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Denise Vivaldo Headshot

Why My Food Is Always Gonna Look Better Than Yours

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I'm a food stylist. I cook, bake, and engineer food for the camera. I make it sexy, hot, frothy, shiny, and yes, sometimes dripping wet (just like porn, that's usually the money shot). I make you want to lick the spoon, the plate, and the glass, and make you wish you had a second stomach.

I make vegans crave meat and forget about their animal friends. I fool vegetarians every day. It's easy: Rubbing red lipstick on a pear makes it ripe. Undercook all veggies and keep them bright green in pectin.

Go ahead and hate me. I don't care, because beautiful food images to me are more important than ... anything. Yeah, you heard me -- more important than truth, the law, and the reality of your own sad, brown meal.

Disclaimer: You can't eat my food because you'd probably get poisoned and die. The perfect martini glass is sprayed with toxic dulling spray, the creamy milk drip is likely to be white glue or glycerin, and the bubbling cheese is the result of my paint stripper. Those luscious nachos are old ... and the smell? You're not here ... so forget about it.

I'm the bitch that makes that fast food burger look perfectly scrumptious and when you buy yours and unwrap it ... it ain't even close. Sue me.

I sell food. Every picture or image of food is selling something. Don't be naïve. The
food needs me.

I didn't start out as a slut. Hollywood made me this way. I'll work on anything: food, commercials, infomercials, cookbooks, and TV shows. At first it was the glitter of tinsel town, but before I knew it I'd become addicted to the perfect world that is a sound stage and those big, hot, bright lights.

Oh baby, give me great lighting. I'll do anything for a talented DP. I'm not even embarrassed to say that out loud. I love sets, I love fake restaurants, and I love fake tables. I love fake chefs that look like George Clooney and don't stink like a Fry Max (or last night's drink special). Most of all, I love the editing process that makes my plate of fluffy, steaming, golden, pancakes the most important character in the scene.

I never get tired of the fact that I fool the camera. The camera does not detect the cardboard circles stacked between the pancakes to keep them stiff, or that the syrup is nearly frozen so the pour shot comes slow, so slow and sticky and seems warm with mapley goodness (it's Karo Dark syrup and Kitchen Bouquet -- yum).

I love that none of it is real and the kids at breakfast in a commercial are smiling and polite instead of crying and being awful when they are hungry.

I love that the camera makes strangers want pancakes, MY pancakes, enough to go out and buy some, even though those pancakes are never gonna look as good as mine.

Denise Vivaldo's sixth book, The Food Styling Handbook, Gibbs Smith Publishing, will be out in September 2010.

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