WATCH | For the latest installment of Circa's Weird Jobs series, we chat with food stylist Nir Adar, who makes the foods you see in advertisements look as delicious as possible.
Adar had 'never heard' of food stylists before he became one
About 30 years ago, the Israeli native was working as a chef at his Tel Aviv restaurant when American photographer Keith Glasman asked him if he'd like to be a food stylist.
"I told him, 'I've never heard of such a thing,'" Adar told Circa during a recent photo shoot for Ben & Jerry’s milkshakes. "A few days later, I was working with him in Tel Aviv Three months later, I was [working as a food stylist] in New York."
A common myth, he said, is that stylists in his field work with phony foods for advertisements to optimize aesthetics. That's false, he said.
'We can't fake anything'
"Food stylists, we have a bad rep for faking everything, but actually we don't: Legally, we can't fake anything," he added. "You just have to know what you're doing, work fast and [be] very meticulous."
Stylists also have the task of making food look appetizing, even when a customer isn't hungry. "We're trying to evoke that feeling of appetite," he added. "'I'd really like to have that burger' can only [happen] if the burger looks appetizing. I think that really is the most complicated part of our life."
Practice makes perfect
Creating the perfect image often requires making the same product (in this case, a milkshake) over and over again until every last nuance is right, and everyone with a vote has weighed in.
Here's why styling ice cream is a challenge
"Our biggest enemy is actually condensation on the ice cream, so when you bring it out to set, on a humid day, there will be condensation," he said. "Ice cream goes from solid to liquid: there's nothing in the middle. So, we either use some dry ice at times and other times we actually use a straw to blow on the condensation. But at that point you only have a split of a second, because, the next second, the thing's going to melt. And, of course, a cool environment [helps]."
Here's the final version of the milkshake Adar styled for Ben & Jerry's on the day Circa interviewed him.
(Photo credit: Peter Pioppo/Studio P)
Here are Adar's tricks for styling other foods:
- Cheeseburger: "On a cold burger, we brush the burger with the oil on set if we need to make it a little shinier. We steam the cheese with a steamer. Sometimes we brush it actually with some Pine Sol that actually melts the cheese to give it a shine."
- Tuna: "If you make it on a sandwich, maybe with lettuce and tomato and a little mayonnaise drizzled on the bottom ... you can make a tuna sandwich look much more appetizing than it is."
- Pizza: "We use wardrobe steamers on set. We have like five people with wardrobe steamers above one pizza. It looks like brain surgery. And then each one pulls up in one action and then back again. You can do it two or three times before you having an accumulation of water on top of the cheese."
- Swirling caramel and chocolate: "[Special-effects team members] bring rigs. I bring the viscosities. You have three elements: You have the viscosity of the liquid, the chocolate; you have the speed of the camera; and you have the speed of the rotating rig. That's Rube Goldberg, come to life."
WATCH | For more unusual occupations, check out Circa's supercut of the weirdest of the Weird Jobs.