Life Explained: Stephen Shern | Food StylistFebruary 8, 2017
Stephen Shern | Food Stylist | Chef | Wine Connoisseur
The first job Rick and I worked on was for Boston Market. I had to style roasted turkey, mashed taters and corn on black plastic plates with the dividers.
Forgive, over and over again and, fall down 5 times, get up 6. Best life advice i’ve ever received.
I was hired to open a restaurant in NYC named Jerry’s. Rock and roll money and a certain colorful Italian “uncle” (he was into swimming pools…wink wink). Wildly successful, brutal. High end Italian and a real mesquite wood fired grill pit. Windows were regularly blacked out at midnight when surprise limousines pulled up and Tina Turner, Herbie Hancock, Billy Idol…. and entourage just want to have a bite and party for a while. Dragging my butt home at 5am. Over the top fun for a while, but not sustainable for non-vampires.
NYC and the restaurant above went into an economic slump because of a Wall Street scandal. Imagine that! Junk bonds. Went sour. Guess what, we actually don’t learn from our mistakes do we? I was let go and had to reinvent myself. That’s how I became a food stylist.
The city was wild, hard, exhausting, invigorating, accelerated. The best place to succeed or fail because of what you learn doing either, or both. I went from zero to Bon Appetit covers in a year.
I’ve spent a lot of time in southern France. Go there and eat! Vietnamese food is close 2nd. French influence.
My mother and father both worked at a Veterans Hospital in St. Cloud Minnesota. We lived on a river (Sauk). Across the river was the hospital, a very large campus. In the winter my father walked to work crossing the river on the ice. My father was an EEG and XRAY technician. My mother was an RN, both psyc and geriatric.
Having been a chef, I have a more complete picture of what makes food something you want and how to get it there for the photograph or the video. My relationship to the food is real, trained, educated and professionally inspired.
The spiritual side of me says that a perfect Saturday is the one you get. The other side of me wants to be lounging in a chaise, with my darling wife Lorrie, a glass of Rosé from Provence, eating pistachios and watching the squirrels torment our Corgis!
Visualize. Arrange, manipulate, caress. We[food stylists] (should) deliver the visuals that exceed the clients’ expectations.
Get a backpack and go travel for at least 6 months before taking on your career.
There’s an old saying that you dance a little faster when someone is shooting bullets at your feet. When you are your own boss it’s your gun and your feet. Lazy doesn’t work. Complacency will sink you. I find that even planning my “off time” is not done without thought and consideration. No falling asleep at the wheel.
Being married taught me how to be selfless, listen and communicate honestly and often.
Could I have a boss again? I would like to be able to say yes, but honestly, absolutely, No.
Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits.