Alok Verma (25) studied medicine but dressing up wounds was not for him. It was dressing up plates of food that he rather felt at home with.
Verma said, “Food styling is a niche concept in our country. It is a form of culinary art that involves the process of cooking, placing, arranging and garnishing food and playing around with props and backdrops to give the food a makeover. While this may seem quite appealing, it certainly isn’t the easiest job in the world as a food stylist has to be on his toes throughout a 12-15 hours shoot. Playing around with aesthetics and the science of food plays a big role in mastering food styling.”
Verma changed his profession while interning as a doctor after completing his MBBS. Verma, a resident of Goregoan, pursued MBBS from Grand Medical College in 2015. After completing MBBS, like every other student, he started interning at Sir JJ Group of Hospitals. “While interning at JJ Hospital, I realized that this profession is not giving me the satisfaction which it was giving others. So, I started looking for something else,” Verma said. That’s when Verma started with his food blogging. He said that initially, in the year 2015, he began with food blogging and his first platform to display his work was Instagram.
Verma further says when he was into food blogging, to take this at the next level, he got in touch with PR companies that help him get assignments. “Its been two years now that I have been a full time food stylist,” Verma said. Not just the PR agencies but his Instagram handle “allaboutthatpalate” has also helped him grow in the food industry.
Speaking about his work, Verma says he usually gets an assignment from restaurant and food brands. “After receiving assignment call, I start with meeting the chef or the owners of the hotel to discuss the menu. After knowing the menu, I select the appropriate backdrops, I go sourcing for the right props and crockery, and chalk up a plan to style the dish to be shot. Then I discuss my ideas prior to the shoot with the chefs. On the day of the shoot, prior to the dish prepared by the chef, I have to set up the back drop, props and crockery,” Verma said.
Verma added, “The styling of a dish keeps changing on the day of the shoot as not everything goes as per our thought process and chalked out plans. It takes 15 minutes or sometimes two hours to get the desired result. In a day, we avoid shooting over 15 dishes as it can easily result in creative saturation.”
Verma further says, “These days I have seen so many people using photoshop to create background or any effect, because it is easy, it is in the budget and saves time, but I always make sure that my work looks natural. For example, during my last shoot to show the effect of smoke I used incense sticks, but I have seen some people using photoshop instead.”
“Of course, medicine is going to be knowledge for life, there are no regrets but I couldn’t be happier about pursing my passion,” Verma said. It has been two years since Verma started working full-time as a food stylist. Verma says, “I have been baking with my mother since I was four-years-old. Also, to explore more about this profession, I started following these Russian and Ukrainian food stylists on Instagram and You Tube. I never really pursued any course in food styling as there isn’t any in India as of now. It is all as a result of getting inspiration from others around the world that are doing the same.”
Verma styles dishes from various cuisines including Indian, Japanese and Chinese. He also styles mocktails, cocktails, desserts and what makes him sweat is ice-cream. “The most difficult thing to shoot is ice-cream. We shoot at a length of 12 hours sometime. As we all know that ice cream melts and can ruin a perfectly designed shot easily. In that case, at times, we have to use aged dough and make it look like akin to ice cream,” Verma shares a trade secret.
Verma says that a food stylist can easily make a six figure pay, with the right progress and marketing skills. Verma has won the Best Instagram Food Stylist at the Indian Food Bloggers’ Awards in 2016 and 2017.