Portfolio: Julie Miguel
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Julie Miguel knows her way around a kitchen – and a camera. Not only can the 32-year-old Woodbridge resident create and write an original recipe, she can cook the dish, style it like a professional and shoot a mouth-watering photograph of it as well.
This makes the up-and-comer no less than a quadruple threat in the food industry. She has already amassed several laurels, including a stint on the first ever season of CTV's MasterChef Canada – she placed seventh – and appearances on The Marilyn Denis Show and Rogers television. She has taught culinary classes in Toronto and Vaughan and attends many foodie events as a guest chef and celebrity home cook.
When Miguel was a child she would sit on the kitchen countertop next to her mother, watching her cook and peppering her with questions. Her mother cooked traditional Italian dishes, including minestrone with seasonal vegetables and made her own tomato sauce and sausage.
“The times I remember the best were around the summer and September when there was the most harvest,” she says. “She'd make us shuck the beans and we'd freeze them all. We'd do the mirepoix and freeze them in little packets so that we'd have it for the whole winter. Her cooking was very rustic but it used all the stuff we'd prepared ourselves and that we'd grown in the garden.”
Her mother became seriously ill when Miguel was just eight years old, and passed away when Miguel was 15. She took on the responsibility of cooking for their family and describes it as a proud inheritance.
Now she's a wife and mother herself, with two young sons, aged four and eight months. While her four-year-old doesn't like any of her food – yet – he is happy to get involved and take part in the cooking. He's already totally into food and loves to watch cooking shows.
Miguel was a big fan of the American version of MasterChef, a reality cooking competition that features the nation's most talented home cooks. After the first season aired she met chef Gordon Ramsay, who is one of the three judges. She told him she loved the show and that if it ever came to Canada she would be on it. He wished her good luck.
Four years later, MasterChef Canada began shooting its inaugural season and Miguel was indeed one of the contestants. “I think I did him proud,” she says. “I made it to the top 10.” Ramsay is now one of Miguel's many followers on Twitter.
The show was shot over a six-week period in the fall of 2013 and began airing the following January. That's about the time Miguel started her blog, Daily Tiramisu. The site is filled with stunning food photography, tantalizing recipes and helpful tips. Her recipes often have stories attached to them and she's generous with her advice, sharing many of her food styling tricks.
Shortly after wrapping the taping of MasterChef Canada, Miguel and a friend participated in KitchenAid's Cook for the Cure, which supports the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Participants first raise $2,500 and then cook as part of a team under the direction of a celebrity chef. She worked with chef Mark McEwan – and was on the winning team, as it turns out, that day. Lynn Crawford was one of the chefs she competed against, as were Vikram Vij and Chuck Hughes. Miguel continues to attend food-related events around the city and describes a really open, friendly and welcoming scene.
Her favourite type of cuisine is modern Italian and she's drawn to people who cook modern, simple food. It's a big part of why she loves Ramsay so much, because he makes things so simple.
“He's really informative and a great chef. I watch his show and I feel like I could cater a 100-person wedding,” she says. Another favourite is Crawford, because she too keeps it simple and she focuses on fresh, local ingredients. She recently visited Crawford's restaurant, Ruby Watchco, where she had a chance to reconnect with the chef, chat and catch up.
These days Julie's schedule is busy mix of recipe development, food styling, food photography and magazine work. To catch Julie in action, you can find her at the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association's CIBPA Master Chef 2015 event at Casa Loma on June 25.

Julie Migeul's Food Styling Tips

Do you ever wonder why your final dish doesn't look like the picture in your favourite recipe? The secret is all in the styling! I think of food styling as a lot like catering – you want your food to look as clean, fresh and appetizing as possible.
Here are 5 tips to help your food look “picture-perfect”
Find a window or door in your home that has indirect, diffused sunlight coming in. Take a few shots and notice how great your dish looks compared to pictures taken using artificial lighting. 
To make sure your dish will be framed nicely in your photo, keep these tips in mind.
Create triangles: It's important to keep the viewer's eyes on the photo. Creating triangles will have them circle around the image with their eye. To achieve this, place elements within the frame so that they form a triangle shape when you “connect the dots.” Placing garnishes like sprigs of parsley or even crumbs on a serving tray of muffins will achieve this.
Fill any empty spaces: Add textures in the background and foreground to fill empty spaces. One idea is a glass of wine in the background or folded linen with a utensil placed on it in the foreground. Don't overdo it. Start with less and  add objects and texture as you go until you achieve your desired look. 
Monotone dishes usually look less appetizing than those with lots of colour. Sometimes components of your dish look all the same colour by the end of the cooking process, like with a stir-fry, for example. Set aside a few of the freshly cut ingredients and use them later when setting up your photo. For example,  fresh sprigs of cilantro, chopped peppers and purple onion can be added later. This will make your dish look fresh and bright and also  give the viewer an idea of the flavours in your dish.
Keep your dishes clean: I like keeping it real, but fingerprints and smears never look appetizing. A few crumbs from a freshly sliced cake or jam on a spreader, however, are actually quite nice and add life to a photo.
Keep your plates and portions on the smaller side: An overcrowded plate doesn't usually photograph well. Also, keep the food away from the rim of the plate. 
5  PLAN 
Taking too long to shoot a dish will result in food looking less appetizing. Have a plan in mind or even a drawing of what you want your photo to look like. Set up your dish, props and anything else you will need before preparing your food. 
For inspired recipes, food styling tips and some drool-worthy food photography, visit Miguel's website dailytiramisu.com.


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