2014 Board of Directors Election: Mary Valentin

Biography

Mary Valentin has worked as a food stylist in photography and film for almost 20 years.  Through her combination of experience in both the fine and culinary arts, Mary has developed a unique perspective and skill set that informs her work.  Mary’s background in fine arts developed almost 30 years ago as a student of painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where she earned a BFA.  Her artwork, featuring still-life painting, ink drawing, printmaking and photography, has been shown in galleries in her hometown of Chicago.

While at the SAIC Mary began to acquire valuable experience in the culinary arts through her work in Chicago-area restaurants, most notably as a sous chef at the Café du Midi from 1989 through 1992.  It was a chance encounter at a photo studio that first led Mary to merge her two passions, food and the visual arts, by accepting an offer to be an assistant food stylist on a large-scale project. Over the years Mary’s commercial clients have included Panera Bread, U.S. Foods, and Kraft.  She has also done editorial work for Food Network, Chicago Magazine, and is currently Photo Art Director for Anupy Singla’s third cookbook, Indian for Everyone.

Mary further developed her culinary skills through a mutually enriching relationship with Kendall College of Culinary Arts in Chicago.  At Kendall in 2004, Mary initiated a Food Styling and Photography course – the only one of its kind in the country at that time – designed for culinary students.  Mary created the curriculum and taught the classes from 2004 through 2009.  Food Styling and Photography quickly became one of the most successful and popular classes at Kendall College, with waiting lists of students eager to add food styling and photography skills to their professional repertoires.

Just as in her professional career, Mary brought her combined skills and experience in both fine and culinary arts to the classroom.  In fact, one of the most popular elements of the course occurred on the opening day of each term when Mary would bring her students to the Art Institute to personally guide them through a tour of the history of food in art. 

While at Kendall, Mary was able to benefit from the talents, knowledge, and experiences of the outstanding culinary faculty, taking a wide array of coursework to further hone her own skills, ultimately leading to a Certification in Baking and Pastry.

Mary has been an enthusiastic and involved member of the IACP since 2007, presenting at conferences, entering competitions and conducting tours.  She is currently serving as Vice-Chair of the Food Photographers’ and Stylists’ Section (FPS) and is a member of the Host City committee for the 2014 Annual Conference in Chicago.

Position Statement 

Over the years, when I have talked about my involvement with the IACP, I've been asked exactly what it is about the IACP that makes it worth the cost and effort. Or "have you actually ever gotten a client from your IACP involvement?" The answer is both simple and complex.  Simple answer: Yes, I have gotten real clients. But that is not the full answer and it sells short the personal and collective experiences gained by belonging to this unique organization.

I work, as many of us do, in a competitive field.  Only at the IACP can we meet and let our guard down.  We converse with other professionals in a collegial setting where competitors become allies enlightening and supporting each other while elevating our common professions.

As culinary professionals, we need and want to be aware of techniques ideas and trends in every area of the culinary world.  Specialization and expertise in our own field may be a goal, but we live in a world that is increasingly broad.  We also need to be able to work across disciplines, and across borders, and really there is no other place you can go to achieve all of this under one tent.

My goals for the future of the IACP are to increase the opportunities for the exchange of ideas across disciplines, increase awareness and opportunity for the international members of the IACP, increase the prestige and integrity of IACP awards and honors, and increase the frequency of the smaller regional and sectional conferences.


Goals

  • Increase international involvement, emphasizing the “I” in IACP by creating an International Section.
  • Elevate the level of integrity and prestige of the awards given by the IACP.
  • Increase the frequency of the smaller regional and sectional conferences, while increasing opportunities for seemingly unrelated professions to meet and discuss ideas.

A Message from Mary Valentin 

Dear Fellow Members,

I have been working as a food stylist in photography and film for nearly twenty years.  Based in Chicago, my commercial clients have included Panera Bread, U.S. Foods, and Kraft, while my editorial work has been shown in a variety of media including Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and on the Food Network.  My educational background includes a BFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and a Certification in Baking and Pastry from the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College where I also developed and taught courses in Food Styling and Photography from 2004 through 2009. 

I have been an enthusiastic and involved member of the IACP for many years and am currently serving as Vice-Chair of the Food Photographers’ and Stylists’ Section (FPS) and as a member of the Host City committee for the 2014 Annual Conference in Chicago.

For me the IACP has been an invaluable resource, both personally and professionally.  The organization has given me the chance to build my professional experience and network with fellow members, increasing my knowledge base while creating enduring friendships. 

We all work in competitive fields.  The IACP provides us with the only forum that I know of where we can meet and let our guard down.  We converse with other professionals in a collegial setting where competitors become allies and friends, enlightening and supporting each other while elevating our common professions.

Since becoming a more active member of the IACP I have come to realize that it is not about simply advancing my own career. My belief is that there is something even more valuable about the IACP.  It is the broad range of people – culinary professionals from all over the world, working in diverse areas – that makes the experience inspiring and worthwhile.

My goals for the future of the IACP are to increase the opportunities for the exchange of ideas across disciplines, increase awareness and opportunity for the international members of the IACP, increase the prestige and integrity of IACP awards and honors, and increase the frequency of the smaller regional and sectional conferences.

I am both pleased and proud to be nominated as a member of the board of this fine organization and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Mary Valentin