Insights From a Food Stylist

August 01, 2011

The presentation of food can have a huge impact on our intake. Find out some inside secrets from a food stylist.

The presentation of food can have a huge influence on our intake, both positive and negative. The Lempert Report interviewed Marilinda Hodgdon, a food stylist since 1978, to find out her take on food presentation and intake. Her iconic work can be seen in just about every advertising medium. At age 16, she was already the head cook at Mamma Mia’s in Ocean City, NJ during her summers and weekends. And her love of food kept on growing.
TLR: How did you get into the art of food styling?
MH: Quite by accident. I was in graduate school doing my MFA in sculpture. I was putting myself through school on short funds, doing every job imaginable to get me through, and then I started renovating houses. The first house I renovated was owned by the food stylist Justine Frank. She loved my eye for detail and neatness and personality, and so she asked me to be her assistant. 
TLR: Do you think one of the roles of a food stylist is to get people to try more healthy foods? 

MH: Yes, I think that’s an endeavor we should all take up. In my blog I do that very much and am happy to say that (industry and advertising) many manufactures have taken up the idea of healthy eating in their products and are moving towards recipes that are much healthier. 
TLR: Let’s change gears towards school nutrition. The lunches the kids are served frankly look totally unappealing. Do you think if the lunches looked more appealing the kids would be more likely to eat their vegetables?

MH: Absolutely, I think that applies to all ages across the board with the human consciousness. We eat first with our eyes, unless we don’t have the gift of sight, and then it's smell and all of the other senses. In advertising and photography we have only sight, so yes of course, children would want to eat more vegetables if they were more beautiful and enticing. And you can make vegetables look beautiful if you don’t overcook them!
TLR: And how do you think the school system, with they type of kitchens they have in place, would accomplish this?

MH: Jamie Oliver has done a long stint across the country and has been met with a lot of resistance. It’s culturally based and also starts in the home, and there are finances and budgets involved. It’s definitely a slow process to get back to our basics of slow fresh local whole foods and reorient the American people so that they want it for themselves as well as their children; we also need to make sure they can provide it and have reoriented their budget to do so. 
You can check out 
Marilinda Hodgdon's blog She says she’s a self-proclaimed “Food Floozie who will style food for anybody for money,”