Rachel Straus - Dance Writer

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September 2006

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Juilliard Dance

Published: September 1, 2006
Category: profile

Career Transitions: Lynne Calamia food stylist

By Rachel Straus

Lynne Calamia danced with Ballet Hispanico and the Broadway productions of Chicago, Cats, and Fosse. She Stopped dancing at age 34

” I wanted to quit dancing two years before I did. I didn’t want to move anymore. I wanted to be appreciated for more than how my body looked. I was in Cats. It’s hard to do eight shows a week.

I loved entertaining and looking at food magazines. Who does the food for these pictures I wondered? Perfect, I thought. I’m going to go take a food styling course. A friend and instructor at the French Culinary Institute made me realize that you don’t just take a food styling course to become a food stylist. It’s kind of like going to a modern dance course and then expecting to join Paul Taylor. You have to start with the basics. I needed a classical technique, much like a dancer needs a classical ballet technique. I went to the six-month French Culinary Institute program.

After I graduated, one of the instructor chefs contacted the Food Network. They let me trial for a day, which is like an audition. Then they hired me as a freelancer. It was great, but I felt that I was unprepared. I didn’t have the same knowledge as the others who had worked in restaurants. So I left Food Network to work for Jean Georges Restaurant at Trump Tower. It was probably the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. For three months I worked for free. I would shuck fava beans for four hours straight. After about a year, I went back to Food Network. I had immediate clout and experience.

Last week I worked for chef Paula Dean. Her show is filmed in Savannah. The day starts at 6 a.m. and can run up to 12 hours. It’s very strenuous. Paula was doing five recipes. All of the food had to look perfect. It’s a lot of prep work. We walked Paula through the recipes step by step, much like a dance captain does with a dancer.

Working behind the camera has been a little bit challenging. Not that I want to be the talent, but it is where I came from. Now suddenly I’m the one catering to them. I had to get used to that. But I don’t want to be in front of the camera. It’s why I left show business.”

Copyright 2006 Dance Magazine, Inc.

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