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Young food stylist brings flair to Vietnamese cuisine

With her desire to improve the visual presentation of Vietnamese dishes, Meo Thuy Duong quit her career as a graphic designer to become a food stylist. After devoting much effort and time, Duong is now known as a famous food stylist in the country.

Thu Ngan talks with Duong to see why she chose the career and the challenges that she faces in the 4.0 industry era.

Could you please tell us about yourself and why you became a food stylist?

I'm a food stylist, someone who tells stories about food through their experiences by styling and photography. As an art lover myself, I am passionate about finding the beauty of food and things around me.

DELIGHTFUL: A work by Meo Thuy Duong.

I have been doing this for four years and have gone through many different projects such as food styling for brand campaigns, making posters and billboards about food, and taking commercial food photos for five-star hotels or resorts in Vietnam.

Not many people know that I was a graphic designer before I became a food stylist. One day, while designing a menu for customers, they asked if I could take photos of their drinks. I agreed and tried. After that, I found the work very interesting and wanted to give it a shot. Initially, I uploaded photos to Facebook, so customers could see that I had entered this profession very naturally.

Being a food stylist offers me lots of opportunities to try delicious food, new experiences and a variety of culinary knowledge. When I travel to several countries in Asia, I notice that they are very developed in tourism, food and creative ways to reach visitors.

While Vietnamese cuisine has a lot of potential, it has not been fully exploited. So I want to contribute to the community through improving the quality of culinary images.

As a pioneer in food styling, what challenges have you faced?

Being a food stylist is very interesting, but it’s difficult to approach because there is no specialised academy. When I first started, there was no instructor, so all I acquired was through self-study.

After a while, if you want to be a professional, you will have to find a team to delegate specific jobs in each individual field. It’s challenging to have a collaborative team, but it would be time-consuming if we were doing the job of food stylist and photographer at the same time.

In addition, food stylists must always keep abreast of the latest knowledge so they can provide styling that suits different projects and meets the requirements of the market. The working environment is innovative, but also very challenging. Besides having good professional knowledge, you must have a professional working attitude, so it will take you a long time to establish your name and reputation in the profession.

INNOVATOR: Meo Thuy Duong. Photos courtesy of Meo Thuy Duong

What are the most important factors in becoming a food stylist? Do you need to be a good cook?

Food styling is a job related to the arts, so in order to progress well you need to constantly innovate. Apart from having aesthetic talent, a food stylist needs to be reputable to gain a voice in the profession. To create credibility, the most important factor is your attitude to your job. I think attitude is what determines the career of each individual, not only food stylists.

As the trend is new in the country, how did you develop and enrich your career? Where did you learn? Where do you learn about the latest information? How do you keep up with trends and how do you update your videos?

I often learn from culinary magazines around the world, and I observe foreign food stylists and photographers to see the differences when they apply their food mindset to Vietnamese cuisine, and then I consider what to keep and what not to. Furthermore, during all my trips, I usually pay attention to the culinary images of neighbouring countries to see if I can learn and apply this to Vietnamese cuisine.

Many young people are now involved in digital technology like vlogging. What do you think about this trend? What are the advantages and disadvantages for digital tech job development in Vietnam?

The 4.0 industry era has brought a technology boom. Even people who are artists, vloggers and beauty bloggers have had to catch up with this trend so they do not miss opportunities for their careers and for marketing. This trend will be more explosive, especially in the next few years, and it will greatly affect the way we hear, see and enjoy art. The youth that are approaching the 4.0 industry era have many advantages and have done so quickly thanks to the help of the Internet, but it has also been a challenge to find their own path in a competitive market.

What is your advice to young people who want to start this kind of job in the 4.0 industry era? What are your plans to develop your career in the coming time?

Technology 4.0 has brought a breakthrough and many industries are facing fierce competition where machines could replace people or even wipe them (jobs/industries) out. Therefore, you should use your time wisely to study, work hard, and achieve the goals that you desire because there is no guarantee that you will not be left behind.

Next year I want to host some workshops about food styling. Connecting some of Vietnam's artists to experiential classes for those who want to know more but don't have much time to go to specialised schools. I would be happy to share my knowledge, which will contribute to making better communities for food stylists and artists in Vietnam. VNS

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