Commercial Food Styling And Photography With Monique Sourinho

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CulturallyOurs Podcast Monique Sourinho

Season 06
Season 06
Commercial Food Styling And Photography With Monique Sourinho
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Show Details

In this episode we talk with Monique Sourinho, a commercial food stylist, food photographer, recipe developer and food blogger who shares her food journey and her creative journey. Monique has been a part of CulturallyOurs since the very beginning and we are so thrilled to be talking with her on the podcast. Monique also talks about comfort foods and digs deep into the science behind what and why. She says food especially comfort foods are often very emotional – we have all have different ones for different reasons.

Show Notes

Karthika talks to Monique Sourinho, a commercial food stylist, food photographer, recipe developer and food blogger who shares her food journey and her creative journey. Monique is extremely talented and her enthusiasm and love for all things related to creativity and food comes out throughout our chat. She also talked the difference between traveling to eat or food just being a part of your travel adventures.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome Monique. Thank you so very much for joining me on CulturallyOurs. I’m super excited to have you on the podcast and I cannot wait to chat with you, get to know you a little bit better and sort of get to know your food journey a little bit better.

Monique: Yeah. Thank you for having me. This is a pleasure. I love all the other interviews and am super excited to chat with you.

Karthika: Absolutely. So before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about sort of who you are, where you’re from, just to help set the stage for this chat?

Monique: Yeah. So I’m a food stylist and photographer as well as a recipe developer and now a food blogger, because I just redid my website and I’m in Essex, Connecticut.

Karthika: And for those who don’t know, Monique actually shared a recipe way back when CO was just getting started. So she has  been with us the whole journey.  So it’s really great to have view on the podcast. Now talk to me a little bit about sort of your food journey. I know you’re a food stylist, you’re a recipe developer now, a blogger. How does sort of food fit into your life and lifestyle? Do you, do you love to cook or is it just, you know, something you do because you have to eat?

Monique: It’s probably both. I come from a family of foodies  we’ll like talk about food while we’re eating food and already thinking about our next meal. So it’s just kind of inherent and I love cooking. I love photographing it, styling it. I love anything to do with food, basically.

Karthika: It’s a very interesting journey. I know a lot of people kind of who love food start blogging and then, you know, do photography and styling. You sort of gone the other way around. Was it intentional or was it just something that kinda happened?

Monique: Oh, so  backing up. I’ve had a lot of different interests in life and long story short. I tried combining a whole bunch of, endeavors to fit this lifestyle,  before I was a commission painter and wow. Yeah.  and a tattoo artist. And then one day I was like, you know, I really, I really love food. These other career paths aren’t really fulfilling me. So then I went to school for pastries.  I wanted to do cooking, but I honestly wanted to avoid having to cut up any meat  so I was like, let’s do pastries, this works. And then, towards the end I just got interested in photography and I just went all in and I got so fascinated with it. I was like, wait a second, we’ll take a step back. And let’s combine something so we can utilize all the information

Karthika: Well, it sounds like it’s a creative path that you started and it’s sort of morphed. And now you’ve come to a point where you’re doing a little bit of everything that you love. So I think it’s all good at the end. Don’t you think?

Monique: I love it. It’s something new every day and it’s even for it being solely around food. There’s just so any variations

Karthika: For sure, for sure. Now tell me a little bit about your cooking style. You said, you know, in terms of family, food is very prominent, but what about your cooking style? Do you use cookbooks? Do you, you know, have family recipes or are you just one of those people that gets into the kitchen looks at ingredients and says, ah, this is what I’m going to make.

Monique: You know, honestly, it’s all the above. There’s just so much to learn from each department. And my family, we don’t have family recipes  and I think that’s what kind of drove me to want to become a recipe developer because I would get so frustrated that I, it would be like, I don’t measure, I just go based off of instincts. And I know it’s not just my culture either. It’s like all cultures do that.  so I,  I love cookbooks. I love reading through people’s, stories, noticing the different writing styles and imagery. And I could go based off of those and based off of just remembering what my family’s doing for family recipes and I also develop my own, so I kind of do it all.  it just, yeah. All it interests me.

Karthika: No, that’s excellent. I mean, I, I love cookbooks for the aesthetic appeal for sure. Oh yeah. But there’s something, but there’s something to be said about a recipe that tells you a story, as opposed to just saying, you know, here are the five ingredients and here are the seven in steps because that’s very dry and it gives you no history on why the author is, you know, putting this particular recipe in. If there’s a story, if there’s a narrative, you feel more connected. And for me personally, I’m more inclined to probably try it, to see if I can experience that what the author was experiencing.  I’m a horrible cook, so that doesn’t happen too often.

Monique: Well, I think you are better than you think you are?

Karthika: I mean, I have my go-tos for sure. I’m not very adventurous in the kitchen and I, I think I’ve made my peace with that now.  my daughter loves to cook, so I’m like, okay, there’s somebody in the family who can, who can do the cooking.

Monique: That’s great though. It’s cool to see how things balance out.

Karthika: For sure. For sure. Now tell me some of your, favorite dishes to make and to eat. Not the same

Monique: I don’t think I have a favorite, you know, I get asked that and I still can’t decide because I, it really depends on my mood. It depends on the weather and who I’m with. I think, you know, when I think about my favorite dishes, I think of like the favorite company that I’m with. And it’s never really about food. When I look back on two, those moments, it’s always the company and gathering and coming together. Yeah. Like my mom’s egg rolls. They’re not something that I want all the time, but , and like, it’s really good, but it’s, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but what I really admire thinking to that recipe is just how the family comes together and is assigned to a different aspect of the recipe. And it’s just a communal food

Karthika: For sure. No, that, that totally makes sense. Like for me, it’s chai and I know I’ve talked about this before. Growing up, I would with my mom in the kitchen while she was making, you know, food in the early mornings, because she was a teacher and she would leave the house at seven in the morning. So she would get her get up early, early, and she would be making lunch for everybody and I would be up and we would share a cup of cha. So for me, the act of having chai with her is so much more than the act you try in itself, because like you said, it’s like the person and the memories that you associate with a dish.  so I totally get where you’re, where you’re coming from there now.  being a pastry chef and now developing recipes, is there a particular dish that, you know, maybe you are like dying to try out or dying to master and you, you keep at it.

Monique: You know, There’s not one that comes to mind  I was trying to think about it. And I, again, it goes back to just, whatever’s exciting in the moment, because sometimes what excites me most is an idea of like a friend wanting to try something and then getting into the research of how and why that developed. And it’s never consistent. It’s just, whatever is a spur of the moment   Right. So spontaneous

Karthika: Hey, that’s, that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. I think just given everything that we’ve gone through these past couple of years, having a little bit of spontaneity is, is a good thing. And it’s exciting now let’s talk a little bit shift gears a little bit and talk about sort of,  comfort food.  it’s such a, such a great concept. You talked about egg rolls. I talked about cha  these are foods that, you know, perhaps have special memories and, and emotions tied to it. So do you have any sort of comfort foods that are your go-to?  maybe just, you know, just because you, or just because you just wanna try, try that back again.

Monique: Honestly, mine is really simple. It’s eggs and rice with soy sauce.  so like ever since I was a child,  I guess that must have been pretty stubborn because it was all that I would eat then,  looking back on it now, I, I think of all the times that my mom like tried to get me to eat something new and just being exposed to all the different things was such a fun experience. And then even traveling to Laos, I couldn’t, I found out I can’t really handle,  MSG , so I like survived off of eating eggs and rice  and it just to this day, it still brings me a lot of comfort for whatever reason. And it’s just easy to make.

Karthika: Yeah. I know. Sometimes comfort food is that whatever’s easy because we sort of wanna get to the good part. Right. The good part is like eating that particular thing and savoring it and, and remembering those, those moments and those memories. So yeah, sometimes comfort. I mean, I think for the most part comfort food is easy. Of course, there, there are exceptions and elaborate, elaborate comfort foods, and then it becomes more of the, the, the act of actually making it, which is comforting. Right? Yeah.

Monique: Well, I think it’s really emotional, like comfort foods. And I think everybody has different ones for different reasons linked to different memories, but I think, yeah I notice a common pattern is that it’s a lot of people’s comfort foods involve carbs  , but I think the breakdown of that scientifically is simple carbs,  are digested faster and it release endorphin to the brain. If we want to get into that.

Karthika: Oh my God. That’s totally interesting. I know when I spoke to another guest Sylvia, she talked about,  like gut health and at the end of it and I was like oh my God, I think that totally grossed your audience. I’m like, no that was so interesting because we don’t, we don’t stop and think about the science behind these, these foods and the, and the whys, right? It’s only people like you who are, you know, developing recipes or who are kind of digging into the science of it, the average person doesn’t. So it’s definitely very interesting. So due to due share,

Monique: Well, actually like developing these recipes and having my friends and family taste testing’s, it was really interesting to notice what people actually wanted and why. And then it brought up different,  aspects of food and there’s like demographics of who they are, where they grew up. And it, it gets bigger, like there’s food deserts in some areas that some people grew up in. So then they get more comfortable eating junk food and it brings them a sense of comfort and that’s beyond their control. And,  but it’s really interesting to see that like all the different patterns and why, why anything . And another example is like thinking about diet culture and,  it’s, it’s not even diet culture. It’s just food culture in general, where there’s so many different, I guess, genres of how people view food and their relationship with it.

Karthika: You’re fine.  all right. So Monique, tell me how diverse would you say is your kitchen and your dinner table? You mentioned Laos and you mentioned, you know,  growing up, you had different influence. So would you say you are pretty diverse in your kitchen?

Monique: I think generally as far as the American population goes, , I think it’s, it’s more diverse than most kitchens.  sometimes I feel like I have a, like an international pantry  like, and sometimes I even wonder if like the personal recipes I develop, if they’re too farfetched, because I get so intrigued by trying different things from different regions or different countries. And I definitely have a little, a fair amount of Asian, like staples  and I have an entirely different cabinet for more,  nutrition focused recipes. And then I have like Italian and  like Indian spices as well. And Mexican I, yeah, I guess I have, I’m like, like reviewing everything

Karthika: my pantry is full of stuff that I probably am not even going to make, but it’s just, I dunno for me, it’s like having it there, like, you know, being Indian and, and having, you know, lived, grown up there and gotten a, a different kind of a food palette to coming here to the states and now living here and having a slightly different food palette. It’s like, I wanna, you know, naturally I wanna combine the two. Right. But then, like I said earlier, I have my go-tos and I’m not super adventurous, but I still have these exotic sounding and looking spices and things, which I’m like when I bought them, I was thinking I would do something with them. And now they just look pretty

Monique: And sometimes what is exotic for some people is like our, our normal . And it’s like, oh, is that, is that the standard pantry then  goes all over.

Karthika: Now. Are you equally adventurous in your eating habits?  or will you just not try certain things or are you of the philosophy that I’ll try everything once at least,

Monique: You know, it’s 50, 50 maybe not 50 50, but what I mean by that is I like to think I’m an adventurous eater when it comes to plants. Sure. I’ll eat anything. But when it comes to like meat and stuff, I, I’m not very adventurous. And I think, you know, I’m thankful to not be in a position where I have to only eat certain things like, right. Like frog legs. I will not eat those  or her chicken feet. I just, I can’t . Yeah. Yeah. So in that sense, I’m not very adventurous, but anything else that isn’t like some animal body parts I’ll, I’ll try it easily. Okay.

Karthika: okay. Now this is another one of those hard curveball questions.

Monique: Here we go.

Karthika: You know whenever I ask this question, my guests are like, what, how can I narrow it down, I can’t do that. But I’m gonna ask anyway,  what is your favorite restaurant? It can be you can localize it to where you are, or you can talk about a restaurant or a meal that, you know, perhaps when you are traveling, it’s an open ended question. I just wanna know if you have one and why is it sort of a hot favorite?

Monique: Oh, okay. So it I’m gonna loop in what I said earlier about, it really depends on who I’m with, but if we’re talking about locally where I am there are two restaurants. And the reason for that is because they have great food  they are some of the first restaurants that I ever got to photograph. Mm. And I think it just adds an extra layer of appreciation. And I think it just makes every think. Tastes better too,

Karthika: For sure. Now how about when, and you’ve, I’m assuming you’ve traveled,  a fair bit as well. You mentioned Laos. So do you have any sort of favorites, when you travel?

Monique: Ooh. So in Laos, I don’t even know what it’s called, but in the capital, there’s just one orange kiosk. It’s only open for a little bit, and then they have these buns of Kal and I don’t know what it is, but they’re so soft and fluffy yet. So tasty inside and we try it, all these different things in LAIs, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And it was so exciting that like I kept asking if we could go back and then we introduced some travelers who we met and we all got them together and something is in it.  just really good.  I don’t know what it is.

Karthika: I can totally relate. I mean, when I go back home to India and to Bombay, there are these little, you know, hole in the world, places that still exist 20 audios later. And I just love going there because not only is the food excellent. It’s cheap, it’s excellent. It’s local, but it’s also the memories of growing up of, you know, hanging out with my friends and, and all those things that makes it, you know, sort of extra special. And it’s like to the average person, it’s just no big deal. But you know, for people like us, it’s just, it has these memories. And then once you taste it, you’re like, ah, I cannot not taste it.  yeah. I have to keep going back now as a traveler. Do you,  and, and given you are in this sort of industry, right. In, in food and recipe development and all that, do you look for sort of,  like do you travel to eat or is it, oh,

Monique: Yeah. I definitely travel to eat  and it can be hard because then I just wanna buy everything cuz it’s the thrill of being somewhere new, but that’ll just have too much food to eat.  and I, it’s just a magic of being somewhere different. Even if it’s something that you could get where you are. It’s, there’s just different ways of looking at things and approaching things like take pizza. For example, Chicago pizza is way different from New York style and it’s really fun to see how the people are making things and why too. So I like to explore the emotions, I guess

Karthika: Yes. And I think it, you know, food is one of these, quintessential essentials, I guess, in life. Right. I mean, we all need to eat to survive.  it’s interesting when, especially when we go places and we, we interact with people from there and we learn about food in there, eyes, I think at least for me, it’s become such a deeper exploration of a place than just, you know, the, the, the top 10 things to see in a particular location. I hate those kind of list. I wanna know. I wanna know, you know, people, what do people do? People who live there, what do they like, where do they go for a beer or where do they go, you know, for, for an evening out. And it’s just, sometimes it’s so different from what is popular, that it, you just feel like you’re in a completely different place than what you expected.  you were going to go explore  I don’t know if that makes sense.

Monique: It does. The first place that comes to mind when you said that is New York city, I think a lot of people get really excited about the idea of New York city, but then when you go there, it’s just a whole bunch of tourists and it’s way different than what you’d expect.  and it’s like, you just want to connect with locals because those are the people that are living there that connected to some place, even a hole new wall for whatever reason. And it makes it way different.

Karthika: Yep. For sure. Now this is, I think a super fun question  and it has the potential of so many different answers. So,  I’m gonna just throw it out there and that you wrong with it.  so say you invited some people you admire the most in your life and they don’t have to be famous people. They can just be, you know, people in your extended circle to a dinner party, who are they and what would you of

Monique: So there’s nobody famous that I’d want to like share that moment with per se.  like, I think it would just be the locals or not even the locals. Just how do I word this? I am most inspired by the people that I meet. I feel like they’re so lot to admire and dive into with people’s personal stories and you can relate on a deeper level just through conversations like this.  I totally forgot the question.

Karthika: No, that is totally fine. Well, you, you, you kinda answered who you would have at your dinner table. Now, the second part of it is,  what would you serve?

Monique: Oh, so what I’d serve at the table? That definitely, Hmm. Yeah. What I’d serve depends on what that person generally likes. Like the other day I was asked, like, what’s my favorite meal to cook and why? And I didn’t have an answer. And I think it’s because I like to look at it from a hospitality standpoint where I want people to feel comfortable. And then maybe the next time you open them up to be more adventurous with some other recipe  at such an, an interactive experience. And I think that’s part of the fun of figuring out what somebody’s palettes are like. And then once you’re comfortable and food tastes great, I realize they open up even more.

Karthika: Yes, definitely. I mean, you know, again goes back to this whole comfort foot food concept, right? I mean, not, not to be fair, not everybody is, is thinks like that, but there is a good segment of people who, when you are, you are sitting across from them, they wanna kind of interact with you and food is just secondary It’s, you know, a part of the whole experience. It’s not the experience. Yeah. As you get to know the person, then it becomes a, Hey let’s, you know, go out for this super fancy meal and then it like, you know, shifts completely. So I totally get it. Now, when we started talking,  right off the bat, you mentioned you,  started off as a stylist, a food stylist, a food photographer, and now you have your own sort of, you know, website and, and food blog. Where, where do you see yourself? I mean, where do you wanna take this? If you’re open to sharing with us, what are sort of your next steps with this whole food journey?

Monique: Well, I made the website and collaborated with people because I realized as a recipe developer, I was making all of these recipes for clients and I was like, I have nothing to show for what I can do or what, you know, really moves and inspires me. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so it kind of took on this path of it’s like a step before a cookbook, if yeah. And I think maybe that could be the next step , but in the meantime, I’m just kind of observing how people react with high directions, my photography, and trying to understand how people learn, because it really opened up like different aspects of communication and teaching and learning. And I think to move forward, I have to be receptive to all of that. And I think from there it can go a lot of different ways

Karthika: For sure. So would it be a cookbook for your recipes or would it be collaborating with somebody else and helping them put their cookbook together? Cause I see, as a photographer, as a, as a stylist,  a lot of, you know, that’s not, that’s one of the skill, every food blog has and to have all three of them is pretty rare. So I don’t know. What, where, where does, where is your head or are you kind of looking at doing a cookbook for your own recipes?

Monique: I think it would be fun to do a cookbook for my own recipes.  but I also would love to work as somebody else in theirs. Like one of my best friends was saying that he’s just his next move in life will just be dropping everything to open up a bakery  and it would be cool to do a cookbook with him. And yeah, I, I guess I really didn’t think about it. I was just so excited to express and just release some different foods and photography and sorts. So

Karthika: No it’s beautifully done. I have to say, I, I remember kinda talking about it on social and I went and I checked it out. It’s beautifully done and, and you know, you’ve got such a clean yet intriguing is the right word that I would like to use in terms of your food styling and your photography.  it just very beautifully done. So congratulations on that. Thank you so much, Monique. This has been amazing. I love chatting with you.  like I said, you’ve I interact with you way back in the early culturally are days. So it’s, it’s so refreshing to see how your journey has evolved and you’ve morphed as an artist and as a creative. So,  thank you so very much for coming on the show.

Monique: And the feelings are mutual. I just, I remember how it was in the beginning. And then I was like scrolling through like throughout the process up until today. And it’s really fascinating to see just the amount of people you’ve connected with and the depths of conversations you’ve had. It’s the world needs more of that.

Karthika: Thank you so much.

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