What I Learned as a Food Stylist for Dole Food Company

The Arizona Tour Stop

I was honored to be a food stylist for Dole Food Company‘s “Get Up And Grow™ Together” tour stop in Arizona in June 2016. Dole’s coast-to-coast initiative strives to encourage healthy food and lifestyle choices with simple, yet delicious fruit and vegetable recipes. I’m all about that!


Phoenix was one of 42 cities across the United States where they shared four main recipes:

  • Cafe Banana Frappe
  • Brussels Sprouts and Grilled Pineapple Salad
  • Strawberry Toast
  • Salad Sipper
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(Full recipes and instructions here.)

My Role as a Food Stylist

After learning what this tour was all about, I was so on board! It is one of my personal goals to make healthy food more approachable, so I was happy to lend a (food styling) hand. While there were other “Get Up and Grow” events in the greater Phoenix area, the stop on Monday, June 27th was to be the only one filmed by AZ Family’s Good Morning Arizona on live news. My task was to make the four plant-based recipes (listed above) look beautiful and camera-ready.

Side note: Up until this point, I honed my skills as a recipe and food stylist by creating food scenes for my own blog, but this was the first time one would be broadcast live. I remember being over-the-moon excited! I almost literally went bananas!

Recipe Preparation Behind the Scenes

For this particular event, I needed to buy all the food myself and bring it on location. Fortunately, I was able to do about 80% of the prep work the evening before to make sure things were ready to go by 6:30 am the next morning. (Can you imagine how early that morning would have been otherwise?)

Ultimately, I assembled all the recipes on-site. This meant bringing everything from salad tongs to cutting boards. I had so many plastic Tupperware containers, bowls, glasses, and kitchen supplies, they hardly fit in my little Prius C. Boy, I was driving like a granny that morning in an attempt to keep everything looking pretty. No bruised bananas allowed!

Setting Up Before the Filming

I arrived extra early to help set everything up. The early bird got the banana, right? (Well truthfully, ALL the birds got bananas. I bought oodles of them to garnish the table, so there were TONS left over).

The hardest part of styling the recipes was trying to find enough table space! Isn’t that always the challenge? Never enough counter space. But we work with what we’ve got and everything looked great when all was said and done.


Here’s where things got interesting.

Before the event, the PR rep I spoke with had painted a picture of how this day would play out. She, of course, explained Dole’s expectations of purchasing and bringing the food, necessary preparations, arrival times, and all the other logistics.

Before I had made a final decision, though, she asked that I watch previous segments to see how other food bloggers and food stylists presented the recipes on air. To sum it up, these food bloggers were introduced by the reporter, then they explained the ingredients of each dish and said a few sentences about the Dole “Get Up And Grow Together” tour.

All this seemed fine and dandy to me, and I practiced ahead of time to get the wording just right. Unfortunately, when the cameras came out, something different happened.

The Good Morning Arizona News Segment

The reporter explained to us that there would be two segments. The first segment was going to be a “teaser” to showcase the setup and briefly explain the tour. The second segment was the main one to explain the recipes and do a demo of the Salad Sipper.

The First Segment

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Food Styling for Dole | Sharing Every Bite

In the first segment, the reporter, April, spoke with Colin (a Dole representative) about the purpose of the tour and what people could do at the Dole event booths in Phoenix. For this segment, I was asked to stand behind the recipes in case they had extra time to ask a question or two. Cue the butterflies in my stomach!

The Second Segment  PLOT TWIST!

In preparation of this segment, I added the Salad Sipper ingredients to the blender. We’d blend it live so the cameraman could zoom in on me pouring the smoothie into the glasses. Since smoothies can sometimes be stubborn and require manipulation to blend fully, I suggested we pulse it a few times to make sure it wouldn’t get stuck. Colin adamantly refused. (A little foreshadowing here.)

Anyway, as discussed, I prepared to present the four recipes on the second segment. With the 30 second warning before going live, though, Colin came behind the table and said,

“It’s too crowded back here. Go stand behind the van.”

I was absolutely stunned. There was no time to ask questions because there were seconds left before the camera started rolling. In my (extremely frazzled) mind, I thought, at least he’ll mention Dole’s partnership with a local food blogger. I mean, why else would they seek out a local food stylist instead of bringing someone from their crew? (Did I mention they were also paying a pretty penny for me to be there? It would make sense then to showcase their efforts to support a local plant-based food blogger who supports the cause.)

I won’t say, “I told you so,” but I might giggle a little.

It didn’t seem to make much sense to me, but Colin never mentioned the partnership. There was at least some consolation in the fact that my Sharing Every Bite® cutting board made an appearance. Also (though I definitely wasn’t rooting for failure), there was some huge irony in the technical difficulties. Take a look:

Note: video no longer available.

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What I Learned From It All

There are life lessons to be gleaned from just about every experience. In this fruity experience I learned:

  1. Ask more questions and make sure everyone is on the same page. This spares confusion and disappointment when expectations aren’t met.
  2. Consider what you want and ask for it directly. The brief intro, “And these are our recipes created by local vegan food blogger, Brittany, of Sharing Every Bite,” would have been enough. Had I known there would be no association with my brand, the overall negotiation would have been different.
  3. Clarify the timeline for reimbursement and payment. After purchasing all the groceries out of pocket, I never imagined I’d have to wait nearly two months to be reimbursed, let alone paid. Understanding terms of payment is an important part of any business transaction and I know to be more careful in the future.

Overall, working with Dole was an incredibly memorable experience.

Sure, things didn’t go as planned (do they ever?), but I’m glad to have had an opportunity to work with such a sweet company (pun intended). I will always stand behind brands that are trying to change the world for the better…especially when it comes to healthy food!

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