Flying Food: Tricks of the TV Commercial Trade

The New York Times

Home-cooked pasta never seems to ooze steamy cheese quite as seductively as the dishes on TV commercials, but we don't blame our cooking skills. As the New York Times reveals in its behind-the-scenes look at the making of commercials for chain restaurants, picture-perfect fettuccine Alfredo calls for sauce injectors, tubes and a set of large hypodermic needles.

What else aren't they showing us?

You might know about food styling tricks like using expensive acrylic cubes instead of real ice, or keeping mozzarella melted and stretchy with an industrial hair dryer, but this article delves even deeper into the niche world of food styling for chain restaurant commercials. One director in particular, Elbert Budin, revolutionized the way commercials depict food on TV. Before he entered the industry in the 1970s, advertisements featured static shots of the product.

And it is from Mr. Elbert that we get one of the lasting visual tropes of American advertising: flying food. Ever since he launched an orange through a thin sheet of water for Sunkist — showing in gorgeous slow motion the hole left by the fruit — everything that you can put in your mouth and store in a pantry has been hurtling through the air.

Doesn't that make you think back on all the commercials you've seen of food flying through the air? And aren't you now wondering why you never thought to ask yourself, "Why is that _____ flying through the air?"

Read the article for more fascinating facts about this industry, including how one crew managed to make a dish called "pizza pasta" look appetizing. (Hint: it's all about the cheese pull.)

Check it out: Grilled Chicken, That Temperamental Star at the New York Times

Related: The Help: Real Southern Food on Film

(Image: fotohavran.eu/Shutterstock)

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Food Media, Food TV

Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.

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