a food stylist delicately leans in to alter the plating of a dish during a food photography shoot

Holly Cowgill Food Stylist

Step by step what goes in to being a food stylist

It started with a love of food…

My role as a food stylist is to cook and present food for camera. Jobs are hugely varied, from cooking food on camera for recipe videos, styling spreads of food for books or food magazines, working with restaurant chefs to present their food to more abstract flat lays presenting products or ingredients in artistic ways.

I knew I wanted to work in food and after University I worked both back and front of house in restaurants, but neither felt like I could carry on doing it forever. I studied the food styling course at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, where I met some lovely and well established food stylists. I started assisting them (and many others), learning loads as I went and then gradually built up my own food stylist portfolio and clients.

Being a food stylist means I get to think about and be around food all day, which (in my opinion!) makes it one of the best jobs going. It brings many challenges – melting ice cream, toppling burgers, juggling A LOT of food in one day – but finding ways to tackle these, and working with brilliant photographers and videographers to make beautiful imagery makes it all worth while.

Another side of my job is recipe writing, which I do for brands and editorial pieces. As the food stylist I am given a brief, for example “Recipes for a Veggie BBQ”, or if the recipes are for a brand then their product and what you can make with it will be the starting point for the recipe creation.
Once I’ve thought about what the recipe could be, I start cooking. A lot of being a food stylist is instinctive, I know certain flavour combinations or cooking methods that will work, but other times it’s trial and error until the recipe comes together. When I’m cooking and developing the recipe I have a pen and paper with me that I scribble all over as I work out the cooking times or taste the dish and realise it needs a little more or less of something.

When I think I have created the final recipe, I will taste it and make sure it’s delicious! I also read over the recipe many times to make sure it is easy to follow, and often change certain steps or parts of the method to make it as clear as possible.

Even as a food stylist myself – it’s great seeing the recipes I’ve created come to life in images or videos, and it’s so nice when I then see people using and enjoying the recipes.

There are so many tips and tricks that I have learned over the last 7 years as a food stylist. I think the secret might be out that we often use fake ice cream, and mashed potato is a pretty helpful tool for holding straws in place in drinks or giving a bit of height to a burger, but often it’s more simple things like painting a little oil over something to make it shine (a paint brush and some tweezers are essential kit for a food stylist!) or keeping herbs in ice water to make them really vibrant.

Holly Cowgill, Food Stylist

holly-cowgill
river group logo

“Fun, innovative and unflappable. Pocket creatives are great to work with – whether it’s finding the perfect lighting for trifle to capturing GoPro footage on a whisk, they always approach every situation with a steady yet game-changing attitude. I see the whole team as trusted creative partners to make great content together.”

Kitty Aldis, River Group

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“I have been working with Steven and the brilliant Pocket Creatives crew for 3 years – in fact since they started out. They have captured in excess of 100 recipes, produced 7 videos including 2 crowdfunding campaigns, their work, professionalism, and commitment to client satisfaction second to none. What’s more is how they have developed, evolved and grown in creativity, experience, and inspiration.
On a personal front the individuals in the team have to most wonderful personalities – an absolute joy to work with!”

Tanya Robertson-Lambert, Tanya’s Just Real

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“I worked with Steven and his Pocket Creatives team to create a recipe video, and I couldn’t recommend their services enough! From the ideation stage, through to filming and editing the finished product, at every stage, the whole team were first-class, going above and beyond to create a compelling, high-quality recipe video that generated heaps of engagement. I would definitely work them again.”

Ben Cullen, OLIO

ella tarn food stylist
Saucy Affair
Olio

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