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Exquisite Brands: Interview With Food Stylist Reina Cooks

By July 5, 2019December 11th, 2020Simpaul Updates

A restaurant-related brand may require to have food photography as their asset in telling their brand story and develop the product experience for the customers in boosting any sell and brands reputation. A well-set up meal composition in either a video or photo makes the difference by adding value to your brand in converting the prospects to customers.

Food stylist Reina cooks takes us on one of the journey in the food stylist in relation to food photography in Kenya and its contribution to the creative industry.

Here is a little chat with Reina Cooks about her work, her approach and some tips in contributing to the brand style guide on how to represent your company especially a food-related industry and have it stand out.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience as a food stylist.

I am a home cook, a recipe developer and a food stylist. I am a self-taught cook unlike a chef who has studied in a culinary school I am driven by passion. I develop recipes for food products and introduce several fun ways to consume the food in our day to day lifestyle. A food stylist is basically a food make-up artist. I make food look appetizing for the camera. I am not a food photographer but I am involved in the creative direction during these type of shoots. Maybe much later I will be behind the lens, just maybe

What is your creative process like?

I don’t have a strict creative process but it all starts from conceptualizing the idea. For instance, if it’s a muffin shoot, I will first think of the idea and write it down backed up by lots of research so that I can create my own unique edge and have a mood board for it. Then I will test the idea and recipes and once I’m happy with the outcome, I’ll move to the actual shoot.

Who or what inspires you and where do you get your ideas for photoshoots?

My ideas come from many things including cookbooks, a conversation with a foodie or not. For instance, I met someone who told me they don’t like arrowroot soup and I challenged myself to make a delicious recipe out of it. Passed on traditions from my childhood also inspire me. Locally, I have food stylist and cooks who inspire me, Jasmine Macharia, Patrick Gitau, Imani Musime, Miss Nguru amongst others. Internationally I have a long list of people who inspire me but just to mention a few Hadeel Magdy, Dalia Kalugina, Jenri joinery, Deeba Rajpal, Kat the loopy whisk amongst others.


How do you choose your storytelling, themes, and trends to work with?

My style is actually based on the concept that every food is a story. From the farm produce to the cooking and finally to serving it. I love to tell the whole story and think through creative ways to communicate it to my audience. The addition of human touch like the presence of hands, a big bite or anything that stimulates your senses inspires my styling choices.


What is vital for a successful restaurant brand with food photography?

The most important thing in any restaurant is to recognize and acknowledge that it takes a team to create a food culture. For example, you need the waiters, the customers and many others to bring together the restaurant story and identity. Authenticity speaks volumes. What you see on the menu, social media platforms or website photos versus what is served should remain the same. Most people check out reviews before making a reservation or walking into a restaurant. Therefore it?s important that a restaurant remains true to itself and to its customers.


How is the approach to food photography different from other genres and creative industry in general?

Food has a language! Food has to speak to you. You have to pay attention to how the food behaves like the sizzling, the melting, the colours of the ingredients used and bring all that out in photography.


What is the trend in the creative industry in Kenya with regards to food photography that needs to be watched?

There are two upcoming trends that Kenyan food photographers are tapping into, dark and moody photography. Product and still life photography.

What is your favourite photograph that you have taken and why?

That would have to be the Dominos Pizza Kenya, pizza cheese pull that I was part of. I love this photo especially because a pizza cheese pull is considered a challenge among many food stylists. There are many things to consider like the quality and amount of cheese used plus having to work really fast.


Do you prepare the meals in your photographs yourself?

Yes and no. all the meals on my page I prepare them myself. I develop and test the recipes, and do the actual cooking before or during shoots. Where necessary I always have an assistant(s) which is like all the time (haha) but sometimes I am only part of the shoot as a Stylist and all I bring is my skills in the cooking process working together with the chefs, waiters, baristas, mixologists, bakers etc.


Are you a foodie yourself???

Yes, I am a foodie. I eat sleep, drink, eat, walk, talk food. I love to cook food and eat food.


Your #1 photography tip or words of wisdom

My number one tip is be prepared to be patient. And always bring your brushes, they are my favourite tool.


Check out Reina Cook Profile

Paul S

Founder and Team Lead of Simpaul Design, a brand strategy and design agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Here at Simpaul Design, we work with brands across various categories with a focus on connecting with consumers and building brands that people want to be a part of. We specialize in brand identity and strategy, UX/UI, and brand transformation.