(From Bianca Borges Henry, TODAY Food Stylist)
Hello there! I'm writing this blog with Kobe beef in my belly, and it's quite a fabulous job perk to be able to taste something like Kobe, be it breakfast time or otherwise.
If you eat food, :) ..... if you like food, then I'm happy to be sharing one of the best jobs in the industry with you.
In one of Al's blogs, when he came into the prep kitchen for a behind-the-scenes expose`, he repeatedly made fun of our blog's title, "AllDay", and in Al's perfected manner it got funnier each time. To counter our beloved Al, I defend the title, for it very aptly defines what it takes to put this three-hour show together, (soon to be four... eeek!). It takes AllDay, and most of the night, to launch TODAY. As for the food.....
The prep kitchen wakes around 5:30-6:00am, coffee is made, cutting boards are laid out, the show's schedule is checked, and the rhythm begins. We open the fridge and remove yesterday's pre-prep, which may include raw vegetables that have been diced, julienned, blanched, pureed, meats that have been marinated, turkeys that have been cleaned and brined, doughs that have been made and rested, cake layers awaiting frosting, soups and stews that have been halfway cooked, waiting to be finished and tweaked for the camera.
Which brings me to the term "food stylist". I've been saying for 12 years that I am one, yet I still struggle to offer a concise definition. Technically, a food stylist prepares food for visual effect. There is food-styling in photography, or still camera, including photos in magazines, cookbooks, advertising and food packaging. Then there is food-styling for live camera, such as TODAY, which comes to you literally live, and for commercials and cooking shows, which are generally taped. The difficulty begins when I try to add, as I always do, that we are also chefs, imagining that the previous definition makes people think of food styling as cosmetic and glamorous. I can't shake the need to emphasize chef, chefchefchef, and possibly point out an arm-burn or two as proof. It's that training, though, that carries us through the rigors of this job, and the incomparable diversity of cooking styles and fused cuisines that pass through our studio every day of every week. There is little room for mistakes, timing is everything, for live means live, and always, always, there are last-minute changes, television being the fast-paced, of-the-moment, endlessly exhilarating medium that it is. "Tuesday's chef is now on Wednesday, and Thursday is now tomorrow.....", or, "There will be a chef on the plaza making a $1,000.00 pizza.... tomorrow", or, "Sixteen cheesecakes are being delivered for an on-air tasting and will need to be sliced and plated.... tomorrow", see a theme?
You already know the variety and caliber of culinary guests we have on TODAY. We have proudly built a department that focuses on the needs of our daily guests, being chefs, cookbook authors, and nutritionists, among others, for it is their recipes and reputation that are being offered to you, and it is crucial that they feel comfortable with how they are presented. That is one of the reasons that we set-up all production segments on the afternoon before the morning's show. In other words, beginning at 4pm on Monday afternoon, we will block-out and prop any food-related segment that is scheduled for Tuesday morning's show. Gathering in the studio will be the culinary guest, the segment producer, the set designer and myself. We will walk through the steps of any recipe being demonstrated and lay out all cookware, utensils and equipment that will be used on-air. We will also lay out all plates that will hold the "beauty" dishes, which are those that are shown in their finished state. The floral designer will have made an arrangement reflecting the theme of the cooking segment, and we will select a tablecloth and set-dressing that coordinates. And the all-important Post-Its, such a crucial part of our planning and organization! Every empty bowl and plate gets a post-it that states what it will eventually hold. That way, in the brain-fog of early morning, there is less chance of anything being forgotten. Not a guarantee, just less chance.....
All in all, it's quite fantastic being the "food person" for TODAY. Our staff and crew are interested, curious and inquisitive, so I get the pleasure of answering many questions about home cooking. My culinary teaching background urges me to offer more advice than they ask for, but it's when someone returns to say that the such-n-such that they made came out great, and they're smiling, that I realize that what we offer to you, our viewer, has an impact. Something for everyone, something you didn't know before, and something that reaches home. WATCH VIDEO
If you've read this, you're likely interested in food, and I like that in a person!
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to be nice to the lunch lady.