I do a lot of food segments on TV, showing everything from steaks to ice cream recipes to full menus for Thanksgiving dinners.
Each food segment requires a talented food stylist who can prepare and present the food in a gorgeous way - while making sure everything is edible and delicious so that the hosts can sample it on-air.
Last fall, for a segment in L.A., I was referred to Hannah Canvasser by another food stylist I have worked with for many years. Hannah grilled and styled cheeseburgers for my cheeseburger and wine pairing segment, paying meticulous attention to detail to make sure each burger was perfectly prepared and garnished. In addition to food styling, Hannah has a side business that will make you want to click over and order the yummy frozen treats they offer - especially if you are among my many friends who love Southern banana pudding.
Let me introduce you to...
What do you do?
I am a food stylist based in Los Angeles, California. I also have a full-time “side gig” running a frozen dessert business called little spoon frozen pudding, which I co-founded with my boyfriend. We like to call it ice cream's rich cousin, and the coolest thing about it is that it doesn't melt like ice cream does - it just turns into pudding! Hurray, no ice cream soup after five minutes!
Where do you live, where are you from, and where did you go to school?
I live in Los Angeles, California and grew up in San Luis Obispo, California. I graduated from UCI with a BA in Psychology and Social Behavior and went on to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu-San Francisco.
How did you get started in food styling?
I worked in some amazing restaurants during and after culinary school: Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Michael Tusk's Quince in San Francisco. I was fascinated with the art of plating and felt and still feel that it makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of food. Before the world became obsessed with documenting and posting every meal they ate on social media, I was obsessed with looking at photos of beautiful food. I started to become interested in the idea of a career as a food stylist, though I honestly did not know much about what the work entailed. After contacting a few food stylists to pick their brain I was told L.A. was the place to be, so I threw all of my belongings in my Volvo and drove down to L.A. with the intent to pursue food styling. I landed an internship with Anne Willan and simultaneously began networking as hard as I could to get my foot in the food styling door. One job led to another, and here I am!
What is your typical work day like?
As a freelancer and business owner I do not have a typical work day. I would say this is the best and worst thing about freelancing. I can receive anywhere from one month to one day's notice before a job, that's the freelance and entrepreneur hustle! If I am booked for a shoot I'll typically have multiple emails and pre-production calls set up to discuss all details. Every shoot is different, so it's important to ask all the proper questions to make sure the client, agency, photographer, set designer, prop stylist and I are all on the same page and that I understand the look and feel that the client is going for. I'll usually receive a shot list so that I know exactly what we will be doing on the day of the shoot and depending on the size of the shoot I'll have a certain number of shop and prep days to prepare anything that can be done ahead of time. On the shoot day it's all about flexibility and communication because once something is in front of the camera, opinions on look and feel can always change!
Photo credits (clockwise from top left): Caren Alpert, Renee Kalmar, Renee Kalmar, Renee Kalmar
What is the most challenging food you have ever had to style?
I'd say that one of the more particularly challenging foods to style is real ice cream (because sometimes fake ice cream made of shortening and powdered sugar, or freezing real scoops of ice cream on dry ice will do!). It's not as easy as you might think to get that perfect scoop and perfect drip without it totally melting under hot lights in front of the camera!
As a food stylist, you work with so many different types of food. But what are your favorite dishes to cook and eat at home?
At home I like to keep things simple. I have always been a true believer of using super fresh and local ingredients that already taste so good, not much needs to be done to them! Some of my favorite meals to make these days are grilled tri-tip with a Santa Maria rub, cumin roasted carrots with lime juice and avocado, anything with a chimichurri sauce, and Greek salad in a lemon oregano vinaigrette with toasted chickpeas. We are lucky enough to have a lemon tree and tomato plants in our backyard, so I try to include them in my meals as much as possible!
Tell us about little spoon frozen pudding.
Little spoon frozen pudding began as a happy accident last summer. My boyfriend and I packed a picnic for an outdoor movie and made way too much southern banana pudding. We couldn't stand the idea of throwing away the leftovers so we tried to freeze it. The flavor was still on point, but the texture was all wrong. We spent all of last summer playing with the recipe until we got it to that perfect creamy ice cream consistency. The BEST thing about it is that it doesn't melt like ice cream does, it just turns into pudding! That means no ice cream soup and the perfect treat for trips to the beach, picnics, ice cream cakes, weddings, kids birthday parties and just about anything else. We are based in Los Angeles and are in a handful of small specialty retail stores in the area as well as in Michigan and Colorado. We also ship nationwide and cater!
What inspires you?
What DOESN'T inspire me is the better question! I see inspiration in many things. Food culture is everywhere these days and any time I see anything on social media, at farmers' markets, or even just at home while I'm cooking can serve as major inspiration.
What tips would you offer people who want to work in the food industry?
Get out there and do it! Culinary school was a lot of fun and definitely gave me a confidence and foundation, but most everything I learned came from actually working in the field.