When you think of a “stylist,” you probably envision someone with an artistic eye for fashion or home design. But have you ever heard of a food stylist? These culinary professionals translate an image of food into an experience: something you can taste, or want to taste, just by looking at it. Top culinary professionals, restaurants, culinary publications and food brands rely on food stylists to put their “best food forward.”
Enter Heidi Robb.
Like many of us, Robb wasn’t familiar with the concept of food styling – until she found herself doing it.
“My entire working life was in the food industry, and until I became a food stylist ten years ago, I didn’t know it was a job,” said Robb.
Robb worked for years in restaurants, from front of house to back of house. She was also a pastry chef, traditional caterer, private, high-end caterer, personal chef and restaurant group executive. Her positions ran the gamut, but always led back to food.
As her career advanced, Robb began dabbling in more non-traditional culinary roles, such as recipe ideation, food product development and cookbook recipe generation. Her talents earned the attention of famed Cleveland chef Michael Symon. When the Food Network wanted to shoot episodes out of his house, Symon tapped Robb to assist as a food stylist.
This experience was the impetus for Robb’s 10+-year food styling career – a career she was able to build right in her beloved hometown of Cleveland.
“We have some phenomenal talent here, on par with any of the bigger cities,” said Robb. “I'm very lucky to be able to work with my key photographers and set stylists ... we have built-in business! Vitamix is here, Nestle and their subsidiaries, Libbey Glass, and many more local industries which serve to keep all of us whirring and humming along.”
Robb’s client roster also includes Steelite International, La Lechera, California Pizza Kitchen, Burger King, Kroger, Big Lots, Bed Bath & Beyond, Logan’s, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, PBS, Tru Roots, Smucker’s, Outshine and Folgers.
Robb applies a distinct vision and approach for each unique client, taking in inspiration at every turn.
“I scroll through Instagram to keep current and on-trend, yet staying true to what feels honest,” said Robb. “My home is filled to the brim with new and vintage cookbooks, and I refer to them regularly, if not daily. All of these avenues serve to fuel my creativity, as well as cooking and testing recipes and techniques at home almost daily.”
What is Robb’s vision for Vitamix?
“When I think of Vitamix, my direction is fresh, fresh, fresh-seasonal,” she continued. “I bring to mind all of the glorious textures available to us through our farmers and markets.”
Robb has helped the brand cultivate an image of health and wellness, by styling food for images used in everything from website photography to product packaging.
Robb grew up watching her mom blend carrot juice, cocktails and holiday eggnog in a Vitamix machine. Robb herself employed a Vitamix blender to make nut milks and vegan cheeses for her private catering business … but she gained a new appreciation for Vitamix while styling food for Simply Blending.
“My Vitamix relationship rose to a new level during the creation of that book; it gave me an opportunity to explore in ways I hadn’t before,” explained Robb. “For example, I learned how Vitamix is used for baking – doughs and flours – and how to work with it that way.”
Robb’s style is fresh, honest, organic and dialed-down in its abundance. Keeping the focus minimal and true allows the eye to take in the “hero”, while having negative moments to rest.
“A little bit elegant, and a little bit disheveled, and a lot the way I love to eat,” said Robb. “It’s real.”
Robb’s work with Vitamix doesn’t stop when she finishes a project; she uses Vitamix blenders daily at home. Robb’s favorite blends include daily smoothies, soups, batch marinades, dressings, a slushed iced tea and flours.
Robb offers simple advice for those interested in the culinary industry, no matter the role: become a good cook.
“Cook every day, familiarize yourself with markets and shopping and learn to own your eye to ingredients,” said Robb. “You don’t have to go to culinary school. Work in the industry, assist where you can – whether that’s a photo studio or a restaurant. Hands-on experience is the best.”