a few things!!!

  14. Debi(Table Talk)on 29 Mar 2010 at 9:41 am

    Nice job with this post—informative, creative, and most of all, beautiful food!

  15. Cessy831on 29 Mar 2010 at 10:19 am

    i love this post…what a cool freaking job!!

  16. Sandie {Inn Cuisine}on 29 Mar 2010 at 10:51 am

    Ooo…I can’t wait to start putting some of these techniques to use—so helpful! It’s easy to become stuck in a rut, and sometimes we overlook the obvious. This article reminds food bloggers to think outside the box. Thanks!

  17. Joan Novaon 29 Mar 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Congratulations on your selection. Great conception and execution. So everyone who reads this post should now be publishing better photos, right? Right!

  18. Bizon 29 Mar 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Such an original idea for 24! Great job! :D

  19. citronetvanilleon 29 Mar 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Great post and beautiful photos, all the dishes looked very appetizing and mouth watering, well the quality of the pictures is one thing but quality of the food is very important!

  20. The Duo Disheson 29 Mar 2010 at 8:28 pm

    A PERFECT idea for this event. It’s totally off the usual cooking path, and you featured a great, local food artist. It’s really nice.

  21. Liren {Kitchen Worthy}on 29 Mar 2010 at 9:07 pm

    This is such a fabulous post and a great idea for 24/24/24. I loved reading about all the styling tips, but I especially loved her insight into all the hard work that goes into preparing food for television/film. It’s hard enough to capture the perfect shot in my own kitchen, I can’t imagine doing it for a whole set…and not on my own schedule!

  22. Portuguese Kitchenon 29 Mar 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for this post, it’s a great one. Such an important & informative post for fellow bloggers.
    The food truly looked amazing.

  23. Ivyon 29 Mar 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks for passing from my blog and it’s such a pleasure to find out about yours. Congratulations for being selected for the 24,24,24 event. You did a great job and everything looks mouthwatering.

  24. TasteHongKongon 29 Mar 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Excited for you to have had such a terrific experience. Thanks for sharing the great tips and the ‘beauties’.

  25. Angie's Recipeson 29 Mar 2010 at 10:59 pm

    You have a nice tidy kitchen!
    The styling of cous cous with scallops drizzled with cilantro caesar dressing is exactly my type..simple and elegant. I don’t like my food being hand-touched too much by chefs…even though they might look stunning in the plate, I still would not eat them.

  26. Girl Japanon 30 Mar 2010 at 12:53 am

    Hi there!!! So glad you find me and I found you, fab blog BTW. I knew plating played a huge part and you must have some essential tools, gadgets that you love? Mine is a squeeze bottle.

  27. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigellaon 30 Mar 2010 at 1:35 am

    What an interesting post! :) I love how she styled the fig and the chocolate cake. They would be rather plain without the pretty details!

  28. tigerfishon 30 Mar 2010 at 1:56 am

    I wish I could attend such a class too! I always enjoy playing (oh, sorry…styling) my food :)
    Thanks for sharing such wonderful information!

  29. Agneson 30 Mar 2010 at 2:47 am

    That was a fascinating post and interview! What a cool lesson to do. :)

  30. petite nyonyaon 30 Mar 2010 at 6:21 am

    Interesting post with great tips!

  31. sippitysupon 30 Mar 2010 at 7:06 am

    Very informative. I know Nancy too! GREG

  32. Elon 30 Mar 2010 at 7:15 am

    What an interesting interview. Nice to hear about someone who does this work for a living. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Jencraftedon 30 Mar 2010 at 8:01 am

    What an excellent idea for 24, 24, 24! You’re so fortunate to learn firsthand from a professional! Great job!

  34. Camilleon 30 Mar 2010 at 8:23 am

    Cool. Thanks for giving us a peek into the world of professional food styling!

  35. thefoodaddictson 30 Mar 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks for all of your wonderful comments! I’m glad this 24 post turned out to be a great success. :)

  36. Adrian @ Food Rehabon 30 Mar 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m always looking out for food styling ideas. Great interview as well.

    The molten lava cake looks too good!

  37. MaryMohon 31 Mar 2010 at 8:40 am

    Every picture is beautiful including that of Nancy :D

  38. Haley Destafinoon 31 Mar 2010 at 9:45 am

    My name is Haley Destafino, I am the Associate Publisher of The Mountain Times, a weekly newspaper in Killington, Vermont. Every year we publish a summer and winter menu book which is a collection of the local restaurants menus. We look for colorful and seasonal photos for our covers and the photos you have are very appealing. I write to you in hopes of getting your permission to use one of them for this winter’s menu book cover. We would gladly give you the photo credit and copies after it is published. You can see this summers cover on our website, I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your time.

  39. pharmacy techon 31 Mar 2010 at 10:52 am

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.

  40. Altaon 31 Mar 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Awesome, unique 24 idea! I love this.

  41. 5 Star Foodieon 31 Mar 2010 at 2:47 pm

    What a fun informative experience – a terrific 24 event!

  42. Nancy Goodman Ilandon 01 Apr 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Krissy and Daniel,
    It was such a pleasure working with you and sharing my knowledge with you and the foodbuzz community. The blog is fabulous! and your photo’s came out beautiful and they caught the essence of each item we were showcasing! Cheers! Nancy

  43. Chef Eon 04 Apr 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Christine is right, what a cool idea for the foodbuzz 24 thing! I loved the photos, and it reminds me of catering big parties as I once did, well, only a few years ago, lol, now I have gotten lazy!

  44. Sherrillon 04 Apr 2010 at 10:40 pm

    WOW. Btw, love this post!

  45. Conor @ HoldtheBeefon 06 Apr 2010 at 3:24 am

    What an interesting post, this was a great idea! Can you please convince Nancy to come to Australia and help me with my styling? I can pay her in kangaroo|?

  46. EMTon 06 Apr 2010 at 12:29 pm

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  47. Catherineon 07 Apr 2010 at 9:17 am

    Great submission! Hey, I’m heading your way this weekend/next week. Any restaurants in the Hollywood to Venice Beach area you recommend?

  48. chandanion 23 Apr 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Very well written informative post. The pictures are beautiful and very very yummy.
    .-= chandani´s last blog ..Celebrating Earth Day (Tortilla Soup) =-.

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