"Boo-licious!" food stylist Liesl Maggiore beautifies a trio of Frankenpeppers before the big shoot.
Tricks and treats of the trade were revealed when VT photographer Jen Gotch welcomed me into her home-turned-foodie-photo shoot for a look behind the scenes of Octobers Easy Entertaining spooktacular, Boo-licious!.
When I arrived at Jens cozy Los Angeles abode, Latin jazz tunes filled the kitchen where food stylist Liesl Maggiore was busy cooking up whole-wheat spaghetti brains for stuffed Frankenpeppers. I asked Liesl if there were any tricks she used to create that glowing allure that beckons hungry readers towards the magazine racks. Did she buff the olives? Paint the bell peppers that perfect shade of red?
Sometimes I use a Q-tip to wipe off a drip, or to push a piece of food into place, she explained, glancing occasionally at the recipe printouts taped to the cupboard. But I have to follow the recipe exactly as its written.
There you have it ladies and gentlementhe secret to visually stunning food: a Q-tip!
Soon, Boo-licious! recipe developer Lisa Leconte arrived with her own box of tricks, which included adorable nori face punches she found at an Asian market. After filling the bell peppers with spaghetti, little nori eyes and mouths gave each Frankenpepper its own ghoulish personality. Meanwhile, a blender of mysterious green ooze sat on the counter, its ingredients yet to be revealed.
Next, I followed Jen out back to her prop barn where her new puppy, Philip, guarded a treasure trove of pieces collected during her years as a prop stylist. Dinnerware, flatware, and serving pieces in myriad shapes and colors lined the barns shelves. Patterned textiles and ribbons overflowed from shopping bags, and decorative decals and doo-dads spilled out of clear craft boxes.
Jen pulled simple pieces to compliment the veggies vivid reds and greens and carried them inside to be washed and ironed. When Leisl brought the Spooky Swamp Serpent recipe to the staging table, I finally found out what that green sludge was: a slithering cheese serpent trawled through a swamp of bright green guacamole hidden by a curtain of snap pea crisps.
I was surprised by how natural Jens process was. Save for a single studio light that spent most of its time in the corner, her photographs relied on the soft sunlight hitting the living room window. After snapping pictures of a few different arrangements, her husband, digital tech Andrew Gotch, uploaded the photos for light retouches.
I couldnt leave the shoot before taste-testing the leftover vegan marshmallows that made the bodies of Lisas creepy Marshmonsters. With a marshmallow in each hand, I said my goodbyes to the crew as they wrapped up the shoot. Outside, the first signs of fall were brewingI couldnt wait to taste what it brings!
Sarah J. Montoro, Editorial Intern
For a Halloween menu that's sure to trick kids into eating their veggies, check out "Boo-licious!" in the October 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times.