November 20, 2014

Tips + tricks for a flawless Thanksgiving from food stylist John Kruusi

John Kruusi is a home cook, food stylist, blogger and recipe writer — who recently joined us to style the stunning Stocksy Thanksgiving Feast in Toronto. We caught up with John, who has been flexing his food styling prowess on season two of NBC’s Hannibal, to talk styling and learn some tips and tricks for hosting your own delicious and beautiful Thanksgiving dinner.

// First off, where did your love affair with food begin — and how did it result in food styling?

I don’t think there’s an origin story that explains my love of food. I’ve always been hungry. I’m a hungry person and I found cooking was the most satisfying way to serve myself. Food styling is a great excuse to make food my work.

// How does styling for TV differ from styling for print?

When you’re styling for print, you have a lot of control over each element in the dish being shot. There’s opportunity to adjust the plate depending on the angle being shot, filling in gaps, loosening sauces, arranging cherry tomatoes to look perfectly jumbled. You need that because the reader is going to have the chance to stare and pick apart that image. On TV, you sometimes get that but the actor is still going to move things around as they interact with it. It’s all being shot in HD so viewers can see what’s happening on the plate in detail but it flashes across the screen in a matter of seconds.

// What trends are you currently seeing in the industry?

People have finally moved away from copying Donna Hay and switched over to Kinfolk. It seems we’re now all okay with showing food that isn’t so perfectly controlled and neat, instead displaying them on surfaces like a stained baking sheet, helping to show that the food in the picture is real and came from an actual kitchen.

// What are the most common mistakes people make when hosting large dinner parties?

The most common advice is to never experiment with new dishes but I think that’s incredibly boring. Show off in front of your guests and make sure everything you do looks effortless, even if you’ve just spent the 20 minutes prior to their arrival crying into the fondue. If you do screw something up, never admit guilt and be adamant that you meant the dish to turn out that way—once you give someone the opportunity to critique your food, they’ll take it.

“...and make sure everything you do looks effortless, even if you’ve just spent the 20 minutes prior to their arrival crying into the fondue.”

// To make us all feel a bit better about our own hosting mishaps, what has been your biggest food related disaster?

I think I’ve probably blocked them all from memory but if I did have one, I’d never admit to it.

// What are you thankful for this year?

I’m thankful I get to be creative and play with food for a living.

John Kruusi's tips for a successful (and beautiful) Thanksgiving Feast

  • Think about colours and textures on the plate. Is there enough green? How many creamed vegetables are there?
  • Cook elements ahead of time so there’s only assembly and reheating right before serving.
  • Avoid making everyone’s favourite casserole. It’s easy to end up with five different casseroles on the table, which makes for a mushy plate.
  • Think about how much alcohol you’ll need to serve — then double it.
  • Don’t skimp on the butter.

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