You know the expression "eat with your eyes"? It is 100% true. When a dish is visually appealing it immediately becomes more appetizing (whether it actually is or not is another matter). How food looks is one of the first sensory criteria that we all use to make decisions as to whether or not we want to eat it. This is especially important when it comes to food presented in advertisements, cookbooks, menus, and movies. When people cannot smell, touch or taste food - all of which are important factors in one’s decision to choose to eat something - it is absolutely critical to make food as attractive and visually delectable as possible...and this is where "food styling" comes in.
Meet Susan Spungen, food stylist in Jason Reitman's new film, Labor Day starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Spungen is no stranger in the film world - her first foray into feature films was as the Culinary Consultant and Food Stylist on the popular Julie & Julia, where she did everything from consult with director Nora Ephron about what food should appear in the film, to training Amy Adams and Meryl Streep how to cook onscreen, to making it all look delicious. Since then, she has been the Food Stylist on the hit movies It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep as well as Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Roberts.
Susan Spungen spent hours coaching actors Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet on pie-making for their roles in Labor Day
She was charged with the responsibility of creating “The Greatest Pie-Making Scene in Cinema History" in the Golden Globe-nominated drama. "I baked cases upon cases of peaches, pounds upon pounds of dough," says Spungen in her interview with O, The Oprah magazine, "Styling on movies is grueling, but worth it when the food gets a close-up."
From what I have read so far it seems like Spungen has nailed it in Labor Day - the intimate dessert scene where Brolin instructs Winslet on how to bake the perfect peach pie has been compared to pottery scene involving Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in 1990's Ghost!
Gattlin Griffith, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in Labor Day
A HOT, STEAMY and SEXY PIE-MAKING scene that evokes memories of the FAMOUS POTTERY SCENE in GHOST? I can't wait to see this!
Josh Brolin is Frank and Kate Winslet is Adele in Labor Day
Here are some of Spungen's pointers on food styling:
"I go mad for color. Right now, not enough green or purple can find its way into my food." Spungen advises treating large white plates as a canvas: "Look at food like a painting. Think about the composition." When plating a main course, she says, a good rule is to place the protein at 6 o'clock and then group the rest, with little negative space. Garnishes (herbs, microgreens) add freshness. Above all, she warns against getting too fussy. "Simplicity and elegance do go together," Spungen says. "I'm a big fan of dishes that look effortless. That means relaxing your hands when plating. Don't be afraid to gently toss food onto the plate, so it looks like it just landed there."
All I've mentioned so far is this movie's intimate pie-making moment which is obviously just a fraction of the entire film. Labor Day, for which Winslet received a Golden Globe nomination for the best actress in a drama, is much more than that; it's a film about love, passion, and betrayal. Here's a synopsis of the movie:
"The movie Labor Day centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives."
Want to attend the advance screening of Labor Day on Wednesday, January 29 at Scotiabank Theatre? If your answer is "YES!" then keep your eyes peeled for my giveaway on Monday, January 20 where I'll be giving away 5 PAIRS of screening passes!
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