Qualifications: There are no specific academic qualifications. It is crucial to read a lot of food magazines and recipe books, as well as be familiar with different genres of art, to inspire your food designs. Knowledge of photography is a bonus. Short food-styling courses are available overseas.
Average pay: Food stylists are paid per project. That can vary from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the job and the food stylist's experience and reputation. Jobs include working on adverts and styling for cookbooks.
Work prospects: Kwan is a translator but loves cookery and design. She read about food styling and decided to change careers. She has since opened her own studio and shops and runs cookery classes.
Kwan says a food stylist must focus on making food look delicious. Stylists in Hong Kong must know how to cook, style and match dishes with props for photographs, whereas overseas, a chef and props stylist take care of the non-food-styling elements. She says when you are used to cooking Chinese cuisine and you become familiar with the ingredients, you will know how to make a dish appealing, such as giving it the right colours. Long-term prospects: Once food stylists have made a name for themselves, they should open a studio so they have somewhere to shoot photos, and hold cookery classes. Shadow Kwan Yuen-tung says having a studio and a good portfolio give a more professional image.
Where to apply: The first step is to learn basic cookery skills, and write for magazines or any type of media. These are opportunities to gain publicity and exposure.
Volunteer work can benefit you in the long run because you want people to remember your work and talent and recommend you.
Kwan says the internet, especially blogs and social networking sites, are also good ways to gain exposure.
A day at work
Kwan starts her day by reading magazines, and writing columns and recipes. She then turns to the business side of things. As well as food styling, Kwan runs a cookie and cake shop with partners. Later in the afternoon, she works on food styling at her studio. Working hours depend on the size of the project: it may take a few hours, or work may stretch well into the night, especially if it is a photo shoot for an advertisement.