Delicious Food Job: Meet Chichi Tullao of HappyTummyTravels
Meet the accidental food stylist who makes eating and cooking look good.
You have probably hit the “Follow” button or double-tapped on her images on Instagram: Chichi Tullao or Happytummytavels’ Instagram feed is filled with top shots of her daily eats, travels, and food discoveries, and lately, of food styling projects and events that she gets invited to. With over 19,000 followers on IG, she provides daily inspiration as she balances playing with food and her 8 to 5 corporate job in the finance industry.
We talked to Chichi about her interest in food and what’s next for this visual storyteller.
How did your interest in food styling start?
Initially, I wanted to pursue Food & Travel Photography: to create and immortalize images during our lunches, shared family moments, and travels. It was really for my personal pleasure only. However, life took a different route when I attended a few culinary classes with my mom which actually focused on food styling. I didn't really think of it as a profession but more of my own visual story/ edible art.
It eventually grew from there. Since I was young, my mom also stocked piles of food magazine and books related to food and I enjoyed tinkering with them, enjoyed losing myself in them until I was famished. I loved two-dimensional mouthwatering images that I really wanted to recreate them on my own.
What is the best thing about food styling?
It will be a forever a growing edible art. It can never be the same with every image, too. I love that sometimes clients give me complete freedom on styling, plating and directing the light and whole layout for dishes. That's also how I explore and break some boundaries and try my hand in doing the possibilities of creating the images I have in my head.
The most surprising thing about this job?
Seeing it in print and social media channels. I never thought my passion for edible art can create appetizing visual stories in two-dimensional images. I'm just happy it inspires others, too.
Do you ever get into a styling rut? If yes, how (or where) do you find inspiration?
I do! When all I see it the same item and I need to produce 6-8 layouts of the same thing but with a different mood, feel and interpretation. First I eat something comforting (Ice cream), then I find inspiration from friends, and from the food and props styling community, even internationally. You only have to ask and then expand your network. Sometimes, cook books help too!
Do you still have a dream job or is this your dream job?
I still dream of owning a kitchen studio and honing my skills in photography. I also dream of doing food styling stints abroad. Right now, I'm happy to balance both my corporate job and food styling but I'm investing to further enhance my skill set for food styling, props styling and space styling.
Three essentials when you show up for a job?
A blow torch, paint brush and my prop box, and a bar of white chocolate for me!
What is the one dish you can eat for a whole week?
CHIRASHI. I can eat this the whole week and the next. Especially when it has uni, generous amounts of fresh fish. Also, ice cream in pistachio or cookies and cream flavors!