Another Sammy who loves food more than I do…sold. This was quite possibly the easiest interview choice I’ve ever had to make. I’m so excited to introduce you to our next maker who comes to us from the world of baking, cooking, and food styling! But I have to admit that I did not know enough about these topics, going into this interview, to ask the right questions to this maker. While I would consider myself to be an avid baker and I enjoy a good recipe, Sammy is definitely on a whole other level. Luckily, Sammy was was a great sport and was able to walk me through it. With that being said, let’s jump right into our profile of the week, Sammy Mila!
“Food is something I grew up with as a means of bringing people together. It was that iconic feeling of going to someone’s house for dinner and the conversations that stem from and around food that make my heart happy”
BCH: Where are you from and where are you currently based?
Sammy: I was born and raised in Des Moines, IA and have been here ever since!
BCH: What is your craft of choice?
Sammy: I love anything food related- whether I’m cooking, developing, or just watching. I also love caring for my houseplants! Not sure if either of these count as “crafts” but that’s all I’ve got LOL
BCH: That definitely counts!
BCH: Where does your passion for food come from?
Sammy: Family. Food is something I grew up with as a means of bringing people together. It was that iconic feeling of going to someone’s house for dinner and the conversations that stem from and around food that make my heart happy.
BCH: Could you tell us a little bit about the world of food styling for those who aren’t familiar with what that is?
Sammy: Food styling is a creative world where I get dishes and ingredients camera-ready! Think- hairstylist is to hair as food stylist is to food.
BCH: What made you want to become a food stylist and how did you get into this career path?
Sammy: I didn’t know food stylist was a career choice until AFTER college. I started in the Better Homes and Gardens test kitchen as a culinary specialist; testing, creating, and fixing recipes. It was more technical than creative and after a few years of that, I shifted to the photo studio where I started taking a more “aesthetic” approach to food. I love chemistry and the magic behind all of that, so putting that knowledge into edible form AND making it pretty just checks all the boxes for me!
BCH: When did you start working for Better Homes and Gardens and what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your job?
Sammy: I started in their test kitchen as a summer intern in May of 2011. It just so happened that someone was retiring the fall after I graduated college and I pretty much just slipped into her position! It worked out beautifully and I’ve been here ever since!
BCH: I have always wanted to know, do you use fake food for the shoots, and what is one thing that people would be surprised to know is a food styling hack?
Sammy: Editorially, everything we shoot is representative of the recipe so every aspect of the recipe needs to be real/edible. However, on the advertising side, for example, if I were doing a photoshoot specifically for a cereal then the ONLY aspect of the photo/video that needs to be authentic, is the cereal.
BCH: Can you walk us through a typical shoot day? How much prep work goes into each shoot?
Sammy: The prep work is dependent on the recipes but typically we would get one full day of prep (2 for video) to accomodate for 3-4 days of shooting (2-3 for video). I have an assistant that works with me and helps keep all the ingredients organized and helps me keep the momentum going during the shoot day to make sure there’s not time wasted. We typically shoot about 5-6 photos a day (2-5 videos). All the grocery shopping is done by a designated shopper for the week and all the grocery orders are created by the stylist a week in advance. All the props are pulled by prop stylist/art directors.
BCH: Do you enjoy cooking in your downtime? What is your favorite go-to meal to cook for yourself?
Sammy: I am a baker through and through but I do enjoy cooking! Some days are easier to enjoy than others- depending on what my shoot day was like- but for the most part, I’ll never say no to some time in the kitchen at home! I LOVE the efficiency of one pan or one pot meals- I don’t have a favorite go-to meal at the moment but if I had to pick, it would be a pork butt in the pressure cooker and from there, I can go bbq or tacos!
“Boundaries are super important, even within yourself”
BCH: Can you share the story behind Hangry Dinners?
Sammy: My fiance and I have been dating for a little over 6 years and since I’m so big on going out to eat and taking pictures of my food, he knows that he can’t eat until my pictures are taken. He’ll just sit there with his arms crossed impatiently and I caught it on camera on our first date because I thought it was funny. It’s been our theme ever since!
BCH: Is there one ingredient that you love but think is highly underrated and why?
Sammy: SHALLOTS! I wish more people used them. We’re so focused on garlic and onions that we forget about the shallot. It has such an insane sweetness to them when caramelized or slowly fried that I’ve a dessert with them. Absolutely adore shallots!
BCH: As someone who works in the same field as their passion, what advice do you have for finding a balance between your work life, home-life, and passion projects?
Sammy: Boundaries are super important, even within yourself, so I would advise to start by making an actual schedule for yourself to better separate your time. Make sure to set some undivided time for yourself and the ones you love to maintain a healthy balance for your mental health needs and relationship needs. Whether it’s 30 minutes with your kids every night or a date night with your significant other every week or 20 minutes of yoga every morning, ALWAYS put yourself first and you can be at your best for everything else!
BCH: What is your favorite thing to binge watch or listen to while you craft?
Sammy: 90’s/00’s pop, hip hop, and R&B all dayyyyy!
Who should I talk to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments section along with any thoughts you have about Sammy’s interview. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don’t forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things fiber. Until next time, happy crafting!