If it looks good, it tastes good, right? That's the hope whenever we go to devour our next snack, meal or dessert. It’s no secret that we eat with our eyes, which is why — especially in the age of social media — food styling is such a crucial aspect to any culinary presentation, big or small. And Ashley Robinson knows a thing or two about making food look damn good.
“Fine art was going to be my major in college,” Robinson says. “And then I was like, what can I do, be an art teacher for sixth-graders? I don’t want to do that.”
So she enrolled in culinary school. But rather than aiming to become the next master chef or owning her own restaurant, Robinson, 32, took the food-stylist route.
The change of direction led to a great deal of opportunity for Robinson. From prop styling for Neiman Marcus to shooting with Pier One, the list of Robinson’s accomplishments seems more like a scroll. And the key to making her work stand out is making it relatable.
“The thing about everything that I style is that it is made for the at-home cook,” Robinson says. “It’s something anyone can do with some direction.”
And while taking direction from men in the food industry is the norm, that hasn’t been Robinson’s experience when it comes to food styling in Dallas.
“Honestly, the only food stylists I’ve come in contact with have been women, and very strong women at that,” Robinson says. “They’re not meek. You can’t run over them, which I love.”
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But are all the food-styling myths about motor oil on pancakes and shaving cream as whipped cream true? Forget every video you’ve seen online about food styling, Robinson says, setting the record straight about the reality of food styling.
“People think everything — all the food — is fake. Like we use Elmer’s Glue to make burgers look good, or we use molasses instead of syrup," she says. "Maybe, like, early on in food styling those kinds of things were used, but nowadays the food is so good and green and clean that it’s very easy to make food look beautiful without putting crap on it.”
So what it boils down to is, which is more important: taste or presentation?
“Taste absolutely is important, because it can look good and it can still taste like shit," she says. "But I think that nowadays, with social media, people want to go to Russ & Daughters in New York not because they like lox and bagels, because of the presentation. People want to go to Noma in Scandinavia, not because they’re using these crazy ingredients, but because there’s components built on top of components that make it look so visually pleasing. I might not like white seaweed, but it looks beautiful, so I wanna try it.”