VOA TV – Stylist’s Job Is to Make Food Look Pretty for the Camera

To Lisa Cherkasky, every detail makes a big difference. She is looking for just the right position for this topping on a salmon sandwich. Finally, everything seems picture perfect.

Cherkasky is a food stylist. Her job is to make food look tasty.

LISA CHERKASKY: “It helps to have a good eye, being able to look at an image, and see if it needs a different color, needs to be balanced another way. Also you need to understand food. You need to understand how it works chemically, how it works gastronomically. It’s sort of like making a painting, I think, or a sculpture, so it has to be appealing aesthetically.”

Today, Cherkasky is styling bread from the Gold Crust Baking Company. Nausika Lyubinsky is a part owner of the company. Cherkasky prepares the food so that it is camera-ready. She often employs tricks or devices designed for other uses.

LISA CHERKASKY: “It might be a paint stripper because it produces heat but not, it doesn’t blow like a hairdryer so you can warm something. It might be a grill starter that is used to make grill marks. I use Armor All that I spray on things to keep it moist.”

Cherkasky began to explore food at home when she was in high school. She later studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked in the restaurant business.

LISA CHERKASKY: “And then I was looking to make a change to get out of restaurant work. And I started working for Time-Life books in Alexandria. I started there doing recipe development, and styling was part of the job.”

She now works with food photographer Renee Comet.

RENEE COMET: “We’re all working as a team. If I don’t have a stylist, I can’t concentrate on what I need to do. I mean it’s … it’s just part, it’s what makes a great photograph. Lisa and I probably have done maybe 30 cook books together over the years.”

Cherkasky has done work for cookbooks, magazines, newspapers and food companies. Nausika Lyubinsky’s company has a website for showing its products.

NAUSIKA LYUBINSKY: “They see things that, you know, we don’t, we’re not used to seeing and it’s wonderful. What we wanted to do is make sure these photos are attractive, that, you know, the chefs say, ‘I want that on my menu,’ you know, ‘mmm’ or ‘that looks good, I can make a sandwich out of it.’ So it’s very important.”

Cherkasky says her work was difficult for many years.

LISA CHERKASKY: “You couldn’t really read anything then. Now you can read. There is tons to read online now about food styling, but 25 years ago, you teach yourself. You can now take classes, and you can take it online.”

It also helps if you love food. Cherkasky says she loves to look at food, eat it and even read about it. She says food pulls people together. I’m Mario Ritter.