This week, I caught up with Food Stylist and cook, Lara Luck.
If you’re interested in building a brand, working in food and being a self starter, read on.
“I’ve always had a love of food,” says Lara, speaking from her home town in Essex. “I’d often look through food magazines and think, how do they come up with that photography and make the food look so amazing and scrumptious? I knew it was something that I wanted to do.”
Whilst at work in a desk job, Lara would clear her in-tray and spend the afternoon emailing food editors, “I’d send maybe a hundred emails, hear back from perhaps fifty, until finally I got a positive reply.”
Lara’s first break came when The Meringue Girls invited her to attend a shoot, “It was totally not what I’d thought it’d be,” says Lara, “So many things had to be done, and it’s a lot of hard work. I asked loads of questions, and it was an amazing day.”
From there, other shoots followed, “I’d help with the washing up, research the nearest grocery store and help out on set. I’d learn about angles and composition, where to place stuff and why we did it.”
Maternity leave offered Lara an opportunity. Pregnant with her second child, Lara spent a year developing her food CV and gaining work experience, “I worked stages at different restaurants and bakeries, including Violet Bakery and Konditor & Cook,” says Lara, “And then, the editor at Delicious magazine invited me to shadow her and assist on shoots.”
From there, work came organically, “I assisted at one shoot,” recalls Lara, “And the food stylist didn’t show, so I jumped straight in and took the brief.” Working from the ground up as an assistant, Lara says, “Every food stylist has their unique way of working and you learn so much, that experience is priceless.”
With experience, comes focus. “These past five months, over lockdown, I’ve had a chance to stop and think, what does Lara want to do? It feels like the right time to bring in my own work so that Food by Lara Luck can stand out, on its own.”
Into the mix, comes family life and finding that precious balance between work and the people you love, “I love food styling,” says Lara, “But the hours can be crazy, working from 7am through to 1am on an advert shoot.”
The solution? Diversify, build your own brand and craft your own schedule.
“There are so many different parts to the food industry,” says Lara, “I’d also like to develop and write recipes. That way, I can have a few days a week in London on shoots, and a few days working from home.”
“Developing a brand is all about being creative and building relationships,” says Lara, “You can’t be a brand without people, and you have to care about what you’re doing. My brand is all about my food and my experience. My background is from Caribbean heritage and I want to focus more on that – the type of food my mum would cook at home - and I like to balance it with other cuisines, such as English, Mediterranean, Turkish, Asian and Japanese – to learn from other cultures and to bring together the best of both worlds.”
Goal setting reaps rewards. “I’m so excited,” says Lara, “I’ve just been commissioned by a food magazine to write five recipes for their September edition.”
Lara’s story goes to show that with focus, self-belief and resilience, anything is possible.
Lara’s Get Going Advice.
You need to have backbone and push yourself forward. “Magazines will stick to who they know, so you have to get yourself out there. Get as much experience on set as you can, learn how things work and keep asking questions.”
Send out emails and make those phone calls. “Check out the front page of food magazines for editor contact details and start from there.”
Instagram. “Build your page and let people see your work. Comment, share and be nice – you never know who is scrolling through, looking for inspiration. I’d love to write a cookery book, and it begins by engaging with people.”
You’re going to get loads of Nos, before you get your Yes. “Don’t be reliant on getting your Yes. Still work on yourself and be resilient.”
Facebook. “Check out Facebook for photography and food styling groups. Send in your work for people to critique and help you improve.”
Staging. “Gain work experience through stages and build up your food CV.”
Create a Portfolio. “Buddy up with a photo assistant and split studio fees 50:50 to create photos of your work for both your CVs. You provide the food styling and they provide the shots.”
“Building relationships is what it’s all about.”