Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Jennifer Opperman, Food Stylist
Jennifer Opperman has become a highly sought after food stylist and recipe developer.
I met Jennifer Opperman a few years back, while we were judges on a pannel for a food quality award. We had an instant connection and spent most of the day laughing as we ate our way through far too much baby food (food judging can be odd). To this day, I can’t walk by certain products without a fond memory for that day.
Jennifer Opperman brought up her three girls for many years and I find it inspiring that when she decided to go back to work, she went back on her own terms and created her own business from nothing. I love a good “return to work story” and she has worked so hard to achieve her ambitions. I look forward to seeing where she takes it next.
If you want to see some of Jennifer Opperman’s work, you should have a look at her instagram, you will see her fine arts influence straight away. I’ve also included some examples of her work in this post because why not.
I’m talking to women in the food industry, what brought you into this category and what do you do?
I have always had an interest in food, cooking, ingredients, methods and eating it of course. I was at home with my children for several years and realized it was time to get back into the workforce and really wanted to do something in the food industry. I did an intensive cookery course three years ago and learned from it where my strengths as regards food lay. I knew I did not want to spend all day cooking in a hot kitchen, but I was really interested in the way things looked when they were served to the table. I have a background in fine art and I suppose it came together in a plan for a career in food photography and food styling. I also write recipes and create food concepts for Irish brands.
How does your career fulfill you?
It definitely fulfills my creative needs and I really enjoy planning how the recipes and dishes will look to the viewer of the final image. I love the fact that I am always learning about new ingredients and trends. People have the perception that food styling and photography is sexy career but believe me, it’s not that in the least. You may be in the middle of a field in the pissings of rain working on a camping table or working with a very contrary chef or business owner.
What are your ambitions for the next 2 years?
To keep going hopefully creating good food images and recipes. I really want to do some more cookery courses and photography workshops as I feel you are never done learning.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland.
Exactly what you are doing, this project. Promoting equal opportunities for women in culinary and also encouraging young women to go to culinary school showing them the many different jobs they can do in the food industry. One of my own daughters may pursue a career in food as she is already showing an interest.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspires you and why.
Clare Smyth MBE from Northern Ireland who has gained many awards including the current World’s best female chef.
Have you had any challenges in your career that a man in the same position would not have had to face?
I suppose being bullied by another male photographer, but who’s to say he would not bully another male in the profession.
Have you had a wow moment to date in your career? If so which one was it and why?
Shooting at Ashford Castle. It was a magical setting and even though I was working I was treated like a guest of the hotel. They definitely have hospitality down to a tee.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Have faith in your ability and never stop learning.
In your opinion, what’s the most underrated spice.
Star anise. I love it, its perfume, its form and the fact it can be used in sweet and savory elevating a dish to another level
What is your favourite prop and why?
My white rectangle enamel roasting dish. I have to admit I did rough it up a bit when I bought it to give it a lived-in feel. Its perfect now and I use it every week for some dish or other.