Top 5 food styling tips: How to make dishes look their absolute best

Lime wedges, fresh curry leaves and chilli sauce add colour to this chicken curry image.
Lime wedges, fresh curry leaves and chilli sauce add colour to this chicken curry image. Photo: William Meppem; styling Hannah Meppem

Good Food's food stylist Hannah Meppem shares her top five tips.

  1. Start collecting props. If you see something special, buy it! I regret the pieces I have decided not to lug home in a suitcase. You may not get the chance again and one-off special pieces will pay you back tenfold. Having said that, I'm not a huge fan of colourful plates and dishes. They can be too loud and they date quickly. I've always been a believer that the food should be the colour and vibrancy in the shot.
  2. For me, styling is very intuitive and I don't like to back myself into a corner creatively. I will be organised with my props but I need to see the [finished] dish in front of me before I can make final decisions about what I will use to bring out the best in the recipe. Once you see all the components it's as though the props ask you to pick them. Sounds funny, I know, but it's true.
  3. Use the very best fresh ingredients and treat them like your children. If food is delicious, it tends to look delicious: you can keep everything simple and you don't have to do too much to it.
  4. Don't overmix or fiddle too much with food. It always looks the best when you first put it down. 
  5. Always think of the extra items you can bring to the table that not only add flavour but also elevate a composition and bring a bit of pretty. If it's a curry or stir-fry, I might put a beautiful bowl of roasted nuts, fresh Asian herbs, crispy shallots, limes wedges, maybe chilli sauce. If it's oysters, perhaps lemon zest and salt. If it's pasta, you could have a bowl of cherry tomatoes, a basil plant, a jar of pangrattato, a whole slab of parmesan. All those things add to the flavour and the final look.

Hannah Meppem styles the dishes on Good Food's new TV show, Good Food Kitchen, screening on Channel 9 at 1pm Saturdays, or catch up on 9Now.