Local Food Stylist is Star Quality
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Local Food Stylist is Star Quality

Gloria Smiley started with a potato chip commercial and worked her way into the world’s most famous kitchens, cookbooks, and movie sets.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Gloria Smiley, food stylist, prepares a large halibut tail in her huge inventory of pots and equipment.
Gloria Smiley, food stylist, prepares a large halibut tail in her huge inventory of pots and equipment.

Born and raised in Savannah, Gloria B. Smiley’s culinary adventure began with aromas of her Romanian grandmother’s cooking. Her mother and her sisters were all exceptional home cooks.

She recalled, “Aunt Ethel made a chocolate marble cake that everyone loved; Aunt Clara made okra gumbo; and my mom, Ida, made mouthwatering baked chicken and turkey.”

During her decades-long culinary career, she recalled, “I have had the privilege of doing food styling for renowned chefs who appear on television shows, including Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich, Anthony Bourdain, Ted Allen, Bobby Flay, Suzanne Somers, Anne Byrn, Nigella Lawson, Patti LaBelle, and Richard Simmons – yes, he wrote a cookbook! Just to name a few.”

Backing up to 1970, she began taking cooking classes and forged a close friendship with an instructor and became her sous chef. That led to gastronomic adventures in France and classes at Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne, and trips to Provence affording her the opportunity to study with various French chefs. Over time, she began teaching culinary classes at Cook’s Warehouse focusing on hand-made pasta and seafood.

Smiley taught Pasta-bilities classes at Cook’s Warehouse.

Then, a culinary student asked her if she could do food styling for a potato chip commercial. Smiley stated, “It was a profound task, but I found my niche! Concurrently, cookbooks became more than just a collection of recipes – with culture, lifestyle and ethnicity being the focus. Cookbook authors realized that photographs sold books; that TV cooking segments in various cities required a food stylist to create a “beauty plate,” plus provide the ingredients for the author to put a recipe together on air, and voila, Smiley’s talent soared.

Over the years, she amassed a plethora of cooking equipment, dishes, and tools for use in food styling that are akin to camping out. She exclaimed, “Being prepared to go the extra mile is built into this job!”

One might wonder if the glistening pasta we see on Al Pacino’s scene table is real; the answer is “Yes!”

Gloria Smiley studied at A La Bonne Cocotte in Nyons, France, in 1994 where the students went to the market daily to buy fresh provisions.

Per Smiley, “Tricks of the trade are employed sometimes because, after a while, food starts to need a touch up to remain looking fresh, so a spray of water or a brush with some oil is needed to keep it camera ready. Everything I make is edible, so the crew usually devours everything after the segment is over. I never come home with a crumb!”

In Smiley’s luscious looking cookbook, “A Matter of Taste,” she shares culinary wisdom, emphasizing the importance of a good instant-read thermometer, and keeping fresh lemons in the fridge.

She encouraged, “A few drops of lemon juice in a sauce, sweet or savory, can make a big difference enhancing the flavor of a dish, not to mention the zest.”
Smiley’s grandchildren encouraged her to write the book and relatives helped its launch. Her grandchildren went to her computer and copied her recipes to a Google drive and disseminated it to the others, who then selected recipes they wanted to include.

She laughed, “Before the cookbook, I would get the usual calls urged by their parents to see how I am doing, now the cookbook gives me another link to them – our conversations extend to life, travel, food, what they are doing and now sometimes they ask me, ‘How are you doing, gMa?’”

Smiley volunteers at fortunate OrVe Shalom Synagogue making bourekas and bizcocho for their annual bazaar in December.

Smiley offers readers her recipe for avocado and smoked trout.

Avocado and Smoked Trout

Try this with good canned tuna or canned salmon. Makes a great cocktail nibble. If stuffing endive leaves, buy a couple more endives.
1 large shallot, diced
1 lemon, finely zested and juiced
1/3 cup E.V. olive oil
2 Belgian endives
2 to 3 scallions, finely sliced
½ lb. Smoked Trout
1 firm avocado
1/4 cup parsley, minced

For Serving:
Sourdough or good bread, sliced 1” thick
Or separate the leaves of another endive or two and fill each leaf with the mixture.
1. Preheat broiler to high.
2. Finely mince shallot and place in a small bowl. Cover with zest and lemon juice and let macerate for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a fork to whisk in E.V. olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding sea salt, if needed. Set aside.
3. Quarter lengthwise through the core the Belgian endives, then finely dice them crosswise. Finely slice scallions and scatter over diced endives. Break trout into large pieces over top and pour reserved dressing over top. Use hands to toss all together. Correct seasoning at this point.
4. Dice avocado and add to bowl. Add parsley and set aside.
5. Drizzle bread with olive oil and toast for 2 minutes in preheated broiler. Flip toasts and do the same on the other side.  Pile Avocado and Smoked Trout on toasts and serve.

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