Founder, Food Stylist, F&B Consultant Nitin Tandon is a well-known figure in the food and hospitality circles. He spent almost a decade in the Kitchens of Taj and Obero is before running his own restaurants & banquet services such as Seijo & The Soul Dish, Potpourri, Lemongrass Cafe & Fete Banquets.
With over 25 years of experience in the field of Food Styling, currently he has sought out to provide exquisite craftsmanship for brands in the F&B and Hospitality sectors, in order to successfully market themselves, through their food. His venture Nitin Tandon Food Styling Company provides imagery solutions for print, videos, digital, magazines, package launches, coffee table books, restaurant menus and ATL/BTL advertising campaigns.
In 2012 he was listed among the top 50 Masterchefs of India by the Indian Chef association. He has also been TV chef for two shows on FOOD FOOD– ‘Chef se hai Muqabla’ and ‘Sirf tees minute’.
Amongst the innumerable accolades earned along the way, one of his prized feathers in his cap is the award for the “Best Food Stylist” , presented at the ZEE Living Foodz Powerlist Awards 2016
HospiBuz brings you an exclusive interview, straight from the words of Nitin Tandon, to know more about him and how he evolved from his experiences, his journey and his views on current market trends.
HospiBuz: Your experience and passion for food shines through your amazing food styling. What drove you towards being into such a unique profession of Food Styling and the urge for an expedition in this field?
Many a times destiny leads you to the unknown. I chanced upon this profession. Our dessert store, Melting Moments & Potpourri in Bandra were often visited by the great advertising world. Especially, at a time when not more than 5 of us were around to service the entire advertising industry. It was a boon.
HospiBuz: Food styling isn’t just about taking a delicious image; it’s a way to tell a story about tastes, seasons, and aesthetics. How you capture this story? Please also tell us about the role and importance of a food stylist.
Hair stylist and costume stylist play key roles in executing a fashion shoot. Likewise, I cant imagine a food shoot without a food stylist.
We capture all the brand and product values in an image and those images evoke memories> these memories tell stories.. Food is very integral part of life stories.
HospiBuz: The field of Food styling and photography is said to be the least known field in India. What are some of the obstacles you have faced and how did you overcome it?
As of now I think not more than 20 stylists around to take care of 1.2 billion food loving Indians. I too wonder why? Styling is a food professional’s journey and experiences that get to play at work..Years of culinary learning and exposure to art and design works for this job. A job driven by creativity and passion is the key.
Unfortunately, there are few gurus to learn from and no schools to teach this as a course. Huge barrier…I personally relied on my chefs learning over the years from work at 5 star hotels, running my diverse food and beverage business. The internet, television and other media teaches you a lot. Travel around the world is a real teacher. One has to train his life to observing and interacting with food.After a design or food background and some years of learning and practice one should be ready for his second career. FOOD STYLING..
HospiBuz: What are some of the basic underlying facts that you take care of while doing the styling of the food? Is there any difference in food styling in case of advertising to packaging or menu design to that for editorial features and websites?
I always start from the end. How and why are the images to be used? What feelings do these pictures need to evoke for the viewer and what product are we selling?
Packaging sells the features of the product. Look what’s inside..
Advertising sells the fantasy of the product. For eg., if you buy this product, life will change or get better
Editorial tells you a candid story about the category of the product or the product itself
Websites are your product brochures. Adding value , showing your products in a very presentable way
Social Media are stories captured about products in real time or being consumed.
So the need changes. Food styling has to provide a spectrum right from candid photography to fantasy for a product. It’s the science of guiding your mind and create food stories for a desired purpose.
HospiBuz: We all know that props play a very important role in food styling. What are some basic tools you have in your styling kit while you plan or execute your project?
A styling kit is a very diverse box of tools , instruments, applications that develop as your art goes alone for years. A visual of part of my tool box is shown below. Don’t wonder what shoe polish is doing in my tool box!
HospiBuz: How is the Food created for plating by chefs is intrinsically different from the food created to be photographed? How do the task of Food styling and Food Photographer complement each other?
A chef plates food for consumption – appeals to satiete his food craving of the day
Food plating for styling is about evoking emotion to buy or consume food. It’s a portrayal varying from candidness to fantasy. A lot also relies on the background props that make the image.
Both follow similar thoughts but not necessary to same method to the subject.The minds of the photographer and the stylist need to collaborate to produce a great food photo. Both can follow their individual creative styles – the stylist lending art and style to the empty canvas while the photographer portraying that art in a unique desired way
HospiBuz: You have great diversity in your portfolio for clients. How do you differentiate the diversity of your clients in comparison to brands like Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins on one hand and Haldiram’s and Amul on other?
Each brand represents a personality of sorts in the market place. Food photography helps endorse or create a visual of the brand in your mind. These food stories are very unique to every brand.
Once a stylist syncs with the brand imagery, the stories begin to become very individual to a particular brand.. then the pictures too follow suit.
HospiBuz: What can be done more in the field of Food Styling?
The entire spectrum of styling needs to enter more arenas of food. From advertising it needs to spread deeply into food and beverage operations. Banquets specially is an obvious application. Weddings and celebration events are already using styling as key enhancer . But the reach presently lies only in the luxury level. It needs to move down deeper.
Enhancing the Plate and service concept is another follow easily. Styling for bloggers, home makers is a rising demand I see. But its not being addressed the way it should be.
Social media is being taken lightly and the candid food expression can surely be stylized and enhanced- means a sea of education and improvement in the way the world sees food stories!!
HospiBuz: Please share a small message that you would like to give to all your admirers and to the aspiring food styling, who dream of entering into this field?
There is a constant evolve and sea change in the way food is seen , felt and consumed in various segments. Styling is not about just a great food photo. Food Design is at threshold of great enhancement and change. The handfull 20 of us cant make this move. The industry requires hundreds of us to accommodate these continuous changes. Many are welcome aboard. If our company can help bring that change to an indivdual or an organisation we will touch your lives in our own way. Please do connect with us.
HospiBuz: HospiBuz is working on its vision to be the most informative media house on hospitality where HospiBuz aims to cover well accomplished and budding heroes of hospitality sector. Please suggest, what should journalism in Hospitality sector covers the most?
I think our industry needs to be bound together. We miss a collective voice at many levels. Various associations and forums are emerging. I think you can be their shout. Also, flow of knowledge and trend analysis is a constant need for the sector.
The quick reforms in laws and tax structures need education and studying its impact is important.
Retail is batting as an industry and has affected Food and beverage deeply. Many are shying away from the industry, industry knowledge & future trends from the gurus of the industry shall bring wisdom.
Thank you so much for your prestigious time !!
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