We recently caught up with Food Stylist and Editor, Frances Boswell, to discuss her history and relationship with food. Frances boasts a varied and interesting professional background that has nurtured an intuitive creative process and inspiring outlook on food and its purpose beyond just keeping a belly full. Our conversation with Frances left us feeling inspired and curious.

Read along for our chat with Frances Boswell.

heirloom tomato on toast

summer watermelon

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start in food and styling.

I began working young - age 13. My first job was Chopper - meaning I did
nothing but prep vegetables for a cafe’s renown minestrone. The position was
not glamorous but I loved the theater of the busy kitchen and continued to work
in various restaurants for the next 10 plus years. At some point I sensed that
restaurant life was pretty much incompatible with any other existence and I
began to think about ways to pursue my love of food and cooking in a different
manner. I did not realize that food styling was a profession but I knew that
someone must be cooking the recipes that appeared in Gourmet and I wanted to
be that person - complete with a tiny apartment in New York City. A mix of
cobbling things together, fumbling about and good fortune led me assisting a
few established stylists and from there a full time job at Martha Stewart Living
Magazine. The magazine was still a startup and we were all basically making
it up as we went along. I have never learned more, worked harder or had more

fun than I did during that time.

Why do you do what you do - what about food inspires you?

Well I have done other things. I studied art history in college and got a job
after graduation cataloging African Art at Sotheby’s but I spent most of my
time saving my pennies so I could splurge on a poached chicken and chutney
sandwich on thin thin dark seeded bread once a week from the fancy catering
outpost in the lobby. I befriended the woman who ran the catering company.
After I left Sotheby’s to pursue a life in food she hired me to work for her when
extra hands were needed. I think ultimately she introduced me to one of the
people I worked for as a private cook which then led me to a position as a cook
on mountaineering expeditions ( a whole other story but I've cooked at Everest
Base camp). That doesn’t really answer why I do what I do. Somehow food and
I just always found one another. What inspires me about food? Its power! I
can prepare the simplest of things - brew tea, poach an egg, blanch a sugar
snap, slice a peach - and feel grounded, happy and (if preparing a meal for

someone else) immediately more connected to the person with me.

rhubarb recipe

orange peel food styling

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I live in NYC. Inspiration is everywhere. Today it was Union Square Market -
table grapes have arrived and it has me thinking about all the possibilities - sweet
and savory. Yesterday I wandered the streets with a friend and we stopped for a
coffee at a new restaurant. We were hot and tired, so we lingered at the bar and I
noticed how intricate the labels on Spirit bottles really are. Now I am
wondering how to incorporate them into my next job.
I just read one of the most beautiful novels Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. The author’s
description of the Ethiopian Injera caused me to order 5 pounds of Teff flour.
My friend’s spice shop - akin to a trip around the world in the time it takes me
to walk 5 city blocks. Sometimes a fabulous new bowl or plate can beget a meal. And perhaps my husband and children are my biggest
inspiration as they are always sweet and lovely when I create something special
just for them - like the tiered Gateau Pomme De Terre with cucumber roses,
piped sour cream and pea tendril garlands I fashioned for my daughter who

loves nothing more than a potato. 

We love rituals at Elsie Green - Do you have a ritual for starting your day or centering yourself to make space for the creative process?

I like rituals too. When I am looking to center myself, I prepare something that
requires long and slow cooking - like the tagine I have on the go right now. I
started the dish this morning. My head was spinning with the long list of
things I needed to accomplish today. Browning the chicken marked the
beginning of Productivity! Chopping onions allowed me to shed a tear I didn’t
realize was at the ready. I mashed preserved lemon to the beat of Golden Age
(Chris Staples - listen now). I adjusted the seasoning with salted coriander
seeds and additional pinches of turmeric and saffron to get the creative juices
flowing. By the time I had wiped down the kitchen counters I was ready for the
day. And then the Tagine worked its magic - filling my apartment with divine
smells which changed my breathing - deeper inhales and longer exhales -
rendering my parasympathetic nervous system in charge. The culinary

equivalent of incense - not to mention dinner.

jalapeno jam recipe

Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on or have been involved with?

Ohh that is tough, There have been so many fun ones. Even the projects that
prove challenging usually have an upside - like the opportunity to work with a
new photographer or pull some magic out of your hat. Sometimes it is just the
insanity of the whole experience that keeps it near and dear to your heart. Right
now I am working on a personal project that involves my love of all things
marmalade. Not sure where that will land exactly but having lots of fun and

eating lots of toast.

We love your blog, Kitchen-Repertoire. Can you share a favorite recipe from your blog for our readers to try?

I am so glad you like the blog. Kitchen Repertoire really came about as a type
of reentry into the world of food styling after I took a hiatus to study Chinese
medicine (food being a crucial component of the medicine). Photographer
Dana Gallagher and I created the blog together - I guess it is good we are so

behind on our posting because it means we are both busy.

This recipe has been in rotation all summer.

homemade bread recipe

simple white cake recipe

| all images courtesy of Frances Boswell |

Follow Frances @francesboswell

See more work by Frances Boswell by visiting her website.

Get more recipes on her food blog Kitchen Repertoire.

Take a peek at What's New at Elsie Green >

Sepi Shokouh
Tagged: food & recipes