Life of a Food Stylist: In Which I'm a Crazy Bag Lady


It's in the bag. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

"Life of a Food Stylist" is a fine name for this column. Succinct and to the point, it tells you exactly what you'll be reading. However, I've been thinking that "Crazy Bag Lady" might be a more apt descriptor of my job and life.

I began my career with a modest styling kit that contained tweezers, paint brushes, Q-Tips, Zap-a-Gap, a fire starter, a heat gun, and a few other odds and ends I'd picked up at the drugstore and hardware.  Everything fit neatly into a big yellow toolbox.

My kit began to expand: with every booking, new items were needed—frother, hot plates, spritz bottles, long-necked spoons, Thick-It. The toolbox became obsolete and I started packing things in large canvas tote bags.

Even though many of the food photographers I work with have well-equipped kitchens, sometimes you want to use your own pots, pans, and whisks because you know exactly how they behave. Other times you're on location and worry about finding yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle. This translates into packing everything in the kitchen except, well, the sink.

By the time I'm done packing for a shoot, I have everything from pots and pans and mixing bowls to butane torches and blenders and pancake griddles, and naturally, the food. 

And I'm just talking about packing for the shoot.


Prior to that stage there's the prep shopping. There are usually multiple trips to various supermarkets and specialty stores, and on those occasions when I'm functioning as prop stylist, home stores, as well. My granny cart piles up and requires more than a gentle shove to keep going and my circulation begins to get cut off as bags full of food bite into my shoulders and forearms. By the time I arrive at home, my spine feels compressed, and what I'm sure is restless leg syndrome begins to act up.

But I head out again and come back with more bags that need to be unpacked and organized, and finally, I start to cook what can be made in advance. To sum up: shop-pack-unpack-cook-pack-clean-bend-push-stretch-throw-out-back-pack. Multiply by 10.

I'm 5'4" and have wimpy bone structure. I'm small but scrappy (!!!) but I can't deny that being a crazy bag lady doesn't take its toll. I practice yoga as much as my schedule allows in an attempt to realign my spine and Transformers-like, reposition my limbs, but I have to say it's rough on me.

On that note, let me finish by saying that if you are burly and brawny and love food, maybe you'd like to be my sherpa/assistant?