How to Become a Food Stylist | Salary | Food Stylist Training

by BJ Fairfax
CulinaryEd Columnist
May 19, 2011

Have you ever noticed the difference between that fast food hamburger on your tray and the one on the TV commercial? While the real deal may satisfy your hunger, chances are it was the commercial's glistening, flame-broiled beef patty--piled high with crisp lettuce and deep red tomatoes, oozing the perfect amount of secret sauce from a toasted bun--that got you to the fast food counter in the first place.

Welcome to the persuasive powers of food styling, a whole new level of culinary artistry. It's the food stylist who transforms standard fast food fare into mouth-watering visions, captured on film or in photographs and advertised to the masses.

But restaurant advertising is only one angle on a career as a food stylist. These gifted folks just know how to make food look good--a talent often cultivated in culinary school or honed by previous culinary career experience. Food stylists put their skills to work for all sorts of clients, from soda companies and pineapple distributors to moviemakers and culinary magazines.

"To be a food stylist, you need a very good knowledge of cooking, accuracy and patience," said Trish Hurel in an interview with Ideas Factory magazine. Hurel has 20 years invested in her culinary career

"One of my most challenging jobs was making a four-foot-tall Carmen Miranda hat for a cable and wireless campaign," she said. "I created a wire framework and had to wire each individual grape, apple, and banana in place."

Starting with Culinary School

Culinary school is a good place for aspiring food stylists to start. You will learn the ins and outs of every nutritional group, even more exotic choices, such as kumquats and sprouted bread. Such knowledge is a definite advantage to your career as a food stylist, because you will have a huge tool bag from which to pull ideas and creations.

But not all the tools of stylists are edible. Like Hurel, you may need to use wire to achieve a desired effect. Cotton, air guns, glue, paint and hairspray are other items familiar to those who have a career as a food stylist--whatever it takes to transform that plain apple pie into a steaming, heaven-sent dish--even if you can't eat it in the end.

Training the Stylist's Ideal Eye

In a career as a food stylist, perfection is the buzzword. You must be prepared to sort through hundreds of oranges to find the perfect one, or the hero as these professionals deem ideal edibles.

Although no formal training is required to become a food stylist, culinary school can help you understand exactly how ideal foods should look--fresh, hot, and shapely--and what it might take to make them appear that way.

"For coffee, I'll use an eyedropper to put little bubbles at the edge of the surface, as though the cup was just poured; it's actually detergent, said Ricki Rosenblatt, a veteran New York City food stylist, in an interview with Muse magazine. "Cereal holds up better if you put it in Elmer's Glue."

Thinking outside the box, like Rosenblatt, coupled with culinary career experience can make for success as a food stylist. Your level of success depends wholly on your talent and networking skills, as there is no lack of demand for those food stylists who know how to sell a company's product.

Power of Persuasive Food

And with the increasing popularity of food-as-hobby--with celebrity chefs, entire TV networks, and piles of articles devoted to food worship--those who enter the career called food styling are taking part in an art form on the rise.

And the pay isn't too shabby, either. According to CNN, a beginning food stylist might make $150 a day, while a more experienced culinary artist could earn anywhere from $850 to $1,000 for one day of work.

If you think you have the perfection, patience, and curiosity to fill the niche of food stylist, check out culinary schools today.


About the Author

BJ Fairfax holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She writes for a variety of print and online publications.

Food Stylist Training

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Showing schools in your area

            Matching School Ads
            Professional Culinary Arts
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            Culinary Arts (AS)
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Show more [+]
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            B.S. in Hospitality Management
            • Why Earn Your Degree from GCU?
            • Options: Choose from a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Business, Nursing, Psychology, Education & more!
            • Convenience: Complete courses online, on campus, or a combination of both!
            • Earlier Graduation: Our 4-credit courses allow you to complete your degree program in less time.
            • Transfer Friendly: We will request your transcripts, evaluate your graduate coursework, and determine your anticipated graduation date within 24 hours.
            • Quality: Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is regionally accredited. Learn more today!
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management

            Founded in 1869 as a land-grant school, the University is known today for its prolific faculty as well as a record of distinguished research and achievement in aerospace, engineering, technology, science, and math.

            • Online Courses
            Search Schools Near You
            Subject :
            Degree :
            Zip Code :

            Food Stylist Training

            Culinary Articles
            10 Colleges with Delicious Dining Hall Food
            Forget boring college cafeteria dining. Campus food can be exciting, healthy and delicious. Here's a look at 10 of America's best colleges to get your grub on.
            Four International Cuisines Influencing the American Foodscape
            Ethnic cuisines are an integral part of America's culinary landscape, and none more so than these perennial favorites.
            5 Ethnic Cuisines for Serious Foodies
            Love food? Want to broaden your culinary horizons? These five international cuisines provide an excellent starting place.
            Healthy home cooked meals can improve health, longevity and family social community
            Read how cooking at home rather than eating out can help you live longer, reduce the risk of cancer and improve family dynamics. Not only has cooking at home become the hip choice, it's also become the smart choice.