I was excited to interview Tami Hardeman for this month’s F.A.Q’s. Tami is a professional food stylist, food photographer, and the creator of the visually breathtaking blog Running With Tweezers. A visually-engaging site with quite the extensive assemblage of tasty recipes, it is my favorite thing of the moment. Tami was kind enough to talk with me on a variety of topics including the challenges of her trade, what placed a recent meal among the Top Five of her life, and what country would be her dream destination as a food lover.
Flavorful World: You recently spent some time in Tulum, Mexico, a trip on which you enjoyed what you called one of the Top Five Meals of your life at an establishment called The Hartwood. Tell us about the foods and courses you experienced, and what aspects of the meal placed it in such high regard. What is one aspect unrelated to the food itself that enhanced the outing?
Tami Hardeman: I’d heard about The Hartwood from a few folks that had visited Tulum – everyone raved about it. One of the most amazing parts about the restaurant is that they only cook with woodfire – a grill and an oven. All of the ingredients are local – we ate a snapper ceviche with coconut milk that was so fresh. I had a wood-roasted octopus – served very simply with roasted potatoes and pickled red onions – that is one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted. The entire experience of dining there is remarkable: completely open air, menus written on giant chalkboards they bring to your table, a feeling that there is no rush – just linger and enjoy your meal.
FW: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of working as a food stylist, and what are the two best methods you’ve found for overcoming it? What aspect of working as a food stylist came most naturally to you, and what are two methods you’ve found for performing with maximum efficiency?
TH: The most challenging thing – and one of the best things about food styling – is that every day is different. I don’t know that I have “methods for overcoming it”…but no two days on my job are ever the same. I try to go into a shoot being prepared, knowledgeable about what we’re doing and anticipatory about problems that may arise…but even with all that, things are constantly changing and different. There are so many variables and you just have to patient and one step ahead.
FW: What is the most recent leftover food dish or item that was in your refrigerator that you incorporated into an altogether new dish? How did you repurpose it, and what was the new dish?
TH: I always make a big batch of quinoa or lentils at the beginning of a week. It gets made into salad and then, throughout the week, gets scooped onto soups or topped with fried eggs.
FW: In your experience, what is one thing that many people think they know about food styling and photography, but would be surprised to find out they are completely misinformed?
TH: People don’t understand how physical food styling is. I don’t just sit on a stool and make pretty plate of food. I walk 1-3 miles a day between the kitchen and the set. I stand all day with very little sitting. It’s a physically grueling job.
FW: Naming a geographic locale to which you have yet to travel, but would like to, tell us in what season you would most like to visit, and what three foods or dishes are the first ones you intend to try, then tell why you chose those foods and that season.
TH: Vietnam is my dream trip – we’re hoping to finally make it there this April. I can’t possibly pick three foods I’m intending to eat. I have every intention to eat everything I come across there.
FW: What sorts of foods are the most challenging to work with in terms of getting a satisfying photo, and what makes them so?
TH: Anything that melts is extremely difficult to work with – ice cream, cheese, whipped cream. Sometimes, it’s because they congeal and sometimes it’s because they lose their body and fall apart. The key to working with those things is to be prepared in advance and get the shot quickly.
FW: October is the designated “National Month” of a host of foods and dishes including but not limited to apples, caramel, chili, pork, pretzels, pickled peppers, and seafood. Select two of the items listed under the Month-long Celebrations grouping on this webpage belonging to The Nibble, and tell us how you’d utilize them to prepare a single dish (any course) in a way that enables them to enhance one another.
TH: At first glance: a poached apple or some sautéed apple pieces drizzled with a homemade caramel (I make a killer salted caramel sauce) topped with crumbled pretzels.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
TH: The name of my memoir: either “No Soup for You” or “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”.
FW: When you aren’t cooking, eating, and styling/photographing delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
TH: I am a voracious reader & viewer of images, books, magazines, Pinterest, cookbooks. I don’t have a lot of spare time these days…but when I do…I spend my mornings curled up on the sofa with our dog, drinking a cup of coffee my husband makes & surfing for visual inspiration.
*Note to readers: Enjoy Tami’s expert food stylings and stunning food photography as well as memorable recipes at her blog, RunningWithTweezers.com. Follow her food musings on Twitter or ‘Like’ them on Facebook and Pinterest. Or, enjoy more photos of all the places she’s been and things she’s eaten at Flickr. Go on. Do it. You and your stomach know you want to.