Plating art

At 23, Shivesh Bhatia is one of the youngest and most popular food stylists in India

Shivesh Bhatia Shivesh Bhatia

They say that cooking is love made edible. Then food styling must be love made edible art. Even in culinary shows, the first thing that the judges notice is the presentation. With many choosing visually appealing dishes over plain spreads, food styling has become a much sought-after profession. Shivesh Bhatia, however, got into it accidentally.

“I got into baking when my grandmother fell sick and was hospitalised,” he says. “I was 16 then and wanted to bake her favourite cupcakes. I ended up burning a whole batch despite carefully following the instructions on the box of the Betty Crocker cake mix. It did not make me stop though. After a lot of trial and error, I got the hang of it and started developing my own recipes.”

At an age when most boys spent their time playing football and video games, Bhatia was busy baking. Soon he was a hit among family and friends who encouraged him to go public. This led to the birth of his blog and Instagram account in 2014.

“When I started baking, I did not know there was something called food styling,” says Bhatia. “I just wanted to make my photographs look good so that I could post them on social media. I was inspired by a couple of internationally recognised food bloggers and started taking the aspect of presentation more seriously. Instagram played a huge role in giving me the identity of a food stylist. It is an art; it cannot be taught and it does not happen overnight. I take up food styling assignments only when I like the brand as I believe in substance over style.”

Edible art: lemon-poppy seed madeleines. Edible art: lemon-poppy seed madeleines.

Before long, he started getting noticed for his creative food photographs. He has worked with the Grand Hyatt, Google Maps and tourism boards of different countries. He also got featured in Vogue’s ‘20 under 26’ in 2017.

“I work with simple inanimate objects,” says Bhatia. “You can find everything from paperclips to rustic clayware in my food styling projects. I love keeping it simple yet bringing out the vibrant essence of food.”

His first book on baking and food styling, Bake with Shivesh, happened when an editor at HarperCollins noticed his Instagram page. Initially, when he got a message from the editor on Instagram, he thought it was fake. The book was an Amazon bestseller.

He now conducts styling and food photography workshops for bakers in India and outside. His second book will be out later this year. “The biggest challenge for me right now is the pressure of putting up regular posts,” he says. “With workshops, travel, other events and my second book coming up, I sometimes end up not being able to post new recipes on social media.”