Karista Bennett: Professional Recipe Developer, Photographer, and On-air Talent
What led you to start to become a professional recipe developer, photographer, and on-air talent?
Once upon a time I couldn’t cook. I always said anything I cooked could have caused a slow and painful death, which is why I ended up in culinary school in 1999. I had been on hiatus from my first career in healthcare and decided to take the plunge into the culinary world. After culinary school, I found myself working as a food writer, caterer, prep chef, cheese specialist, culinary instructor, sous chef and ultimately started my own private chef company in 2009. In 2013, I had the privilege of traveling to Italy with a California winery to learn about how they made their Italian chianti’s. I was asked by the winery if I would develop recipes to pair with their wine: that was the beginning of my career as a professional recipe developer. Once I realized how much I loved developing and photographing recipes, I decided to take a bit of a turn and focus on food writing and publishing. I approached several food and lifestyle publications about developing recipes and photographs for them and the rest is history. It just snowballed from there – leading to requests for on-air recipe demos as well as brand work and online publishing.
What is your favorite aspect of being a professional recipe developer, photographer, and on-air talent?
Sharing my knowledge, experience and talent. I feel so lucky I get a chance to do what I love, and I feel even luckier that I get to share it with others. Sharing my recipes and photographs is extremely personal for me. Food is the element that brings us to the table, where memories are made and life is lived. To be able to bring families and friends together over an enchanting meal makes the hard work worth every moment.
What have you learned the most from your career in professional recipe development, photography, and on-air talent?
This business is hard work: it’s fickle, it’s in a constant state of change, it’s extremely competitive, it’s sometimes cruel, and it's not always fair. There are times I have to block out all the noise and be true to myself and to my mission. I’ve learned that I must be authentic, have confidence in my talent, trust my gut, and then the good stuff will follow.
What tips and ideas do you have for other’s who would like to be professional recipe developers, photographers, and on-air talents?
Practice, practice, practice. Although I had the good fortune to attend culinary school (and that is a very good thing for me), many professional recipe developers and food photographers have not gone to culinary school. And that’s ok! However, they’ve worked in the culinary world in one capacity or another and practiced their craft. Build your knowledge and experience by attending classes in cooking, writing, photography and stage performance. Or better yet, get a job cooking at a local café or restaurant. Research and never stop learning, be open to change and new ideas, ask lots of questions and seriously practice every chance you get. Don’t be afraid to ask others in this business for advice. There are many of us out there that are willing to help you succeed. In addition, a really awesome web developer and knowledge of SEO is also very helpful.
What are your favorite features of being a professional recipe developer, a photographer, and an on-air talent?
Can you believe I love to cook! (wink wink). For me, it’s a thrilling exercise to create new recipes that tantalize the taste buds and excite the food soul. Creating the recipe is always exciting but getting the perfect “shot” that interprets the recipe perfectly is the most thrilling. I call it getting the “money shot.” I think demonstrating recipes on-air has been an interesting component of my career. It seemed a natural extension of what I do and has been a huge learning experience--one that I feel has made me a more confident culinary professional.
What is at the heart of your career in professional recipe development, photography, and on-air talent?
My Mission is to connect and inspire, visually through my photos and physically through taste as people try my recipes. Food should not only satisfy hunger, it should feed the soul, nourish the body and delight the senses. Food is often comfort, joy, healing and sometimes, spiritual. The act of cooking or feeding people gives me a deep sense of joy. It feels as if this is what I was always meant to do.
Photos Courtesy of Karista Bennett
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