FOODIE TO WATCH – CLAUDIA FICCA
On our quest to find the best foodies to watch, we recently came across the most breath-taking (and mouth-watering) food images – incredibly lifelike, rich in color and oh so luscious, you just want to dig in. Meet New-York based food stylist Claudia Ficca, enjoy her hyper-real portfolio (yes, it reminds us a bit of LaChapelle), and read all about her life on set (from cooking to picking through at least 100 strawberries to find the perfect one)…
Claudia has developed a unique approach to food styling through her refined artistic vision. She regularly teams up with her fine-art photographer husband, Davide Luciano, to collaborate on creative projects such as meals interrupted (you got to watch this one – it is awesome!).
WTL: Let’s start with a big one – what has been the best decade of your life so far?
CF: This one, because it has been the most fulfilling on so many levels. Love: I married my soul mate. Work: I found my passion and it’s my profession. Life: I live in the best city and I get to travel and discover this beautiful world.
WTL: What was the first job you ever had?
CF: I was 14 years old and got a job in an Italian bakery and pastry shop. My first day there was unpaid and my boss was this tough Italian lady, who scream-talked. I was terrified of her…
WTL: And how did you get into food styling?
CF: Through photography, I was shooting restaurants and food in Montreal, I was also developing, styling and shooting recipes for two national magazines. I realized that I had a greater passion for food styling, so when I moved to NYC I changed paths and focused all my energy on food styling. I assisted some established food stylist in NYC for about one year, which was a wonderful experience and a great way to discover NYC and all it’s amazing food shopping destinations.
WTL: What is the best part about your job?
CF: For me, the best part is that it is constantly changing. One day I will be styling cold coffees all day for an advertising job, and the next I can be styling eight different recipes for an editorial shoot. It ranges so much on so many levels and requires different sets of traits for each job. Some days work will require patience and perfectionism, and other jobs will require speed and organization.
WTL: What does your childhood taste like?
CF: Just thinking about it is making me hungry! Growing up my time was split between my house and my grandparents’ house. We lived very close and ate together often. At my house my mom cooked spezzatino (beef stew), roasted chicken with carrots and peas and potatoes, shepherd’s pie, she would make a delicious swiss chard casserole with prosciutto and melted cheese.
On Sunday nights (after our traditional Sunday lunch at the grandparents house), we had a fresh panino with mortadella, provolone and sliced tomatoes. At my granparents, my Nonna made traditional calabrese recipes like pasta e fagioli, pasta e piselli, fagiolina, pasta e patate, eggplant parmiggiana, brasciole, chicken or veal cutlets, roasted lamb, roasted rabbit.
And when my grandfather would get in the kitchen, he made things like stuffed cabbage, baccala (cured cod salad with parsley), fried potatoes, and eggs in tomato sauce. For dessert, it was all about different Italian pastries on Sundays (I would cut them all in little pieces, so I could try a piece of each!). Oh, and not to forget peaches dipped in wine. My grandmother made this delicious strawberry cheesecake once in a while and the smell would take my breath away as soon as I walked into her house.
WTL: Oh dear, it is difficult to focus now talking all that food… What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
CF: I am a glutton for sweets!! I love cream puffs, éclairs, chocolate tars, fruit tarts and pies, cakes, chocolate croissants, all cookies… I can go on forever
WTL: What do you always have at home in your fridge?
CF: Eggs, Greek yogurt, Parmiggiano.
WTL: What is your favorite meal and where do you get it?
CF: My favorite meal is my Nonna’s Sunday pasta, which is rigatoni with tomato sauce and meatballs on the side.
WTL: What is your favorite dish you would cook your family on a relaxed Sunday?
CF: Because New York is such a fun city, we are usually out and about on Sundays, either having brunch in Brooklyn, a picnic in a park or nearby beach. If we are home, I typically make pasta on Sundays.
WTL: How does your favorite breakfast look like?
CF: In my fantasy or in real life? In real life it is plain greek yogurt with slivered almonds, berries and maple syrup OR scrambled eggs and fruit. In my fantasy, it is a tower of strawberry ricotta pancakes leaning on a tower of waffle topped with berries plus fried eggs and buttered toasted country bread, crisp bacon, breakfast sausage, maple syrup on everything.
WTL: Is there a food that you hate?
CF: No, but there is one food I could never bring myself to taste: frog legs.
WTL: Coming back to your job. For those who do not know much about it, can you please take us through the process of food styling?
CF: I arrive to set and organize all the ingredients that I have previously purchased. I look over the recipes for that day and go through my kit and pull out all the tools that I know I will be using. Set up my set tray. I have a chat with the team: photo editor or creative director and photographer and prop stylist about the shots for the day, what we intend to shoot when. Line up the recipes and get to work cooking, baking or obsessively looking through 100 strawberries to find the perfect one. Every job is different, so my specific tasks really depend on what we are working on that day. I alternate my time between the kitchen and the set.
WTL: What are the most challenging foods to work with?
CF: Ice cream, so many things have to be right at the right time: temperature of the freeze, temperature of the scooper, temperature of the ice cream. Now you have a pretty scoop, you have to make it last, dry ice, freezer, careful not to touch the ice cream and leave finger prints on the scoop, stacking scoops, falling towers of ice cream, start over
WTL: Can you please tell us a bit about the work you and your husband do together?
CF: Davide is a photographer and we are lucky to work together artistically and commercially. We have collaborated on numerous creative projects like All work and No Play, Meals Interrupted, Gourmet Mouse Trap, and Cold Feet.
WTL: From where do you get your artistic inspiration?
CF: Everywhere, sometimes it sparks in a conversation, a childhood memory, something we are working on commercially inspires something artistic, movies, art…
WTL: What was the best advice someone ever gave you?
CF: “Don’t ever let anyone steal your joy” from a stranger on the NYC subway.
WTL: What living heroes or heroines do you have?
CF: My mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law. All so strong and inspiring in such different ways.
WTL: If you could leave us with one thought, what would it be?
CF: Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.
Picture Credit: Davide Luciano, Claudia Ficca