Here she shares her expert tips for creating a beautiful Christmas home and table, but first the inspiring story of how she created her own career.
With a background in fine art, a passion and talent with food and indeed storytelling, Jennifer has, within a few short years, pioneered food styling and photography in Ireland. “About five or six years ago I was itching to get back to my creative zone. I’m a sculptor and painter but this time around I wanted to work with food. “I love it and was always being told I have a talent for it. I did an intensive cookery course and, while thoroughly enjoying it, I found that I focused on the way the dish looked – how best to garnish it, accompany it in a way that enhanced its visual appeal. In other words, food styling.”
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(Credit: Jennifer Oppermann for Galmere Foods)
Festive Roasted Butternut Squash, with Rice, Green Pesto, Pomegranate, Pine Nuts & Parmesan
“I got plenty of practice throughout the course and once I’m committed to something I’m like a dog with a bone, I worked relentlessly experimenting and refining my processes,” says Jennifer.
Turning a passion into a business is where things can go awry. “I was a bit cheeky! I rang an old school friend who works in an advertising agency and asked her to let the art directors and management team know they could now call on me for any food shoots they were planning, and it literally took off from there. One job led to another, and I’ve never stopped.”
And the move into photography? “I was fortunate to work with great talent from the get-go. I drank in the way a shot would be lit, the lens, angle, all the details. I bought excellent equipment and again experimented and learnt, my confidence and knowledge growing all the time. Then the day arrived when a photographer I worked with a lot was double booked and asked me to stand in on one of the gigs.”
It took off from there. “By now I’ve taken over an entire floor of our home as my studio. It’s filled with light and shelves of props, everything I need, and of course work can start as early and continue as late as necessary. Clients also like coming here, having a coffee, and being part of the process,” she says.
With borage, purple kale, and all manner of herbs and vegetables grown in her garden, Jennifer keeps a steady supply of fresh and photogenic garnishes to hand. “It just makes sense,” she says.
With a client list that reads like a Who’s Who of Irish and International food brands, her portfolio ranges from Galmere to Heinz, from oysters to escargots. Her innate sense of taste as well as her practicality has also drawn Jennifer into collaborating with many of these leading brands on creating recipes and food concepts. Apart from TV work, Jennifer is also frequently invited to adjudicate national food awards.
(Credit: Jennifer Oppermann for Galmere Foods)
A Festive Setting
“My absolute passion is travel and cuisine. And I’m not alone – so many people are travelling, living and working in different cultures. It has made cuisine such a vibrant and ever evolving pleasure to be shared and enjoyed. New tastes, flavours, textures, and combinations of these, are leading to greater experimentation at home and on the menu. Again, we never stop learning.”
What are the meals to impress? “If I want to impress I go back to the classics. There is a good reason why they are everyone’s showstopper or ultimate meal. Top of the list is Beef Wellington. Don’t be intimidated, take a dish and practice it till you have it down, confidence comes from repeating the process until you’ve mastered it. Chicken Parmesan, Lasagne (with homemade pasta), Fish Pie, a Casserole – these are winners. Top it off with an Apple Crumble made with your own apples. Can’t be bettered!”
And Christmas; this one is a little different as it will be smaller than our usual festive season. “Go all out with setting the atmosphere and make it visually beautiful, intimate and welcoming, add spices and music and you’re all set,” she advises.
“Choose two colour accents. Try traditional combination pairings from white, red, green, gold, or silver. Incorporate natural décor with branch cuttings from holly, pine, rosemary, and thyme. Then add fruits and nuts such as pomegranate and walnuts as well as spices and dried fruits. One great combination is dried orange and cinnamon sticks. As for candles – mix up the heights to add brightness and a cozy mood to any table,” she says.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Have a very Happy one!
You can see more from Jennifer at @jenniferocooks.
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