Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My San Francisco Chronicle's

by student blogger Stephanie Kirkland

Beef Bourguignon. Photos by: Craig Lee
Food Styling by: Stephanie Kirkland
If you have read my other post, you already know that it took me a while to be able to hand in my first article to the team at LaPapillote. I had no idea what kind of response I would get, or if they would even consider that it get published in the next issue. I also had no idea that I wanted to be a food writer at the time, but I needed some kind of outlet that I wasn’t managing to get from my family and friends who I felt so far away from in the beginning. La Papillote catapulted me into a world I didn’t know existed, or thought I was going to be any part of.

My next step in my food media based chain of events was when I got a job in the library. I was surrounded by the largest collection of food related books in the country, and helped people search for, and find those books on anything from iced tea to veganism.  

Salmon Tartar 
Before I knew it, I was quickly approaching extern. I went about checking the database for possible locations, and with the possibilities being of 2,000 options, decided to narrow down the search and select publication options instead. Extern ended up being at The San Francisco Chronicle’s Food & Wine Section’s test kitchen which is now defunct. The section itself has been co-mingled with the other subsections in the paper, and has been made into one single section. You may wonder then, ‘well what do you do now? Don’t many other students continue their jobs after school with their prized extern site?”  Well, right now I’m not worried.  The big downturns that are currently happening in the print media world were being felt two years ago when I was on extern. I already had the feeling that they wouldn’t be hiring anyone from the outside, already being the tight knit group they were. As an extern, I could feel the tension all over. The office space that I split my time in between working in the kitchen was obviously made for more staff writers, editors, and interns – but I did get my own desk/cubicle so who’s really complaining? But anyway, I had already predicted there would be a slim chance of my return upon my graduation from the bachelor's program, which isn’t to say that I am not still in touch with many of the people I worked with, or they would think twice about doing anything they could to help me out come time to find a j-o-b.

Halibut Filet with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Overall, it was an eye opening, exhilarating, and an experience that confirmed all of my hopes of what would eventually turn out to being my career one day. I dabbled plenty in recipe testing, food styling, and photography. I was able to pick place settings and props that I thought would be best suited for the camera. In that aspect, my creativity roamed freely. I was able to assist in all aspects of the publication process – I hunted down ingredients, grocery shopped, prepped and cooked, styled, and assisted in food photo shoots, and of course I tasted. And all of my senses were at work at the same time. A little perfectionist side of me came out as I tweaked and prodded at certain pieces of vegetable or protein a little more to the left or right so that the camera would get this perfect view of a dish. My eye was keenly aware as to all of the possible angles that the camera could be trying to catch. The photo studio that was located in the same building as the test kitchen smelled, on any given day, like beef bourguignon or roasted vegetables. Unlike at some other food styling sites, which create ads for those you see in magazines, we didn’t use any additives in trying to create a pretty picture. It was all real food, real colors, and real steam. I may have used water or broth to liquefy a sauce more, but it was nothing that would have compromised flavor, or proved to be inedible after the shoot. And hearing the sounds of the clicks from the camera solidified my work as art.

Because my job description was so broad during my extern, and because of the amount I have been able to take advantage of since my time at the CIA, even though my extern site is closed since, I feel as though I’m still headed in the right direction. A lot of my other peers have gone down the opposite direction and on through their education, kept in contact with their employer through extern, returning their after graduation – and now have very successful careers in the same restaurant they basically started in.

3 Chile Sirloin Chili
I returned to school after extern refreshed, excited to see friends daily, and ready to take on the second half of my AOS degree. Along the way, I was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, which I had contributed to before and through extern. I also remained in the Conrad H. Hilton Library building, however instead of retrieving and putting away books on food, I assisted in actually bringing a cookbook to life in our school’s publishing department where I currently spend off hours in between classes today. I assist in formatting recipes, choosing props for photo shoots, and taste countless recipes before they are finalized to go to print. I know, it sounds really rough. And for the majority of the time, it is a good time but that doesn’t mean there are any less serious conversations about texture, seasoning, and technique about any number of ingredients that make their way into a single dish.

It is still unclear to me which road I will choose to go after first in this world of food media. Though I want to write primarily, I am also open to doing more food styling and recipe development. I am lucky in that all of these basically go hand-in-hand. Hopefully I will move forward, taking the steps I believe that will catapult me even further into a different, and beautiful world of food.


  1. Is there a specific camera brand/type best used for food photography? What do you commonly use?

  2. I think there could be benefits with using anything from your cell phone with all of the different apps that can be available these days, to a more professional DSLR that can capture more details. I switch back and forth between the two. Hope this helps!