When Lilia Temple was a student at the CIA and was thinking of merging her love of sculpture with her love of food, she asked one of the chefs if he knew of anyone she could talk to about food styling. He replied, “Oh, there’s some woman in the Midwest who does a lot of it.” Well, what was once limited to a “lone” woman has now turned into thousands of people. With the explosion of cooking magazines, cookbooks, and the Food Network, food styling has become its own industry. And, within the industry there is specialization.
First a chef at a club and then in catering, Lilia moved quickly to the test kitchens of General Foods. But even though she was armed with her CIA training, she made a hash of her first assignment there. She was charged with redesigning a cookie recipe, so naturally Lilia set about her task using the Hobart mixer and produced a batch of 150 cookies. She learned quickly that the household consumer needed a recipe for 24 cookies to be made with a hand mixer! First lesson learned. But as much as Lilia enjoyed the test kitchen, food styling was still on her mind and she was determined to make it happen. She even enrolled in a weeklong continuing education course on food styling at the CIA.
In the early years of her food styling career, plate set-ups would be quickly photographed with a Polaroid camera so the customer could request adjustments during the shoot—but that process was long and food wilted quickly on the plate. Today’s digital cameras and computers make it possible for clients to get the instant gratification of seeing the work in progress, making the feedback process easier. But the basic challenge is still the same—taking sketches from ad agencies and translating them into plate layouts that have the right perspective and celebrate the food. After years of developing professional relationships with photographers, Lilia styles jobs for Kraft, Unilever, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Pepperidge Farm.
With a desire to expand her creative muscles Lilia recently started a new business, StlyEyes by Lilia, an interior design consulting business for people on a budget who need help in transforming their homes from “ho-hum” to something stylish and comfortable. Whether working with food or designing a room, Lilia certainly has style.