Secrets of a food stylist

Basic items every food stylist should have in their kit:
By Denise Vivaldo

  • Apron.
  • Angostura Bitters: An orange-brown coloring agent for food or beverages.
  • Bamboo skewers: To move small pieces of food onto and off of a plate or adjust food once on the plate. Skewers can also be used to hold different foods together.
  • Can opener.
  • Cookie cutters: Round, in various sizes.
  • Cosmetic sponges, wedge-shaped: Use as a wedge to help angle and adjust pieces of food.
  • Cotton balls: Same use as above and as non-collapsing stuffing for foods like omelets.
  • Disposable lighter with adjustable flame, or a barbecue lighter.
  • Exacto Knife or matte knife: Used to cut a multitude of things.
  • Forks, table and meat.
  • Fruit Fresh anti-browning powder: Edible white powder that dissolves in water. Dip cut fruit and vegetables into the solution to prevent browning. Also use for reviving wilted greens and herbs.
  • Garnish tools.
  • Gloves, tight-fitting latex: For cutting hot chiles or handling stinky food.
  • Glycerin: Use straight or add to water for making long-lasting water droplets (example: controlling the exact placement of water droplets without them moving or disappearing).
  • Graters: Every size you can find. The smaller the better.
  • Kitchen Bouquet.
  • Kitchen towels, cloth: Buy lint-free bartender's towels, or use old cloth diapers.
  • Knives: paring, bread slicer, meat carver, and chef's knife are the basics.
  • Ladles: In a variety of sizes.
  • Matches.
  • Metal skewers: Heated on a stove and used to create grill marks on different items such as steaks, grilled fillets of fish, chicken breasts, grilled vegetables, etc.
  • Museum Wax, Quake Hold putty or florist clay: To hold items very securely in place. Museum Wax is our preferred material and we use it on every shoot.
  • Needle and thread: White, beige, brown and black thread to stitch up tears in meat or poultry before cooking.
  • Piping gel, clear: Can be used as a lightweight food glue or thickener for sauces.
  • Ruler or tape measure.
  • Sharpening or diamond steel for knives.
  • Spoons, assorted sizes and materials.
  • Squeeze bottles: For placement of larger amounts of sauces and liquids.
  • Tape: Transparent, gaffer's, electrician's (in various colors), duct, and painter's.
  • Timer, standard kitchen.
  • Thermometer, instant-read and oven.
  • Tongs: In a variety of sizes.
  • Turkey baster: Used to extract or add liquid to a dish, keeping the mess to a minimum.
  • Vaseline: For gluing food together.
  • Vodka: An excellent cleaner of surfaces, it also slows down the browning of avocados.
  • Whisks: In a variety of sizes.
  • Windex: Don't leave home without it.
About Denise Vivaldo:

Food and entertaining expert-extraordinaire, Denise Vivaldo, has been teaching all things culinary to enthusiastic audiences for more than 20 years.

Denise has created and catered more than 10,000 parties and served guests such as Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, Prince Charles, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Bette Midler, Cher, and Aaron Spelling.

She began her culinary training at the Ritz Escoffier and La Varenne in Paris, and then graduated Chef de Cuisine from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Denise spent numerous years as a professor at UCLA's Culinary Program and at her alma mater, The California Culinary Academy.

Denise and Food Fanatics has catered events for the Academy Awards Governor's Ball, Sunset Magazine's Taste of Sunset, and Hollywood wrap parties. She has also served as the food stylist for countless local and nationally syndicated television shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NapaStyle with Michael Chiarello, and Inside Dish with Rachel Ray. Denise has been a featured guest on television shows such as Good Day LA, ABC Morning News, The Food Network, Home & Garden Network, TV Guide Channel, and Lifetime TV. Denise teaches catering and food styling seminars and workshops across the country and internationally.

She is the author several best-selling books such as: How to Start a Home-Based Catering Business, which has sold more than 150,000 copies and is in its 5th printing, How to Start a Home-Based Personal Chef Business, Do It For Less! Parties, and the 2009 IACP Cookbook Award winner, Do It For Less! Weddings.

She is currently working on The Food Styling Handbook, a book based on her decades of wide-ranging food styling experience.

For more information, visit, and

About "The Food Styling Stylebook":

Master food stylist Denise Vivaldo shares advice on the business of food styling. Find out how to get started and how to become the professional that everyone wants to work with. Using personal anecdotes that range from humorous to frustrating to triumphal, she provides trade secrets to get your foot in the door.

The Food Stylist's Handbook, a comprehensive guide to the secretive world of food styling, reveals insider knowledge about how to get started, what equipment to buy, and how to find clients and keep them. You will also learn tricks of the trade as well as discover how to make fabulous "heroes" out of raw ingredients. Denise Vivaldo has cooked for presidents and movie stars including George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Learn from a food artist who has catered more than 10,000 parties and events including the Acadamy Awards Governor's Ball, and Sunset Magazine's Taste of Sunset. Vivaldo has also styled food for TV shows such as The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Inside Dish with Rachael Ray.

Denise Vivaldo is a professionally trained chef and has been a food stylist in Los Angeles for 25 years. Discovered by television producer Aaron Spelling, she was soon put to work on his television shows creating food presentations for the camera. Her company, Food Fanatics, styles food for cookbooks, packaging, television, and film. She lives in Los Angeles.

For more than 40 years, Gibbs Smith has been specializing in beautifully illustrated lifestyle books covering topics such as interior design, architecture, cooking, children's, home, green/sustainable and many more.

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