Food Stylist - Job Description, Salary and Career Outlook

Food Stylist Photo

Have you ever seen a magazine ad featuring the most-amazing looking hamburger in the world? Chances are you are looking at the handy work of a food stylist.

Equal parts culinary artist and scientist, a food stylist is responsible for creating the most-appetite arousing food possible – although it isn’t always for eating. Their special food creations are often made for commercials, cookbooks, films and photo shoots with the emphasis placed more on looks than flavor.

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Food Stylist Job Description

Typically trained as professional cooks, food stylists create lip-smacking dishes that are used for a wide variety of media-based companies.

You can find their work in any number of advertisements, television shows, cookbooks and other advertisement platforms. Using their culinary experience, along with some science and creativity, their main objective is to create the picture perfect plate, with emphasis on the “perfect” part.

Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss exactly what is needed
  • Creating multiples of the same product to make the perfect one
  • Staying on top of the latest food trends
  • Showing-up early and leaving late from photo shoots or television segments
  • Working and maintaining good relationships with vendors for top quality ingredients
  • Quality checking every ingredient to find the perfect examples
  • Helping to create concepts, designs and samples for clients
  • Maintaining a portfolio of previous work
  • Collaborating with the photographer and art directors
  • Keeping a list of proven recipes that best fit the need
  • Being ready to anticipate problems to quickly and efficiently rectify
  • Create a strong network of photographers, prop stylists and others
  • Coordinating with other staff and keeping the job as stress free as possible
  • Using your creativity, eye for detail, experience and out of the box thinking to make it perfect
  • Check and double-check everything involved to make sure it is as perfect as possible

Food Stylist Salary Expectations

Food stylists are normally paid on a per-job basis rather than hourly. Their annual median salary is upwards of $50,000 per year according to’s January 2013 report.

Depending on factors such as location, type of employer, experience and reputation, some freelance food stylists can make well over $150,000 per year.

Those working for agencies, studios, publications or television shows normally fall in to a salary range of $30,000 to $50,000 per to become a food stylist

Career Outlook

It is difficult to project the long-term career outlook for food stylists for a number of reasons – mainly due to the fact that their profession is fairly-small in size. Nonetheless, over the past few decades, the food stylist profession has grown slowly with the needs of various media outlets.

How to Become a Food Stylist

A good place to begin your journey to become a food stylist is culinary arts training either through a culinary institute or trade school. Even though formal training is currently not required, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts can be very helpful in understanding and knowing what the food or dish should look like.

Working with an experienced food stylist is also helpful since one would be able to learn the tricks of the trade a little easier than continued experimentation. It is also recommended that an aspiring food stylist take a few classes in art as well as business – especially if one wants to work as a freelancer.