Party Like A Food Stylist

The recipe photos in Rachael Ray Every Day look so great thanks to talented food stylists who shop, chop, cook, and plate the food so it's ready for its closeup. We got four of our faves together to share their tips, tricks, and awesome recipes so your home cooking can look camera-ready, too.
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rachael ray food stylists at counter

From left: Barrett Washburne, Rebecca Jurkevich, Eugene Jho, and Michelle Gatton

Barrett Washburne

Known For: His gift for garnishing, especially if it involves flowering herbs or tiny pomegranates

Weirdest Days on the Job: “Spending two days searching through a 50-pound bag of dry cat food for the perfect pieces to fill a tiny bowl for an advertising shoot. Yep, pet food needs to be styled, too!”

barrett using mandoline to cut veggies

To get paper-thin veggie slices, Barrett uses a mandoline slicer (above left, with Mark Vasquez, friend and food styling assistant). “Most people are afraid of mandolines, but they shouldn’t be,” Barrett says. “Buy a no-frills one from Benriner and you’ll have it forever.”

Get The Look

barrett supreming grapefruit

Cutting citrus into segments (call them “supremes,” if you wanna sound like a culinary school grad) makes an ordinary grapefruit seem fancier.

Barrett's Fennel, Celery Root & Grapefruit Salad

barretts fennel celery root grapefruit salad

“To keep fennel supercrunchy and fresh-looking, slice the bulbs into a bowl of ice water with a little lemon juice squeezed in,” says Barrett. “Soak until you’re ready to plate. The fennel slices will curl, which looks nice and keeps them from sticking together.”

Recipe: Try Barrett's Fennel, Celery Root & Grapefruit Salad 

Holy Sheet!

barrett with lemon chicken and potatoes

For Barrett, the best-looking (and best-tasting) food starts with the best equipment. “On shoots, we seem to cook everything on heavy-duty half sheet pans,” he says. “I have a ton of them at home, too. I love the no-frills thick aluminum ones from a restaurant supply store. The half sheet gives enough space for the food to caramelize, while the olive oil and chicken fat mix and mingle and get the potatoes all good and crispy.”

Barrett's Lemon Chicken & Potatoes

barretts lemon and chicken with potatoes

Recipe: Try Barrett's Lemon Chicken & Potatoes

Rebecca Jurkevich

Known For: Creating beautiful, delicious messes. Gorgeous imperfection is her calling card.

Weirdest Day on the Job: “Trying to make a giant hat—out of meringue!”

rebecca and eugene selecting berries

Rebecca and Eugene pick the prettiest berries and veggies for their dishes.

You Do You

rebecca preparing pistachio pavlova

“I love changing a dish based on what’s seasonal or feeling beautiful to me,” says Rebecca. “I like to exaggerate the spikiness of the meringue some days; other times, I’ll let it be swirlier. Top the pavlova with edible flowers or nuts or berries or whatever inspires you.”

Rebecca's Pistachio Pavlova with Lemon Cream & Berries

rebeccas pistachio pavlova with lemon cream and berries

Recipe: Try Rebecca's Pistachio Pavlova with Lemon Cream & Berries

Eugene Jho

Known For: Giving food a sense of motion—think waves of salad greens or swirls of pasta.

Weirdest Day on the Job:  “Being asked to create a huge pile of caviar without the budget to buy it. I made it myself, but I’ll never reveal how I did it.”

Absolutely Radishing

eugene soaking watermelon radishes

For maximum crispiness, Eugene soaks watermelon radishes in ice water for a few minutes.

App Stars

frying nuts and woman with cocktail

Nuts are a classic starter nibble, but Eugene mixes things up by frying them in oil until they’re crispy and toasty (above left). He adds a squeeze of lemon to the hot oil, which adds flavor and doubles as a party trick because of the loud sizzle when the juice goes in. The nuts get folded into a creamy feta dip that Eugene serves with a tangy pink cocktail (above right).

Eugene's Whipped Feta Dip with Toasted Nuts

eugenes whipped feta dip with toasted nuts

As any good food stylist knows, crudités are always the right answer. Go for veggies in a variety of colors and shapes and sizes. Make the amount of food feel abundant, but not overwhelming. “Don’t fill your plate to the brim,” Eugene says. “It’s more interesting when you can see a little peek of it.”

Recipe: Try Eugene's Whipped Feta Dip with Toasted Nuts

Eugene's Ginger Jasmine

eugenes ginger jasmine cocktail

Lemon twists and pieces of crystallized ginger give Eugene’s cocktail a finished look. The wide mouth of a coupe glass makes pretty much any drink look (and photograph) better.

Recipe: Try Eugene's Ginger Jasmine

Michelle Gatton

Known For: Drips, drops, swipes, and smears. She’s also a gelatin whisperer. (Click here for proof.)

Weirdest Day on the Job: “Putting a garter belt on a beer-can chicken for a feature for this magazine. It’s a long story.”

Use Herbs for Color

michelle preparing spaetzle dish

While Barrett works on the salad, Michelle gets going on the spaetzle. 

Michelle's Parsley Spaetzle with Mushrooms

michelles parsley spaetzle with mushrooms

"There’s always at least one recipe that needs a little chopped parsley for color,” says Michelle, who concocts use-ups for the rest of the bunch. “This job can be wasteful, so I make sure everybody on set takes something home and I compost like a crazy person. My freezer is just ice cubes and compost bags. But I need more ideas for parsley—there’s always so much parsley!” One great use? This parsley spaetzle, which incorporates both the leaves and the stems. “The brighter you can make your food, the more visually interesting it is,” Michelle says.

Recipe: Try Michelle's Parsley Spaetzle with Mushrooms

And Scene!

stylist megan hedgpeth setting table

Food stylists are in charge of the cooking, but prop stylists, like Megan Hedgpeth (above), handle the dishes, linens, and flowers. “With flowers, my rule is quantity over quality,” Megan says. “It’s better to have more of the same type of flower so an arrangement looks full. And they don’t have to be expensive. I love using grocery-store flowers.”

Bless This Mess!

food stylists enjoying meal at table

“If you’re trying to make your plate of food look good for a picture, less is more and imperfection is great,” says Rebecca. “A cracked piecrust is OK!” In fact, it’s more than OK. It’s proof that a person, not a machine, made the food. “Find the beauty in the mistakes,” says Michelle.