Dubai food styling workshop

I’m one of those people who takes photos of my food when I’m out at a restaurant. I guess a couple of years ago people would have considered this odd behaviour, but nowadays with the increase in the quantity and quality of food bloggers it’s not a surprising nor unusual thing to see when you are out and about, especially when trying a new restaurant or attending some kind of foodie event. Whilst I love food and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you I don’t presume to call myself a food blogger. The pictures I have been taking are little more than snaps, in my humble opinion (IMHO).

However this may soon be about to change. Armed with my still-new DSLR camera, and lucky enough to have time on my hands (more or less), I attended a Food Styling Workshop last week, here in Dubai. With a fair amount of trepidation I might add – I had no idea what to expect. Food styling is essentially what happens when a photo shoot for a cookbook, or even a food blog, needs to take place. The food, being the star of the show, has to look its very best. So a lot of the workshop was (as you might expect) about how to set up your camera for the all important shot, and then some post-processing hints and tips to tweak your photo (if needed). What I didn’t expect, to be quite honest, was the amount of AMAZING food that we got to consume, prepared and served up to us by some truly talented chefs. Honestly it felt like we didn’t stop eating for two days. And we probably didn’t.

The workshop was organised by Sally of My Custard Pie fame who shared her Social Media know-how with us, whilst the rest of the food-styling theory (from choosing props to how to use Adobe Lightroom) was imparted by a very experienced Meeta Wolff (professional food photographer) from What’s for Lunch Honey (amongst other places). Most of the 2 days was spent at the lovely Miele showroom-slash-gallery-slash-test kitchen (just near the Trade Center roundabout) which was the perfect place – light and well equipped. They use the space to run cookery classes throughout the year and you can also hire it for a private event or class, so keep that in mind.

Our first morning’s brunch was provided by Lafayette Gourmet (from Galleries Lafayette) and was themed Scandinavian – so we had masses of smoked salmon and other interesting titbits to start us off on the right foot. All washed down with gallons of coffee from the lovely Miele coffee machines, and free-flowing mineral water supplied by another generous sponsor namely San Pellegrino / Acqua Panna. At around 4pm we headed off to the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm for a round of food tastings, kicked off at Ronda Locatelli. Now we had been told we were in for a surprise treat, and when we arrived at the restaurant we learned the first tasting was from the white truffle menu, as the truffles are in season at the moment. That would have been a massive highlight on its own, but the day went from great to insanely exciting when the man himself, Giorgio Locatelli, appeared in the doorway holding the glass cloche of white truffles. We then worked our way through three “courses” in our tasting – scrambled eggs with truffle, pizza with truffle and a delicious white truffle risotto – while Giorgio shared his passion for organic and sustainable food with us, and told us a bit about growing up in Italy. From there we moved on to Asia Republic for another round of tastings (this time some Thai classics and lovely Peking Duck) and we had a stroll through Nobu’s gardens before finishing up at Saffron, where we had dinner.

Giorgio Locatelli

[The man...]

White Truffles from Ronda Locatelli

[..the truffles...]


[..and the location]


[a dish at Asia Republic]

Day two was more of a practical day (photography wise in any case) where we were split into teams to work on a food styling “assignment”. Each team was given a magazine and a theme to work to. My team was allocated a German magazine called BEEF! (which is aimed at men if you hadn’t guessed) and a dark / brooding theme. So all our styling, props and lighting had to match that. Whilst Dima Sharif and her team cooked our lunch (pumpkin soup to start followed by a delicious lamb tagine with couscous) we styled and took both an ingredient shot and a plated shot for our final presentation. Luckily we had plenty of great props to choose from – thanks Tavola!


[Dima works her magic]


[our ingredient shot]


[our final shot for BEEF!]

Once all the snapping and editing was done we got to present our final 4 shots to the rest of the group. And then it was time for dinner. Lafayette Gourmet was back, this time chef Russell was joined by the Spanish specialists from Tapeo who whipped up some gorgeous Paella and grilled Heritage Angus steak from Canada (I know right who knew Canada did such good steak).

At the end of the evening we were given the most amazing goodie bags, packed with bits and pieces including Lindt chocs, more mineral water, fudge from the Toffee Princess (yum), olive oil & marinated brinjals from Dima as well as a voucher from Lime & Tonic.

I had such a great time meeting all these amazing and talented bloggers and photographers. I realised that I have a ways to go before I can really call myself a food blogger, but I am inspired to try. For people who love food these guys do eat rather a lot of cold meals haha. The perfect shot takes time.


[food bloggers are INTENSE]

Anyway, please do have a peek at their hard work if you have time, here are all the links for your convenience:

ps. here is a clip of some of the Spanish evening thanks to Naked Plate. If you look closely you will even spot me!!

16 Responses to Dubai food styling workshop

  • Minna says:

    It was pleasure to meet you cat and I am happy to find another dubai blog to follow. :-) haha i fully second you with “For people who love food these guys do eat rather a lot of cold meals” hahha, by now i have learned to be bit faster and if i snap photos at restaurant, i depend on my phone camera. by the Your teams cover photo was the winner IMHO.

    • Cat Russell says:

      Yes thank goodness for good phone cameras these days :-)

      Loved your little video from the Spanish night – hope you don’t mind that I shared it again.

      Hope we can meet up sometime. Have a good week.

      Cat x

  • Pauline says:

    Judging by the wonderful photos it must have been an amazing two days! Well done on your food shots, I could almost taste it from South Africa!

  • Moya says:

    Hi Cat, It was a pleasure meeting you also and the workshop was lots of fun! Love your account of the two day workshop and yes we did eat so much food… but it was all so delicious! Looking forward to seeing more of your food adventures! Have not put up a blog post yet but will soon, thanks for helping me out with the collage of photographs as I always struggle with the tech stuff! :)

  • Dima Sharif says:

    Nice photos Cat :) a fabulous recall of exciting 2 days filled with food and snap shots :) Enjoyed reading your post and mostly meeting you. It is always great to put faces to names :) Stay in touch x

    • Cat Russell says:

      Hello Dima! How nice of you to say.
      It was a wonderful experience. I have enjoyed eating my marinated brinjals and am wearing my pink band with pride. Thanks again for everything.

  • Shy says:

    Hey Cat,

    Was great meeting you.Love they way you have captured the 2 fabulous days at the food workshop…

    Enjoyed working as a team…and hope to stay connected…Cheers:))

  • Meeta says:

    A lovely recap of the action packed 2 days. Hard to believe we fit in so much! So glad to read that you will be putting into effect what we tackled and on my part it was a real pleasure meeting you!

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