7 Brilliant Organizing Tips You Should Steal from Food Stylists

published Feb 18, 2022
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Whether or not you know any food stylists, you definitely encounter their beautiful work every single day. These are the pros responsible for making recipes and ingredients look irresistible on camera. They “style” the food for cookbooks, magazines, websites, commercials, and more. We even even have a few food stylists on staff and in our Rolodex of freelancers here at Kitchn.

If there’s one thing food stylists have down pat, it’s the combo of style and function. After all: They’ve got to be tidy while still making every frame look gorgeous. We were curious if these professionals had any pearls of wisdom for us home cooks. What do food stylists know about kitchen organization and storage that we don’t? Turns out, quite a bit — keep reading to pick up a few new ideas.

1. Get rid of anything you don’t actually use. 

Decluttering is step one to organizing, according to Rishon Hanners, a food stylist and recipe developer based in Birmingham, Alabama. After working as a food stylist for big-name magazines, Hanners found that her kitchen organizational style changed. “I have definitely become more focused on aesthetics,” she says. Clutter, she explains, looks messy and takes up unnecessary space and energy.

Hanners notes that how your cabinets feel when you open them is just as important as how they look. How to put this tip into practice? It’s all about paring things down and not hoarding containers, or having unnecessary tools and gadgets, she says. Ask yourself if this is a kitchen item you realistically will use and enjoy. If you’re not yet willing to part with your stuff, you can also pick up a few storage bins to house items you love to keep but rarely use. Just make sure you have room in your garage or pantry to store it all.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

2. Motivate yourself with open shelving. 

Open shelving may be popular on kitchen design blogs and Instagram feeds, but there’s a practical reason to ditch the cupboard doors, and it piggybacks right off of the first tip. “If people (or just you and your family) can see all of your stuff out in the open, that’s grounds enough to have it looking neat, tidy, not cluttered … and, well, cute,” says Hanners, who is in the process of renovating her own kitchen to include all open shelving.

3. Embrace the power of the Cambro.

A little-known secret of the restaurant and food styling industries is the magic of the Cambro. A Cambro is a plastic food storage container with a no-fuss design. While they might not win style points, they’re super efficient. That’s why Micah Morton, a Brooklyn-based food stylist and recipe developer, stocks them in her home kitchen. “They come in all sizes, they’re clear, heavy-duty, airtight, and stackable. They keep your dry goods very fresh, work for refrigerated and liquid items, they are easy to clean, and easy to open and close,” she explains.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Use more sheet pans.

“The sheet pan is to the cook and food stylist as the palette is to the painter,” says Hanners, who uses them for just about everything on the job and at home. Obviously, they’re great for cooking. Additionally, they’re perfect for organizing all of your mise en place during dinner prep. They’re also handy tools for organizing your other handy tools! And sheet pans are an easy way to add more storage in your fridge.

5. Be realistic about your grocery runs. 

An abundantly ‘grammable kitchen overflowing with groceries can turn into a chaotic mess. Like many food-lovers, Hanners has a tendency to overstock her pantry and fridge out of excitement. This practice not only leads to disorganization, but it also has the potential to create food waste. Hanners has scaled back buying snacks and dry goods. Her pantry may be less full, but it’s a well-curated collection: She uses every item before its expiration date.

6. Install under-the-shelf storage to maximize space.

This tip is key for cooks with small kitchens. Morton hangs bins and baskets under her shelving for added storage. Storage equipment such as these are inexpensive and easy to install — no complicated hardware required. Plus, they’re easy to organize and reorganize, depending on what you’re storing. Morton uses baskets and bins for just about everything, including her daughter’s snacks and pot lids.

Credit: Diana Liang

7. Rethink where you store things.

Morton is constantly rearranging the stuff in her home kitchen to better suit her needs. “Your design has to take into account what you actually do in your kitchen,” she says. Questions to help you make smarter decisions, she says, are: “Do you really bake? Do you need lots of counter space? Are you using lots of countertop electrics?” Simply rearranging the contents of your cupboards, based on what is most functional, can boost your efficiency and enjoyment while cooking.

Do these organizing tips inspire you? Have any pointers to share? Tell us in the comments below.