How to make a toastie look incredibly decadent? Ask Sydney-based food and event stylist and author, Lucy Tweed. She could make a single strand of spaghetti look droolworthy. If you don’t already follow her on Instagram - you should. She’ll get you inspired in the kitchen, and laughing along with her captions as she serves up the most delicious meals whipped up straight from her fridge.
Funny, intelligent and ridiculously talented, Lucy is like your modern day plate twirler, keeping many projects aloft at once. We spent 10 minutes in her company chatting about food, summer entertaining and of course - summer cocktails.
Hi Lucy, tell us a little about yourself...
I’m a food and lifestyle stylist, cookbook author and HR manager to a family of five, 24/7, which is basically what I am and what I do. I’m a freelancer and I’ve been a freelancer for about 15 years, and I love it. It means that I don't necessarily get to pick and choose the work I do, and doesn't necessarily mean that I can allocate holidays with peace of mind because I always feel like I'm missing out on something - but it does mean I get the opportunity to wrangle the family in amongst my work and have variety in my work lifestyle.
What's a food stylist? It’s like - someone's got a meat pie. They come to me and they say, can you make this look delicious so heaps of people will buy it? I say: yes.
How did your career in food start? Do you know, I was always drawn to it. So for me, my career in food began as early as I can remember, because before it was even a career I've always had such a close relationship with food that it's attached to so many of my fondest memories of family and friends. I started a chef's apprenticeship, and absolutely hated it. And I thought: oh, well, stuff that. That's that whole career. Not just: that's not my path. I went to New York to do travelling stuff and have fun and live there for three years. But then, as life does, it came and found me. September 11 happened and I came home for a holiday and realised I didn't want to leave Australia, and I went back to Chef’s Warehouse for a little stint. That's where I met Donna Hay. She would come in and pick up pots and pans and beautiful, French crockery and bits and pieces that were her style. So iconic, you know, the white on white on white. And, you know, we just began chatting, and she said: “why don't you come and work with me a bit and do some assisting?” So I did that. And at the beginning, like most career paths, I suppose you do a lot more for love than you do for money. And then I just kept turning up, and that just turned into a full time role, eventually.
Does anyone in your family cook? If so - what is your favourite thing they make? No, not really. They've all kind of backed away from the kitchen. I think it's because I really enjoy it. It’s my wind down. I love to think about what the next thing is - what we're going to share. My younger kids are really interested in cooking. In fact, my middle son, he's currently the keenest in being involved - anything with flame and a big pan! He's one of those kids that sees something and wants to understand that straightaway, wants to work it out. My wider family are all such good cooks. My brother is always getting deep into something whether it be working out how to make clear ice bricks to drink whiskey with, so they have these beautiful crystal-clear chunks of ice at home or kind or mastering the finer details of a Texan barbecue or really working out how to master a homemade Chinese Five Spice. He really leans into food rather than just the day-to-day, which is much more my thing. He is that big weekend cook, the experimenter!
Must have pantry staple? Olive oil and salt. I'm a four litre of olive oil, two kilo bucket of salts girl, they’re my two staples. There are always backups in the cupboard.
Favourite cooking tool? And why? Hands down a wooden spoon - Nothing beats the variety. Although I’ve got to do a shout out to tongs, someone needs to jump on the tong game. There are no sexy tongs, no halfway between kitchen and table.
Do you have a favourite cookbook? What’s the most cooked recipe from it? No, I don't. I have a lot of books. Ones that I've collected, ones that I've inherited, and ones that I've been gifted. Being a stylist and being in a visual medium, I judge things by their cover, I just do. So, I have books that I have for purely aesthetic reasons and then not love the content. There's a cookbook that I refer to for visual inspiration more than recipes, but I have cooked from it, and that's a Neil Perry book: ‘Food I love’, which is an old white book, it's just so ahead of its time in terms of styling. One of the most iconic things I love because it seems like arrogance, but it's not arrogance at all - but there was a recipe for a squid ink risotto. And the shot for the recipe was just the beautiful white plate, on a white tablecloth, with a scrunched napkin next to it. And there was a red wine glass there that was empty, and it had a red wine ring on the tablecloth. And the dish had been eaten and all that was left was the murky black smears of the squid ink. I thought that was so f'ing cool. That immediately broke down the whole thing that you've got to see the beauty of it to buy it and to buy into it. I would’ve made that dish immediately and the essence of that situation has sold me on that dish, it’s genius. I adore so many books that I know so many of the authors - I just can't champion books enough because It's so nice that people are still making them.
When you can’t be bothered to cook - but need to eat - what do you make? I would grab something leftover in the fridge, I would go and look at whatever kind of pasta sauce or marinade I had in the fridge and just think what can I throw in a pan with an egg? So, I think the other day I had some leftover red vein sorrel and I threw that in the pan with some garlic and some Chinese chilli crisp oil, threw that in there and cracked an egg on it so it got all crispy and then squeezed lemon over the frying egg and it was heaven. Eggs are my go-to, they’re so versatile.
Friends have popped over unannounced - what’s on the menu? I think my go to is just a deliciously flavoured oil. So I will throw into a pan like a seriously good lug, like half a cup of really nice olive oil, then I'll add garlic, chilli flakes, throw in some fresh rosemary or if I don't have that just some dried anchovies, chopped capers, olives and a handful of parsley at the end. Essentially making the base of a soup or the base of a pasta sauce. It’s totally delicious and just smells amazing and just cutting out the middleman pasta and taking it straight to a big serving plate. I’d then beef it up with more olive oil and a good drizzle of red wine vinegar and crack open a crusty loaf.
We’re always eating these delicious things and saying, “this will be so good with bread”. I say just make that - make the thing that you want to mop bread in, just cut out that middleman and go straight to the good stuff. That's my current go-to especially over the summer because it's just a perfect starter. It's just a big bowl of flavoured oil and some carbohydrates to mop it up with!
Favourite dessert: Pavlova immediately came into mind, but only because at that point of the meal I kind of just want something refreshing. Definitely not anything too rich. I do love a Creme Brulee as well. So, anything delicate or has the opportunity to be a little bit refreshing, I'm really happy about.
It's the holiday season - what’s your favourite cocktail? This summer, I want to nail a great white Sangria Spritz. Not one that’s overly sweet and makes you want to feel it makes you feel sick. I want it to be really refreshing and I want it to be easy.
Best place in your city to eat? I find that to be a very, very hard question. I wish that I could answer it immediately with such conviction, but I can't. But what I will say, like food in general, it's about the experience. It's not really about the food, or just the food or just the location. It's all about who you're with and It's all those things combined. And so with that many variables the question of what's the best place to eat, it could very well be my kitchen or it could be a burger with my son from a shitty fry place. I'm very big on not wasting stomach space on a bad experience, because it's a missed opportunity to really eat something delicious and have a connection with something and someone. That said there's a lot of really fun places I'm just dying to try like the Lucky Prawn. I haven't been and that feels like a really good time.
Best food Instagram accounts I follow… I really like this Instagram account called @salt_hank. His name is Salt Hank, and he makes these slapdash, messy sandwiches and they just make me smile. I feel like he's having fun and that's what I think it's really important.
@CedricGrolet for dessert @KhanHong @karimichelleyoung
@MrNiland, because I'm in the middle of styling his next book and he's just inspirational on Instagram and he's inspirational in real life. It blows me away, he’s just such a gentle nice soul.
Favourite music to cook with… The Cooking and Drinking playlist. I don't necessarily have one song/artist in particular; I like a journey through songs. There's a really great playlist that's on Spotify called Cooking and Drinking which I love because it tiptoes through different genres.
I chose the Mercer shirt in Marshmallow because… I love the pink because it's so femme and gorgeous. Pink really does have that kind of ability to be femme or tough and it's got such a such a cool vibe to it. And my favourite thing with the button down shirt is that it’s my ideal cooking wardrobe. Whether it be like an old men's shirt I picked up from Vinnies that I quite liked the fabric of, or one of my dad's old shirts, or my one of my husband's shirts, or my favourite shirt from Irving & Powell, I love cooking in it.
I’ll be wearing it… Everyday. The idea of having a cooking shirt to me is just kind of cool. Like, with a pocket you can put your phone in, you know, it's something that's loose, it can be chucked on over something you're already wearing, or that's loose and swishy enough that you can wear it over a bikini or you can wear it with jeans. So it’s the everyday shirt it's like a second napkin. People are a bit scared of a shirt because it's got buttons and it's you know it does cross over into formal attire, but it shouldn't be revered like that. It should absolutely be used and worn down like denim shorts or your favourite wooden spoon, it just makes it all the better.
Top 5 picks from Irving & Powell...