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How to Entertain like a Professional: 15 Lessons from the Saving Mr. Banks Food Stylist

The magic is in the details.

That is what we keep hearing every time we talk to someone who has worked on a Disney project. The same remains true when it comes to food. We recently were invited to the kitchen Chris Oliver at Hollywood Food Styling for a live cooking demonstration. In case you haven’t heard of her, she was the food stylist for the movie Saving Mr. Banks.

What exactly is a food stylist? From her website, “A chef like none other, tasked to prepare food (a perishable product) able to withstand the rigors of production from the first take to the last and arrange it in a way best suited for a shot or scene.”

If you’ve seen the movie or lived through the 50s and 60s, you know that the way they prepared their food was very different in the golden age of Hollywood when Walt Disney was still alive. Classic dishes like deviled eggs, fruit kabobs, fondue, Jell-O molds, cheese balls, and pinwheel sandwiches were all the rage! The drinks, the finger foods, the paprika, the parsley, and the colored tooth picks — entertaining was a big deal! They sure knew how to make their food look fancy back then and serve it up with a smile.

Not only were we able to listen and watch as the food stylist prepared the meals and got them camera-ready, we also were allowed to create our own. With just a few brilliant yet simple tips, we were able to turn our items into delicious masterpieces worthy of their own starring role. We may or may not be making a pineapple upside-down cake at our next family function.

 

  • Food Styling 1 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from Disney's Saving Mr. Banks Food Stylist, Chris Oliver

    Here are some of the tips that we took away from our day with a celebrity food stylist, Chris Oliver.

  • Planning 2 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from Disney's Saving Mr. Banks Food Stylist

    When it comes to making a meal, hors d'oeuvre, or dessert - if you're going to do it well, it's best to plan out your menu ahead of time. Write it all down, make the grocery list, see what you already may have in your kitchen and then go shop for the rest. Being organized will save you time and unwanted stress when you are the chef!

  • Preparation 3 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from Disney's Saving Mr. Banks Food Stylist

    Before you start cooking, it's important to prepare. Cut the veggies, measure out the ingredients, get out every thing you will need to cook and organize it accordingly on your counter tops. Wouldn't it be nice to have this professional working kitchen at your fingertips?

    Image courtesy of Disney.

  • Fresh Ingredients 4 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    Every dish tastes better when the ingredients are fresh. It will look better, smell better and taste better - a no brainer!

  • Directions 5 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    Whether you get your direction from a recipe card, a cookbook, or even pinterest - when trying to create a culinary masterpiece it's a good idea to have a guide that you can refer back to.

  • Color 6 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    A little bit of color can go a long way, and make all the difference. Gorgeous greens, radiant reds, vivid violets and outstanding oranges - these colors are all available in the produce department at any local store ready for you to use in your next dish. 

  • Texture 7 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    It can be the difference between using regular shredded coconut, or toasting it. Food changes it's texture when cooked, so play around with your tastes and textures to find out what you like best.

  • Design 8 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    Sometimes the way you arrange what's on the plate is just as important as what you put on the plate. Play around with how you will design the food you are serving.

    Image courtesy of Disney.

  • Shape 9 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    Why not have fun with cookie cutters, melon ballers, and various molds. There are so many creative kitchen tools that you can use to help your food take shape.

  • Garnish 10 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    Just by adding a little green spring of mint, some parsley, or fresh herbs is a great way to garnish your dish. Plus it adds a touch of color - bonus!

  • Decoration 11 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    You can transformation slice of lemon into a sunshine. You can turn a green onion into a palm tree. You can carve a tomato into a red rose. All of these decorations are edible, but they will look so good when they are on the plate no one will want to eat them!

  • Plating 12 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    Never take for granted the difference a fancy or colorful plate can make. This is where a little effort can go a long way. Pretty patterns or bright colored pieces will help to make your food look incredible.

  • Hidden Mickey 13 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    In true Disney Sisters style - we tried to include a few Hidden Mickeys in our dish. It's important to have fun and sometimes it's even ok to play with your food!

    Image courtesy of Disney.

  • Presentation 14 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    The presentation of the food is very important! This is the first impression people are going to get is by using their eyes. Make sure to dress the table. If it looks beautiful, it will really get people excited to try your food! Also pay attention to the table settings too.

  • The Tilt 15 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    One thing we learned was that when shooting or filming these dishes, is the angle referred to as "the tilt." Food looks best when displayed at an angle, so that you can see the entire spread. You can use any item that you have handy, even food to prop up your plates.

  • Photograph 16 of 16
    15 Cooking Tips from the Food Stylist of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks

    One you've created your delicious work of art, make sure to capture it on film. Try different angles, getting in close and using tons of light to show off your artistry. After all you've worked so hard, you want proof of the magic, right? If nothing else you can recreate it at another time, for another function.

    Image courtesy of Disney.

 

Saving Mr. Banks is out now on Blu-ray Combo Pack. Buy your copy HERE.

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