Karina Duncan : Food Stylist & Inspiring Beauty

I love this woman – a lot.  I wanted to feature her on the site today because her approach to life is holistic and wholesome.  She’s moved from busy, stressful kitchens into doing what she loves, still playing with food of all varieties! She’s one clever little peanut and she’s here today to tell us more about her and what she does.

Karina studied Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne before pursuing her real love… Food!She began her culinary career in New York, where she studied at the French Culinary Institute. After gaining her qualification as a chef, she returned to Melbourne, and worked in restaurants and cafes alongside chefs such as Matt Wilkinson, Philippa Sibley and Nicolas Poelaert.

She has since made the transition into food styling and has worked with stylists such as Caroline Velik, Deborah McLean, Fiona Rigg, Leesa O’Reilly and David Morgan. Karina now works in Melbourne as a food stylist, recipe developer and food economist in advertising, packaging, publishing, editorial, website content and television commercials. Karina also has a passion for health and ‘food as medicine’ and has recently gained her qualification as a health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

Clients Include:
Epicure – The Age, Myer, Coles, Aussie Farmers Direct, Jenny Craig, ACP Magazine, Pacific Magazines, Fonterra

Photography Eve Wilson, Propping Paige Anderson

Photography Marina Oliphant, Karen Martini recipes for Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

How did you become a food stylist?
This is a question I get asked all the time and it’s not that easy to answer. There is no real set pathway for food styling, so it came about by a few different roads finally meeting together. From a very young age I have always loved food. I love eating it, cooking it, looking at it and reading about it. However, I never thought about making it a career because it was my only real hobby, and I was worried I would lose the love I had for it if it became ‘my job’.

After school I studied Creative Arts at Melbourne Uni. I didn’t really love it or feel like it was right for me, but continued on because I didn’t have any idea of what else I could be doing. A couple of years went by and I realised (with lots of encouragement from my family) that I was wasting my time feeling lost and uninspired, and should pursue food in some way. I looked around for a while at different food related short courses and eventually settled on a school in New York called the French Culinary Institute.

Moving on my own to New York was the scariest decision I have ever made, but the best one by far. I loved New York and the course, and made some amazing friends who were all there for the same reason as me… to cook! I learnt so much and really developed a great base and knowledge for food, which I knew I would use in some capacity on my return to Australia.

I knew I didn’t want to work as a chef for a long time, but I was prepared to soak in as much knowledge as possible from whomever was willing to teach me. I worked at Circa the Prince in St Kilda under the most amazing mentors I could have ever asked for. Phillipa Sibley, Matt Wilkinson and Nicolas Poelaert were, and still are, the most influential people in my love of food and cooking. I learnt so much from them and will be forever grateful for the time they invested in me.

While working a Circa I became more interested in cookbooks and food styling, and contacted every food stylist I could find in Melbourne and Sydney. I asked simply for an opportunity to get some work experience with them. Thankfully, David Morgan in Sydney let me assist him for a week, and I worked on Pete Evans’ cookbook and did a shoot for Delicious Magazine. That was it. I loved every second and knew this was where I wanted to be. Since then, I have assisted many food stylists in Melbourne including Caroline Velik who is one of the best food stylists in Australia. She has been the most wonderful and generous mentor in helping me get into the industry. Now I am fortunate enough to be able to work with many different publications and companies, and continue to love every minute of it.

What do you love most about what you do?
No two days are the same. Being able to cook beautiful food and style something different in a new place with new people everyday is pretty wonderful.

What is your fave go to meal on the run?
I’m pretty strict with myself and very rarely eat what is being shot (otherwise I would be the size of a house), so I always try to have some sort of healthy lunch or snack ready to go. I usually have some cooked quinoa in the fridge, so I will make something out of that, and take it with me to the shoot. Sometimes I mix it with some yummy leftover roast vegetables and herbs or if I’m in a real rush I’ll stir through yoghurt, vanilla, cinnamon and sprinkle over some nuts and seeds. Yum.

What is your favourite quote?
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney
“Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadow will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman

What’s the one thing you want the world to know? Your message?
Everyone can and should work in a job they love. Life is short and shouldn’t be wasted feeling unhappy or stressed. Whatever it is you want to do, go and give it try. Someone has to do it, so why can’t it be you?!


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