Photos – Chris Daile, Stylist – Janet Lodge

Janet Lodge is a fantastic food stylist based in Melbourne. I have had the pleasure of working on a handful on TV commercials with Janet and I can say in all honesty her job is one of the most stressful on set! There are often between 5 and 10 ad agency executives and clients peering over her shoulder whilst she diligently works away perfecting the all-important product shot! The results are always stunning… and amazingly, Janet always seems so calm and unaffected by all the fuss and stress around her. She is a true professional!

Janet took a moment out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions about her background, the ups and downs of her exciting job, and her creative inpiration…

Tell me a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to food styling?

I initally wanted to teach cooking so that children would learn how to make great food for themselves, rather than the blancmange and sago pudding I was taught to cook in High School (yeah, even in the 80′s!)! I studied Home Economics at RMIT then decided that teaching wasn’t for me, so ended up (thankfully) working as an assistant to a great food stylist and food consultant in Melbourne. This naturally led me to do some styling work myself.

What are a few brands, companies and/or publications you have worked with?

I work on a lot of packaging eg. KR Castlemaine, Birdseye, Coles, Black Swan, etc. Magazines such as Gourmet Traveller and Table. TV commercials for Old El Paso, Coles, Maggi, etc.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

There really is no typical day! It could be writing and testing recipes at home. Spending a whole day shopping for a TV commercial, running around looking for the the ultimate little blue bowl or perfectly shaped platter. Preparing food on a stills photographic job, tweaking food with tweezers and skewers! Making and running food about on a TV commercial over a very long day.

What has been one of your most memorable jobs and why?

I recently worked on a Maggi TV commercial involving mega quantities of food! Scene after scene required tables and tables of platters of food! Tables ran through city streets, along suburban paths and through parks – up to 40 tables at a time. We were working out of a catering van making massive pots of casseroles. It was exhausting, demanding and amazing.

Do you have an agent? How does work come your way?

I am lucky enough to get work through word of mouth alone.

Where do you find inspiration?

I collect magazines and cookbooks constantly. Often just leafing through them to look at the images. I also love eating out and am frequently in op shops picking up strange and unusual props.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The opportunity to work with great people in all sorts of strange and wonderful places. The chance to spend time just playing with food!

And the worst?

The last minute pressure. I am often working late into the night before a job – packing the car and collecting last minute bits and pieces. It can be very difficult to guess what the client is thinking, so I have to pack lots of prop options and think of anything that could go wrong and dream up a solution (just in case). Also preparing recipes that just don’t work can be very tricky, especially when you have a photographer, client and designer waiting for the food!!

What would be your dream project?

I would love to work on a food movie. Working with extravagant food settings, with beautiful colour combinations – with enough time to feel that I have done a great job.

Do you present all your meals as beautifully at home as you do at work?

I wish!! Let’s face it, my dinner would be stone cold if I fussed around with it as much as I do while working!! After a long hard day in the studio I often sit down to a reasonably plain salad and a glass of wine, with maybe a chunk of watermelon for dessert!!

Do your friends and family expect perfection at your dinner table!?

They might expect it, but I generally opt for the casual dining experience! It is a ‘help yourself’ kind of affair! I like to keep the food simple and seasonal.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

I have really enjoyed Movida and The Press Club. Beautiful food, intense flavours – not too messed about with! I also love my frequent bowl of Vietnamese soup – always delicious!

What are you looking forward to?

A life that is less frantic. Enjoying cooking and sharing slow food. Growing some more vegetables and laughing with friends!