First Course: Interview with Food Stylist Alice Hart

We’re happy to present this first in our three-part interview with food stylist, Alice Hart. Hart offers us her insight as the food stylist at 68th Emmy Awards Governor’s Ball and as a former food styling judge on the Food Network Challenge.

If you’ve ever seen a food advertisement and rushed out to satisfy your cravings, chances are you’re familiar with the work of food stylist Alice Hart. She’s the woman-behind-the-scenes who fashions food for the camera, whether it’s still shots for magazines, cookbooks, and packaging, or video for commercials.

Known as one of the top experts in her field, Alice Hart is the go-to food stylist for everyone from celebrity chefs such as Joel Robuchon to food companies like Kraft and Nestle. In 2013, she was awarded the Julia Child Legacy Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for her work as a food stylist.

food stylist interview

Hart attended Le Cordon Bleu International in Paris, where she received Le Grande Diplôme. She credits her work there with helping launch her into her chosen career.

MasterCook had the pleasure of talking with Hart over an extended lunch about her work as a food stylist. We will be sharing with our readers portions of the interview in a three-part blog post series, along with recipes for a three course meal from the 68th Emmy Awards Governor’s Ball held in September, an event for which Hart was the food stylist.

The pictures interspersed throughout the interview showcase Hart’s artistry as captured by photographer Matt Sayles.

MasterCook: Can you explain the difference between making a dish look appetizing for dinner versus making a dish look appetizing for the camera?

Alice Hart: To make food appetizing for dinner you want it to look clean, wholesome. You want it to look hot, cold, crispy—so that it looks yummy in real life.

Working for the camera, it’s hardest to do still photography because things melt, things blend into each other, and dimensions change. Food is three-dimensional. You see it in real life and it has height, it has width, and length. When it goes into a camera lens, whether it’s still or whether it’s moving, the dimensions get squashed. I have to build the food up very simply to make it look three-dimensional even though it’s two-dimensional.

food stylist event
Photo: Matt Sayles. Food stylist: Alice Hart

I do not paint, I do not spray, I do not use chemicals. I do not use embalming fluid. I was on the Food Network Challenge for a couple of years as one of their judges and, as a judge, I had a food stylist who used embalming fluid and ammonia.

And I nailed him because we don’t do this. There’s something called “truth in advertising.” And the more chemicals you put on the food, the less real it is. It needs to be clean looking, healthy, nature-made food. Not fake, not phony.


The recipes offered below were inspired by the Emmys and created by Greg Wiele, Culinary Director and Corporate Executive Chef for Patina Restaurant Group, which provided catering for the ball. For more information on Alice Hart, please visit her website, Food for Film.

 Heirloom Beet Salad

Served with pistachio-goat cheese “bonbons,” blood oranges, preserved lemon, roasted eggplant puree, baby fennel confit, Lolla Rossa, black olive “soil,” and tangelo vinaigrette

Serves 6
Ingredients:
6 red baby beets, roasted and halved (see recipe below)
6 Chioggia baby beets (commonly referred to as candy cane or candy stripe beets), roasted and halved
6 gold baby beets, roasted and halved
2/3 cup (6 ounces) eggplant puree, roasted (see recipe below)
6 ounces tangelo emulsion (see recipe below)
3 ounces preserved lemon, julienned (see recipe below)
18 pistachio-crusted goat cheese “bonbons” (see recipe below)
6 baby fennel bulbs, confit and quartered (see recipe below)
3 ounces Kalamata olive “soil” (see recipe below)
3 Lolla Rossa baby lettuce heads
30 blood orange segments
24 slices raw Chioggia baby beets
6 fennel fronds
4 ounces tangelo vinaigrette (see recipe below)

  1. Artfully arrange first thirteen ingredients in the center of six 10” salad plates.
  2. Drizzle each salad with a half-ounce of tangelo vinaigrette.

Roasted Baby Beets

Ingredients:
6 red baby beets
6 Chioggia baby beets (commonly known as candy cane or candy stripe beets)
6 gold baby beets
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Remove stems from beets.
  2. Toss each colored beet with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Bundle each color in aluminum foil and bake in 350 ° F oven for 90 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool to room temperature and peel skin.
  5. Cut beets in half.

Roasted Eggplant Puree

Ingredients:
2 large eggplants
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Char-roast two large eggplants over a wood fire until blackened and very soft.
  2. Place into a covered container with a tight fitting lid and allow to self-steam at room temperature.
  3. When eggplants have cooled enough to handle, remove from container and discard charred skin.
  4. Place roasted eggplant flesh, olive oil, salt, and pepper into food processor and pulse until smooth.

Tangelo Emulsion

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh squeezed tangelo juice
3 and 1/4 cups filtered water
3/4 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons Agar agar powder

  1. Fill a large bowl with ice water; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring water, sugar, salt, zest, and saffron to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain through a chinois into a clean medium saucepan and add agar agar.
  5. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly; allow to boil for 1 ½ minutes, continuing to whisk.
  6. Pass through a chinois into a shallow pan and place over ice water to cool until completely set.
  7. Transfer to a blender and add the tangelo juice; blend on high speed until smooth, using the ladle as needed to agitate puree to ensure every bit is blended.
  8. Strain through a chinois, transfer to a squeeze bottle, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Preserved Lemon

Ingredients:
5 lemons
1/3 cup Kosher salt

  1. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom.
  2. Gently spread open the quarters and sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh.
  3. Close the lemons, holding the quarters together, so that they retain their original shape.
  4. Place 1 tablespoon of salt on the bottom of a mason jar.
  5. Pack the lemons into the jar and push them down, adding more salt between layers.
  6. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. Leave some air space at the top before sealing the jar.
  7. Let the lemons ripen for 30 days in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice.
  8. To use, rinse the lemons, remove and discard the pulp, and julienne the peel.

Pistachio-crusted Goat Cheese “Bonbons”

Ingredients:
3 cups fresh goat cheese
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup Sicilian pistachios, chopped

    Directions:

  1. Mix goat cheese, heavy cream, thyme, salt, and pepper in bowl and roll into eighteen 2/3oz “bonbon” shaped balls.
  2. Roll each goat cheese bonbon in chopped pistachios until well coated.

Baby Fennel Bulbs

Ingredients:
6 baby fennel bulbs, reserve fronds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Place fennel bulbs in a shallow baking dish and coat with olive oil.
  2. Season bulbs with salt and pepper, cover, and slow roast at 200 ° F for 90 minutes or until very soft (but no color).
  3. Allow to cool and then quarter.

Kalamata “Soil”

Ingredients:
1 4-ounce packet dehydrated Kalamata olives
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted
¼ cup cocoa nibs, which can be found at specialty grocer or gourmet kitchen retailer
1 and ½ teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted
½ cup pumpernickel bread crumbs, toasted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Pulse all ingredients in food processor until mixture resembles soil.

Tangelo Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed tangelo juice
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients together.

 

* For those who are using Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook, these recipes have been automatically added to your online recipe collection and are ready to sync with your desktop version of MasterCook, where it will be added to Le Cordon Bleu® Blog Cookbook.

MasterCook Welcomes You!

MasterCook is proud to introduce Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook, the result of a partnership between Le Cordon Bleu International, the premiere culinary institute worldwide, and MasterCook, America’s most trusted recipe management and cooking software.

We think the pairing is a natural one. Le Cordon Bleu International has been turning out the world’s best chefs for over 100 years, passing on to each new generation the classic recipes and techniques of French cuisine. While MasterCook has been the #1 recipe and cookbook app since it was introduced in 1998.

Paris in chocolate and pastryLongtime MasterCook users remember fondly some of the collaborations we’ve done in years past. We’ve partnered on many special editions, such as MasterCook Food & Wine and MasterCook Cooking Light. We even released a French edition, MasterCook: Le grand Larousse de la Cuisine.

With this new edition, we are thrilled to bring you a selection of recipes straight from Le Cordon Bleu International. If you’re a former student, these recipes will strike a nostalgic chord, allowing you to revisit some of the core recipes that shaped you.
Salmon Recipe from MasterCook special edition
If you’re a cooking enthusiast or foodie, here is your chance to learn some of the basics of French cuisine from one of the world’s most respected sources. These recipes provide a foundation for exploring not just French food, but all that is based on the foundation of French cooking.

You may be surprised to learn how much of world cuisine traces its way back to French cooking. Here are the recipes you’ll find included in Le Cordon Bleu Recipes from MasterCook:

Fonds de Volaille (Chicken Stock)
Pâte Brisée (Classic Shortcrust Dough)
Soupe à l’Oignon Gratineé (French Onion Soup)
Gougères (Cheese Puffs)
Quiche Lorraine
Soufflé au Fromage (Cheese Soufflé)
Ratatouille Niçoise
Gratin Dauphinois (Potato Gratin)
Riz Pilaf (Rice Pilaf)
Poulet Rôti (Roast Chicken)
Filet de Dinde Sauté Chausseur (Turkey Breast with Mushrooms)
Coq ou Chapon au Vin (Rooster or Capon Stewed in Red Wine)
Poulet Sauté Basquaise (Chicken Sautéed with Peppers)
Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Burgundy Wine)
Steak au Poivre (Steak with Peppercorn Sauce)
Navarin d’Agneau (Lamb Stew)
Darne de Saumon au Beurre Blanc (Salmon Steaks with Lemon Butter Sauce)
Saint-Jacques Provencales (Provencale-Style Sea Scallops)
Moules à la Crème (Steamed Mussels with Cream)
Turbot à la Dugléré (Turbot with Tomatoes)
Escargots Bourguignons (Snails in Garlic and Parsley Butter)
Tarte aux Pommes (Apple Tart)
Crème Brûlée (Caramelized Custard)
Cake Citron (Lemon Pound Cake)
Mousse au Chocolat (Chocolate Mousse)

Like any educational endeavor, it doesn’t end there—it continues! We’ll be bringing you at least one new recipe a month to tantalize your senses and spur you on to new cooking achievements. Continue to visit our blog for stories about what Le Cordon Bleu International alumni and professional chefs in hospitality and other areas find inspiring about today’s food trends.

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