If you mention the name Alok Verma in Mumbai's food circuit, you will rarely come across someone who is not aware of him or his impressive work. From a doctor by education to a food blogger by passion, from an e-cookbook author to an extremely talented food stylist, this young man, all of 25, wears many hats with ease. His award winning, drool-worthy instagram handle @allaboutthatpalate is proof of his culinary and food styling prowess.
So today it is an absolute delight to have a tête-à-tête with this handsome man where he lets us into his world of food.
Q. From the field of medicine to that of food, how and when did this fascinating journey commence?
A. I’ve been baking ever since I was a kid and working on recipes with my mum while I was growing up. Medicine or not, I believe food blogging had to fall in the picture for me some time or another. As soon as I got done with my medical internship, I decided to share my love for food with the rest of the world and that’s when “All About That Palate” came into existence.
Q. Why did you decide to enter food styling?
A. Food styling is still a niche concept in India, very technical but also inspirational. It’s a lot of hard work and requires a lot of patience. You have to be creative and not repetitive and add a little bit of you in it. That’s where I found my niche and it has become a profession that I enjoy every bit of.
Q. Who has influenced and inspired you on this journey?
A. It would have to be Instagram. Paulina Kolondra, Marta Greber, Linda Lomelino, Eva Kosmas Flores are just some of the instgrammers whose work especially their proficiency in food styling inspired me immensely. And that’s when I delved into food styling entirely and made sure I kept learning every day.
Q. You mentioned names of food stylists abroad that have inspired you. I’d be interested to know some of your favourite food stylists in India?
A. These are people that never stop inspiring me with their work but some of whom are ever so helpful and have turned out to be good friends to me: Amrita Kaur, Ankiet Gulabani, Deeba Rajpal, Shivesh Bhatia, Swayampurna Mishra Singh, Chandrima Sarkar. I could go on and on mentioning names of people whose work I truly admire and follow.
Q. You are a self-taught food stylist, so if formal courses for food styling are not within reach, how does one begin self-training?
A. With the internet today nothing is impossible. There are tons of YouTube videos where you can get a lot of information. Start following food stylists on Instagram, do not copy but gain understanding from them. Also, experienced food stylists in our country conduct workshops every other month. I’d strongly suggest one to participate in those to get an insight about various nuances of food styling. In addition start defining a creative route for yourself and work towards it.
Q. What is the creative route you take to style food shots?
A. My approach to a food shot, mostly, is quite minimalistic. I like using dark textured backdrops, dark linens, dark crockery to make the colours of my food stand out. As supporting elements on the side, I only use equipment or ingredients that have been used in making the food. A human touch, occasionally, breaks the flow of shots and serves as an improvisation. So at times I have someone with a neat manicure hold that luscious ice cream or a cupcake for my food shot.
Q.According to you, what are the requisites for styling an Instagram-worthy food shot?
A. Arm yourself with essential props, this can be old crockery/earthenware or some gorgeous antique plates, chipped bowls, tea sets that you come across at local markets. Always work with natural light, I usually conduct my recipe shoots between 9 am and 4 pm against a large windowpane in my apartment and end up capturing good light. Invest in a good full frame camera and 50 mm & 85 mm lenses for food photography that make your viewers appreciate your food in focus. Buy a 5 in 1 reflector on Amazon, which isn’t quite expensive, and which you can use to prevent shadows in your images. Also try fetching MDF boards and paint them the way you want to create textures for a backdrop.
Q. What are the avenues to stay abreast with the latest trends in Food Styling?
A. Instagram will always top the list for me. Also, invest in cookbooks and food magazines by some eminent food bloggers out there. There isn’t a better way to add to your knowledge.
Q. What message do you have for those beginning out in food styling?
A. Food Styling is challenging but a lot of fun. Social media is full of budding and experienced food stylists so learn as much as you can and share your knowledge with the rest of the world. It will also help shape your personality by building up patience, your artistic skills and making you think outside the box and giving you immense joy when you’ve styled a shot better than you ever have before and receiving appreciation from someone that matters.
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast