MARTA MUÑOZ – CALERO: AESTHETICALLY APPEALING
An early enthusiast of gastronomy, this culinary stylist, photographer and journalist was impregnated with this art from an early age, in a house that was brimming with cuisine; from her father she acquired a passion for wine and from her mother, one for cooking, as did her brother, renowned chef of restaurants like Tartán, Muñoca and Perrito Faldero, in Madrid. We spoke with Marta about her work, her search for beauty through culinary styling and the happiness that results from connecting people through cuisine.
So Blue: Is passion acquired at home?
Marta: In my house, absolutely; my mother is a kitchen enthusiast and my father is passionate about wines. I have a brother who is a chef, so gatherings at my house are always about cooking, tasting wines and sharing around the dining table. I was born with a passion for food.</p>
SB: How is a ‘food stylist’ trained?
M: A ‘food stylist’ must know how to cook and have notions of art composition and direction. In my case, I’m a journalist, although I make a living as a photographer and food stylist.
I received my education in France and the United States, where there are countless food styling courses and there are currently also many online.
I organize Food Photography Camps where, along with other instructors, we teach style and photography techniques.
SB: Who do you look up to?
M: Simon Andrews, Denis Vivaldo, Carrie Purcell, Kate Wesson, Sam Linsell’s, Julie Lee and Katie Quinn Davies.
SB: What do you use as inspiration when preparing a setting for your photographs? Where do you get the props?
M: When organizing the atrezzo for a session, I always think about what story I’m going to tell through the props I will use: backdrops (if my story is set in a rustic environment, I’ll choose old and stripping wood; or if, on the contrary, I’m photographing a chef’s dish, maybe I’ll choose a cleaner surface of a material such as marble), colors, lighting and textures.
I have spent years collecting my treasures; from my parents house I have antique china, cutlery and old tureens.
I’ve bought things at various flea markets but I’m also an aficionado of Ebay, Etsy…and I buy a lot from England, the United States and Australia, although the shipping fees are really exorbitant!
SB: What is the process for a photograph? Do you cook the recipes yourself?
M: When a client calls me for a job, we evaluate the possibility of me doing both jobs: photographer and stylist. For simple sessions or editorial work (for magazines or cookbooks) this is usually feasible; but if it’s a photo shoot for a cooked product, then it becomes more complicated, as it is essential that one person is solely responsible for the cooking and plate up and another for the photography.
In fact, in the United States, there are many different figures: one person who only cooks and does the “food styling”, a “prop stylist” responsible for the atrezzo, an art director, assistants, etc.
SB: Are feasts inevitable when ending a shoot?
M: Sometimes, other times we can’t feast since the food has been out too long on the set and, on occasion, we use inedible products, like glycerin or motor oil to lend color to certain meats, or carpenter’s glue to simulate milk when photographing cereal.
Other times, the food isn’t cooked thoroughly, like roasted chicken which is almost rare, simply painted, and we sometimes use needles and toothpicks inside sandwiches to keep them upright.
When we photograph hams, foie or other foods left untouched, then we’ll have a little feast afterwards or, if the client gives us the product, we’ll take it home.
SB: You say you trust people who enjoy eating, name three people (or characters) who you’d trust with your dinner.
M: My brother Javier, he makes amazing stews, like the old days, and I really like his French and Catalonian influence; he studied in France and trained in the kitchens of Carmen Ruscadella, so when he gets into the kitchen to prepare something for the family, he makes amazing stews with beef cheeks, veal shank or lentils and partridge.
Also, Albert Adriá, who is an amazing chef and an excellent person; I’ve been lucky to have met him and his family and he is brilliant, personable and humble.
Lastly, Roberto Ruiz, the chef at Punto Mx; I love Mexican food and in Spain, everyone knows Roberto is the best.
SB: What would be on the menu?
M: Albert’s calamari sandwich with allioli and kimchi, my brother’s veal jowls and Roberto’s roasted marrow.
SB: Your fetish food:
M: I can’t pick just one.
SB: A restaurant to discover?
M: Bar Bas in Barcelona, which is owned by my friend, chef Quique Valenti; a live bar where you can taste many dishes and where the produce is essential.
SB: A culinary city in which to get lost?
M: San Sebastian, always. Also Paris, Barcelona, Lima or Tokyo.
SB: The most gratifying part of your job?
M: Getting to experience creative challenges every day, on top of them being related to what I’m most passionate about: food.
SB: Where can we attend your workshops?
M: I will organize another Food Photography Camp this coming Spring with my friend Bea Peltre, international blogger of the infamous blog La Tartine de Gourmand.
We’ll publish the location of this edition soon.
Find more information on Marta and her courses at www.martamunozcalero.com or @martamunozcalero (Instagram) and @MartolaMC (Twitter).
Text by Paula C.
Photographs by Marta Muñoz – Calero