(Fake) Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and a Giveaway!

Post image for (Fake) Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and a Giveaway!

by Chris on October 30, 2011


I have to admit.  When I began Mele Cotte, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into.  There were two reasons I vaguely thought about that created a tunnel vision.  First, I needed to write down the dinners I made so I could move away from my five what-my-mama-taught-me dish rotation.  Second, I needed a convenient way to disseminate the baking recipes friends wanted. There was never a thought that pictures needed to be a part of my blogging scenario.  In fact, my first post didn’t include photograph. I didn’t even have a camera!  But, I had a flip camera phone.  Ha!  Looking back, my pictures were so sad.  No color, no focus, and vision.  Wait…who am I kidding.  My early pictures were a stream of “what the heck is that” photos.

Then, I got a Canon point and shoot. There was color, a little focus if you squinted, but still, no vision.

When the Rebel came into my life, things began to look up. But, I still needed a lot of work.  Thanks for some ogling over Penny and Matt’s work, and some tips and patience for a wonderful friend, my dishes began looking edible, with my one shot angle.

While my little “big” camera has continued to do well for me, one fact remains.  My styling sucks. No eye. No creativity.  No-can-do.  So, you can imagine my excitement when the opportunity to attend a workshop with the authors of The Food Stylist’s Handbook, and renowned food stylists, Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flanigan at the Cook’s Warehouse came before me.

A last minute invite, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about what I was getting into.  Nonetheless, I went eager and ready to learn.

With about twelve attendees, the combination demo/hands-on two day workshop was filled with tips for each one of us, regardless of our personal objectives, knowledge level, occupations. There was something for everyone.  Personally speaking, I know I will (probably) never professionally style food.  Yes, I know my limitations; I don’t have a creative eye like that.  But, I love that I can take the facets of the ladies trick’s of the trade and apply them here.

We covered a lot.  From the start, with breakfast foods, Cindee showed is how to style a bright “sunny side up” egg, create perfectly curled bacon, and evenly stacked pancakes with a syrup drip to die for.

Since I tend to make a lot of pancakes, I look forward to visible syrup in future posts.

After breakfast, we headed to the farm, where we painted poultry.  In a blink of an eye, and endless humor, Cindee and Denise assemble a flawless plate of chicken and vegetables.

Next, my world was rocked with how Frozen Meals go from a solid block of ice-covered rations to looking edible.

It’s all about the heat, color adjustment, plating and garnishing.

Got milk?  Who knew milk could be a prominent fixture in pictures?  And, I wish I had known to play with the ratios of oatmeal to liquid when mixing up past breakfasts.

The ladies also shared their thoughts on how to make noodles look scrumptious, the art of false-bottoming bowls, how squeeze bottles and paintbrushes are a stylist’s best friend, and how heating, coloring, perfect good grill marks, moisture and shine; and plating and garnishing can speak to the camera.

The two days flew by.  Denise and Cindee were hilarious, honest, and informative. Their partnership was fluid, natural in their exchanges and knowing instinctively when to be flexible with the class dynamic.  The Food Fanatics are an example of successively cohesive co-teaching collaboration. Think that is too over the top?  Okay.  But, if I do say so myself, I can make such statements since identifying teacher effectiveness is a huge part of my routines, in my bill-paying job. :)

Moving forward, there are several tricks of the trade I will carry with throughout my food journeys. The difference with me, though, in comparison to what the ladies do is, well, it’s apple and oranges, really.  I am my own client and the pay is, well, nothing.  I blog. I have wonderful readers that read about food I eat. Ninety percent of the time I prepare a dish, plate, click, and eat. And there are tidbits I picked up for those moments.  But, for those times I prep for specific instance or opportunity, there are some other juicy morsels that stuck. First and foremost?  Fake ice cream (recipe below).  If you’re a semi-regular reader, you know I have a bit of an obsession with my ice-cream machine (Remember? Popcorn Ice Cream, Black Truffle Ice Cream , Rocky Road Ice Cream ,Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, Red Wine Ice Cream, Honey Lavender Ice Cream, Avocado Sorbet, Pink Champagne Sherbet, Cherry Basil Frozen Yogurt) . Photographing it is not fun.  But now…heee!  Do excited. For the “ice cream” seen in this post, I added crushed instant coffee granules for the “vanilla beans”. Cool, right?

Other morsels of goodness I took away from the workshop?

  • It is important to, when possible, choose the nicest ingredients available and prepare accurately, whether cutting, cooking, and coloring.
  • Under cook the food.  Pale, raw-looking areas can be “helped along” later.
  • Height is your friend and creates distinctness in the picture. Shortening, dampened paper towels, cosmetic sponges, or instant mashed potatoes can help make a riser.
  • When possible, shoot cold food and simulate temperature by adding in the moisture. Cooking spray, oil, or Karo syrup can imitate an amazing likeness.
  • Less is more. Ask yourself, what does the camera say?

I could go on and on, but wouldn’t it just be better to flip through the pages of the Food Stylist Handbook yourself?  Well, here’s your opportunity…to win the book. This opportunity will be available until Sunday, November 6th at 11:59 pm EST.  I have TWO books to give away! Opportunity is over.

Here’s how to enter for a chance to win:

  • Leave a comment and answer the following question: What is the one challenge you have when it comes to styling food?

Extra chances to win:
Each item you do will get you ONE chance to win (for a total of FOUR extra chances). If you already do any of the items listed, that’s okay!  They will count, too, but you must comment for each item. You must leave each entry as a separate comment or only one comment will count.

1 & 2: Follow @Mele_Cotte and @FoodFanatics on Twitter and tweet the following statement then come back to this post and tell us you tweeted. (My tweets are protected, so don’t worry if there is a delay is seeing my handle in your feed.) I just entered to win a @FoodFanatics Food Styling Book, hosted by @Mele_Cotte. Enter here
http://bit.ly/sWR8D3  #giveaway

3. Like Mele Cotte on Facebook.

4. Like Food Fanatics on Facebook.

[Here’s where the man who talks really fast enters:]

This giveaway is open to USA residents [fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia)] 18 years of age or older only and will run until Sunday, November 6th at 11:59 pm EST.
-Winner(s) will be generated via a random number generator software program. Winner will be notified via the contact email provided on the comment contact form.
-Winner(s) will have until 11/9/11 to claim their Food Styling Book or I will choose another winner.
-Winner will receive the Food Styling Book as described above {$50.00 value}. Product will be shipped by The Food Fanatics.
This giveaway is provided to you by The Food Fanatics. The views and opinions expressed on Mele Cotte are purely my own and based upon my personal experiences with the The Food Fanatics. The book used for this post is my personal copy, purchased by me prior to my conversation with The Food Fanatics. I was not monetarily compensated for a positive review or giveaway.
No purchase necessary to win.
Eligibility: Mele Cotte Giveaways (the “Giveaways”) are open only to individuals who are legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) and are 18 years of age or older. Employee or relatives of the sponsor of the giveaway or Mele Cotte are not eligible. Subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations.
In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the Giveaway is impaired in any way for any reason, including, but not limited to fraud, virus, or other technical problem, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, either: (a) suspend the Giveaway to address the impairment and then resume the Giveaway in a manner that best conforms to the spirit of these Official Rules; or (b) award the prize at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. The Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Giveaway or to be acting in violation of these Official Rules or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner.

WINNERS!!!!  Congratulations to Adrienne and Abby!  Both have won a copy of the Food Stylist Handbook.  Congratulations!!

A weekend in review:

Thanks ladies and Cook’s Warehouse!

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Kate October 31, 2011 at 7:05 AM

Even prior to the class your photos were lovely. Can’t wait to see how they look now.

Danielle October 31, 2011 at 9:40 AM

I want mine to look as good as yours! I have trouble thinking creatively in a hurry. I’m usually snapping my pictures seconds before we sit down to eat dinner and I just don’t have time to think about some creative layout. Maybe the book would give me inspiration that I could think about before it was time to actually take the pictures. Thanks!

shuvo October 31, 2011 at 11:08 AM

nice foods your foods pictures are looking so nice

Cassie October 31, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Height challenges me the most but my camera is holding me back. DSLR is coming soon. Your photos are beautiful, Chris!

Cassie October 31, 2011 at 11:13 AM

I follow you both on Twitter and tweeted the giveaway.

Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet October 31, 2011 at 11:17 AM

What a great post Chris!! I love it. My main trouble is lighting. I have a house with 28 windows, but none seem to give me great light. Oh and another issue….the “hurry and take a pic so I can eat it” moments. :) Thanks for this awesome post!!


Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet October 31, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Following Food Fanatics on Twitter

Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet October 31, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Liked Food Fanatics on Facebook

Barbara | Creative Culinary October 31, 2011 at 11:27 AM

I was laughing and learning the whole way. I started my blog as a ‘website’ with separate html pages over 16 years ago. I will most likely never get some recipes beyond the ingredients and instructions that are their current state (and I have a bunch more to transfer of the same) and I’m OK with that. Like you, I started with a point and shoot and made the big leap to a DSLR last year but it’s been a full year and I’m just starting to get the hang of that camera!

I attended a workshop for food photographer. I thought the photo part was worthless; I actually was surprised that I knew too much for it to be valuable but the food stylist that was there made it worthwhile.

Cosmetic sponges and Kitchen bouquet; those two have been huge (I already had big tweezers!). Truth is, I plan, prepare, shoot and eat so a lot of a food stylists tips are ones I won’t be using…and I think considering our challenge is to style and photo something we eat, it’s harder. I just might do what you did Chris; I have yet to get a bowl of ice cream to look like I would like!

Cindie Flannigan October 31, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Thank you for the great post, Wendy. It was a joy teaching at The Cook’s Warehouse. Aimee and her army were wonderful, we couldn’t have asked for better. And we got to see some old and new friends. I had a great time!

Adrienne October 31, 2011 at 2:33 PM

The challenge I have with styling food is the composition for the photo. It takes a certain eye and I just need more practice!

susan October 31, 2011 at 3:12 PM

I already follow you on Twitter!

susan October 31, 2011 at 3:12 PM

I now follow food fanatic on twitter

susan October 31, 2011 at 3:13 PM

I now “like” you both on Facebook!

susan October 31, 2011 at 3:14 PM

My biggest challenge with food styling is TIME! I just never have the leisure time that I would want to make all of my photos, thus all of my posts look beautifully fantastic. I usually make something, rush to photo it and then off to gather three children from school! I would love this book. P.S. tweeted your tweet!

Heidi October 31, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Lighting is my biggest problem (not to mention my pitiful camera). I live in Alaska, and most of my cooking is done after hours when it’s dark outside. I love the look of natural light, but with my schedule it’s just not possible. If only I could cook all day and not have to work!

Anne November 1, 2011 at 12:10 AM

I am new to food blogs and I can’t get enough….learn enough….so I’m off to dust off our “twist the lens” camera and just start trying to be better at taking a good picture and an even better cook…..thanks for the inspiration!!

Marge November 1, 2011 at 11:21 AM

I am so jealous– this looks great…and boy, could I use it!
But truly, I think your food styling and photos are terrific, and that you do have an eye.

Abby November 3, 2011 at 10:33 PM

My biggest issue when it comes to food styling is getting people to hire me. :)

But for real, I struggle with styling hot sandwiches, especially those that are shown cut. Ugh.

Also your ice cream looks awesome!


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