This is what a room full of talented and aspiring food stylists looks like. Buzzing about the room, craning over piles of fresh cheeses, donuts, and rustic copper cookware and some of the most beautiful food you’ve ever lain eyes on, these ladies (and man) are the lucky participants of a recent food styling workshop hosted by by Christiann Koepke of Portland Fresh and Eva Kosmas Flores of Adventures in Cooking. After recently having the pleasure of meeting Christiann over brunch at Olympic Provisions last month, we all but invited ourselves to be flies on the wall at the approaching event. We were ecstatic to be present for such a magical event, watching students from all over the country, from Connecticut to Las Vegas, learn light and lens from two of Portland’s most talented in taste.
Reflecting on that April day, I can assure you that there isn’t much in the world quite as enchanting as being as guest at a food stylist’s table. We arrived around midday, just as the technique portion of the day was wrapping up. You could feel the hunger in the room, very little of which was situated in those bellies. An eagerness to sample shots of marbled charcuterie, midnight colored grapes, and a chorus of tasty trimmings. There were pastries, soups, knives, and nuts, strewn casually along long wooden and linen lined table tops.
It was one of the first events I’ve ever attended where a meal was provided and the guests weren’t ravenously eager to sit down and eat. Despite the family style feast laid out with fresh crusty baguette sandwiches, a crisply dressed raw shaved salad, and luscious vegetable soups, the guests were still beset by how this spoon should lay just so, stealing shots of their efforts as they made their way to a seat.
With a slew of treats from local sponsors such as Jacobsen Salt Co.’s Caramels, Smith Teamaker’s green, black, and herbal infused tea, and Stumptown’s Cold Brew with Milk (the creamiest, caffienatedist chocolate milk of your life), the artisan Portland craft food scene was well-represented. Also among the ranks showing up to support Eva and Christiann’s were more nationally known brands like Trouvé Magazine and a ceramics studio known as Felt and Fat who kindly lent their platters and plates in service of an equally artisan meal.
Throughout the day we had the pleasure of meeting a handful of the attendees. Each with their own palette and purpose, there was an air of humble hospitality they extended to us, albeit guests themselves. The food bloggers’ way, it seems. With Eva and Christiann’s instruction, they were unified under the canopy of collaborative learning, sharing, too, amongst themselves their own advice and experiences.
In between conversations and double-fisting rejects from the styling table, we tried our own hand at food photography. Not too bad, if I do say so myself, but let’s be honest – how hard can it be to make a pile of blueberry glazed doughnuts look like a million bucks? There was enough talent, taste, and technique in the room to go around, but what we learned from our hosts was that food isn’t just beautiful on it’s own. It takes a stylist, a photographer, and a passionate chef rolled into one to make it look as good (or better) than it tastes.
When it was time to leave, we were convinced both that 1. we would never be hungry again, and 2. that the day had been at least partially a dream. We can’t say enough wonderful things about our hosts, and hope you’ll check out their own recaps of the day hitting the web on Friday, May 15th at Portland Fresh and Adventures in Cooking!