Food Styling: Chicken Lettuce Wraps

So I’ve been thinking about how I can share my food styling life with you beyond just showing my work. And then it came to me, I can give you tips and lessons learned during each project. It’s an educational opportunity for all of us!

This project was for P.F. Chang’s International and part of a video series released globally. I worked on it earlier in the year and it involved both food and prop styling. The video features the restaurant’s famous Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I’ve done video work in the past, but never in a commercial kitchen at a restaurant. Needless to say, I was ready to work at 4 a.m. to miss the lunch crowd. I wasn’t alone thankfully and had a ton of fun people to work alongside.

Video production is incredibly different than photography and involves a bunch of retakes to make sure the dishes look great and translate well on camera. Here are a few things I learned:

– Always have at least three sets of ingredients ready to reset between takes. You’d be amazed at how quickly each set disappears, leaving you to rush when refilling. Having multiple sets ready reduces spills, allows you to make sure everything looks the way you want and shows expertise in styling.

– Never let things pile up. Discard unused food immediately, so dishes can be washed, filled and reused for future takes. Don’t get comfortable thinking extra sets of food and ingredients will give you time to in between to chill. You should always be moving, even if it means shining a glass bowl quietly while the cameras are rolling.

– Have a damp towel and q-tips on you at all times to jump in between filming to clean up rogue food. The q-tips are perfect for sneaking under and beneath the ingredients without moving it too much. The towel, in this case, is used to wipe up oil splatters and other messes created when preparing the dish.

– When styling the plate, look for the most interesting side of the food to feature. For Chicken Lettuce Wraps, the lettuce itself was a bit boring. To bring a bit of life to the dish, I chose the greenest of the bunch and turned the cut side toward the camera for more detail. A regular spritz of chilled water kept the lettuce fresh under hot lights.

– For dishes with mostly brown tones, find colorful ingredients within to bring to the top. This ensures people know what ingredients are incorporated, like the green onions in the chicken mix here. You can also shift the meat around so darker colored chicken sits next to less caramelized ones. This reduces the potential of the dish looking like a dark pile and highlights the fun shapes of the meat.

Video courtesy of P.F. Chang’s International

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