Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My interview with Australian Food Stylist and Author of Wild Sugar Desserts Lyndel Miller

Well today the kitchen is in a bit of a buzz as I am happy to announce that I have my first interview/guest blog post.  Today I have the pleasure to post an interview I gave to fellow food stylist Lyndel Miller. She is chatting today about her life as a food stylist, her new cookbook and other good stuff.



Cover of Wild Sugar Desserts published by New Holland Publishers


Here is lovely Lyndel Miller food, prop and interior stylist, recipe developer and writer who hales from Brisbane Australia.


Lyndel

Interview



In your “about” section on your web page in paragraph 7 you can be found fossicking. Can you tell us non Australian's what that means?


It means to rummage or search for :)
I am constantly searching for props, for my hire catalogue or a particular job. Right now I am on the search for “Kitsch” items which is great fun!


Can you tell me a little bit about the food shots on your portfolio? Were they shots you did for fun or jobs or both?

Most of the photos in my online portfolio (www.lyndelmiller.com) are published works. I can’t wait to have the time to do just some portfolio shots that are just for fun.
You’ll find a lot of dessert images are from my latest book Wild Sugar Desserts which I not only food and prop styled but co-authored.
I contributed over 40 recipes of my own and some from our successful family business.
I am also a recipe developer. I love this aspect of my job also.


In Chicago it is very hard to break into the food styling field. Can you tell me about your experience getting into food styling? Did you assist a stylist first to learn the trade?

I have been very fortunate, in the right place at the right time you could say. During my studies, a mutual friend introduced me to a talented photographer named Mindi Cooke who wanted to break into food. We got together and started doing portfolio work and soon that stemmed into commercial work which Mindi sent my way.


We built a strong relationship and absolutely love working together. Mindi also worked on the book.

I feel right at home with the work. I felt like I had been doing it all my life really and in some respects I had been. I have spent well over 10 yrs in commercial kitchens in the past. I had already been “plating” dishes in a rustic fashion for years.



I would imagine it is the same with other food stylists, you either have it in you or not?

I have jumped at opportunities for TFP (trade for portfolio), this is when photographers and stylists collaborate on a piece of work for free to get a sample for their portfolios, if I have felt the work would benefit my portfolio and I think it is a good idea.
I have been very fortunate as it is difficult here too in Brisbane, Australia. Most work for stylists is generated in Sydney, so you really need to be pro-active. Luckily, I am getting enough work to fuel my passion and I am writing another cookbook which I hope to have published. 


Before I ask you about book number two lets talk about book number one out this month. How did the idea for Wild Sugar Desserts come about?


Wild Sugar Desserts was a gift from Skye Craig (Masterchef Series 2). I had done some styling jobs for Skye, which was a great success, and one thing led to another and Skye offered me to co-author her dessert cookbook with her. We were untied by our love of desserts. We love, cried and danced our way through the book and it evolved into such a thing of beauty. Our publisher loved it so much that they headlined it for the international market. So it should be available in your stores too. It is very exciting. 

We want to give the photographers credit, can you tell me who worked with you on Wild Sugar Desserts?

I worked with Celeste Vlok from Sydney and Mindi Cooke from Brisbane. Both amazing photographers and great fun to work with. 



Has there been a food item or job that was most pleasurable to style? How about one that was bloody awful?
All of it is pleasurable, I just love my craft. I love the challenge.


Not so pleasurable, mmm-real ice cream, you can have some trying moments with it, you have a giggle with the challenge, you have to embrace it.

Do you have a food blog? What do you think of all the food blogs at the moment?

I haven’t had time to make one, but have had a lot of interest. I have a page though at www.facebook.com/lyndelmillerstylist


I really haven’t an opinion on blogs at the moment as I haven’t had the time to explore. I don’t follow any at this time. I love "What Katie Ate", here in Australia, Kate’s work and blog is really fantastic. ME TOO I LOVE HER WORK.

Have you done both commercial and editorial food styling? Which do you prefer?

I love both!! Commercial work is your bread and butter though. 

In Australia do the stylists work on a day rate?


Yes we do. Rates can range from between $650-$1,350 per day AUD 

Is there a food styling tool you could not live without? 


Tweezers, bamboo skewers, baby wipes, lens cleaner and herbamare are my must haves in my styling kit. If I had to pick one thing, that's tough-tweezers.


What do you think are the most important elements of a good food photograph?

That the food is the hero! Composition, and that the food (hero) generates an emotive response. I aim to create "food porn" (can I say that)?

You also rely on the photographer to create beautiful lighting. Some times you may have to direct here to get the result you envisage.



Is there a dream job or client you would love to have? 
I would love to work with my idols in the styling industry. Sibella Court, Glen Proebstel are my favourites!
I love Sharyn Cairns and Chefs Karen Martini, Nigella, Jamie, Yotam, Tessa Kiros, Charmaine Soloman and Ravinger Bhogal...there is a few!:)
I admire them for different reasons, all are fabulous!!! And am sure I am yet to discover others :) 

My dream will be to publish my next book currently in the making with many family secrets. All "Healthy Bee" recipes that peeps used to queue up to 10 metres down the street for. There are treasures to come.



Oh that brings me to my next question. Can you give us a sneaky peak on your next book? 
Well,  the Healthy Bee was our family owned restaurant. It closed 5 years ago after my dad passed away suddenly. People came for miles to eat here. Celebrities would get off at the airport and have their limo drivers pick up supplies from the restaurant for their trips. So this book will be very personal.

I will have recipes that are healthy, easy, inspired deliciousness all done in a kitchy style. Very exciting.



Has social media been a boost to your business and if so how?

It has, I think, and I say that because others think I do it well. Though I don't think I am that savvy, so it could possibly work better for me if I spent some time learning more about it. Any suggestions?

I enjoy networking and connecting with creatives and supporting others. It is a great place to share inspiration. I am loving Pinterest at the moment and have a Food Glorious Food board at pinterest
...it is great fun but I wish artists were credited more for their beautiful work. That is it's downfall I think.

Looking forward to getting a copy of your book and trying some of those gorgeous looking recipes like this one for Strawberry Yoghurt Cheesecake. 





Photography by Celeste Vlok


Strawberry Yoghurt Cheesecake 
This is one of my all time favourite desserts. All credit here, goes to my culinary hero, my Mum, Carole Seymour..It took years to get this recipe mind you, and while I have made this now numerous times, I never tire of it. I modify it often, as does my daughter ( that’s the beauty of it! ) ..My kids jump up and down at the whisper that one may be on it’s way, planned for a Sunday treat…we all love it, I hope you love it too , and make for all you love. Strawberry is my choice of yoghurt, cherry a close second. Thanks MUM !!!! Love you 
Serves 8 -12,( big slices in this house!!)

BASE

1 packet ( 400g / 14 0z ) digestive biscuits or your choice
6-8 tbsp ( 80 - 100g) melted butter ( some biscuits are more absorbent than others)
Butter, for greasing 20 cm spring form pan

FILLING:

2 ½ cups ( 630g ) of your yoghurt of choice or 4 x ( 170 g = 680g ) sized flavoured yoghurt tub ( of course you can use greek yoghurt and add a coulis here, just make to 2 ½ cups..have a play )
250 g ( 9 oz ) cream cheese
1 cup ( 200g / 7 oz ) raw sugar
2 tbsp ( 40g ) powdered gelatin ( or agar agar *)
1/3 cup ( 2 fl oz ) hot water

BASE:

Prepare a spring form pan, cover the base with greaseproof paper or foil and grease over the top and sides of pan with a little butter.

Crush the biscuits, use a food processor or place biscuits in a zip lock bag to suit and roll a rolling pin over the contents until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.

In a small saucepan, over a low heat, melt the butter. Combine the two ingredients and press into the base and sides of the prepared spring form pan.

Place the prepared base in the freezer for 10 minutes, until you add the filling.

FILLING:

Blend the yoghurt, sugar and cream cheese in a blender.

Take the gelatin powder and hot water and mix well, to avoid lumps.

When fully dissolved add to blended yoghurt mix and blend again. At this point don’t walk off to a soapie or answer the phone. Gelatin sets REALLY quickly! )

Remove the pan from freezer, and add the filling, return to fridge to set.

When set remove and run a knife around the edge of pan, release the spring and carefully remove the ring over the top of cake.

Cut to desired serving sizes and serve on it’s own or with Berry Coulis page 00
For the vegetarian or additive sensitive, use Agar Agar as an alternative to animal derived gelatin. 


Thanks so much Lyndel for such a great interview and for sharing a recipe! Through our emails back and forth across the ocean I have come to know you and am happy to call you friend or do you say "mate"?!
If anyone has any questions for Lyndel or myself please leave them in the comments section or email us directly. 

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