PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — Ever wonder why the steak you just ordered never looks as appetizing as the one pictured in the menu? It's all in the advertising.
Making food look fresh and perfect is a job called food styling. KVUE's Yvonne Nava took a stab at it on a commercial shoot out in Pflugerville.
The devil is in the details when it comes to food styling. Kristina Wolter knows. She's been doing it professionally for five years.
"You have to be patient, a little OCD," she added.
Wolter's company is named Girl Gone Grits. We go straight for the machinery, but the meat is still looking a little drab.
"So the first thing we are going to do is take our heat gun here. You want to just start melting some of those fat pockets in there," said Wolter.
So we darken up the pre-grill marks using a charcoal starter and a browning sauce.
"You want to paint in the crevices and just follow the lines. You see how it's starting to come alive," Wolter said.
It all seems so bizarre. But as a food stylist, your job is to make the product pop.
"It needs to stand out and I need to grab you with your eyes first so that it triggers your stomach," Wolter explained. "It triggers you to either want to order that food or make that recipe in that cookbook."
We created a magazine editorial shoot featuring a pub burger. While we primp, prod and pin the produce, the photographer is working on some test shots to check the lighting.
The model is looking tired so we prop her up with makeup sponges and then it's off to set. It is a challenge to make the food look as pristine as possible and the camera doesn't lie. The rule of food styling is everything is room temperature, but the goal is to make it look like it's icy or piping hot.
While some critics argue food styling is all smoke in mirrors or disingenuous, Wolter said it's an art form – one that comes from a true love for food.
"I don't see anything wrong with it because you are still going to get a really good product when you order it off the menu, but we want to draw you in," added Wolter. "To be honest, it's not going to draw you in with a paper wrapper burger the way you get it from fast food."
As a rule, the specific food a company is advertising has to be real. The food around the main product, though, doesn't. So if you were doing a commercial for cereal, the cereal would have to be used. You could use glue in lieu of milk to keep the cereal from getting too soggy in the photoshoot.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: