I’ve provided a summary of each decade’s highlights from my experience in the field.

The 70’s

Toronto is not exactly a world food Mecca! French cuisine is in vogue, but Toronto lags a good four years behind European trends. A growing class of (wealthy) gourmands travel to Michelin restaurants.

Food distinctions parallel economic class distinctions. Restaurants and cookbooks enjoy a growing popularity, but “ethnic” ingredients are not readily available. National grocery stores are generally gloomy, grim affairs while fast food is on the rise.

Food styling aims for crumbles, no-streak perfection under the hot lights and multiple long camera exposures of film photography. Polaroids precede the final shots. This is the time of saturated tones: orange, red, mustard, beige, brown. Food likes to be coated in aspic and moulded with gelatin. Curly parsley and radish roses rule the garnish court. Cream is in. Tomato aspic anyone?

The 80’s

Toronto welcomes a revolution in food. Food meets diversity on all levels: cultural, colours, shapes, settings, and textures aim for novelty, freshness of design. Food styling likes an exotic feel. Black shiny settings abound, salmon pink is popular and cameras shoot full scenes from above or very close up Macro shots . We also see a trend of architectural and Mile High foods. Happily, photography lights are cooler and my risk of melting has decreased! As travel becomes normalized for a middle class, so do foods of ethnic origins. Healthy foods take the spotlight featuring heart healthy nutrition, beans, and grain varieties. Wild mushrooms enter the mainstream together with cheeses of the world and a nascent understanding of the value of local production.We see the start of a Canadiana food trend: a pride of heritage and regional cooking.

Dishes are adorned with exotic, edible flowers, carved fruits, baby vegetables.Drizzles and pools of chocolate and cream, and sweet and savoury sauces grace many a plate. At this time garnish becomes the stuff of classes and kits! As a population of foodies emerges, the grocery chains meet a demand for better, more diverse food. Chefs become superstars, even in Toronto. The BBQ trend begins, perhaps as a balance to a kaleidoscope of newness. Outdoor grilling evokes a down home simplicity, no matter how complex we might make it! And BBQs are promoted as guy-friendly. Women in the work force generate a demand for convenient but healthy food. (Just add boiling water for instant soup just like mom used to make.)

The 90’s

Although this decade celebrates and develops many trends established in the 80s, it tones down much of the wild intensity that accompanied the initial embrace of food as recreation: colours are more muted; more natural backgrounds and lighting take over the gleaming blacks and solid marbles so recently the rage in food presentation. Freshness is key. Middle Eastern flavours play a leading role in an ethnic food extravaganza presented in the burgeoning local market scene and in the national grocery chains. California, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Spanish dishes similarly are in demand, enabling fresh herbs, and olive oil to become normal household ingredients. People are included in the food shots. Food is set in fresh scenery; flowers abound. We see the appearance of limitless pasta shapes, more grain varieties, such as couscous, bulgur, and wheatberries, and the still popular hummus coming into their own.

Heart healthy food continues to gain prominence: fat, and calories become the enemy! The Slow Food Movement gains momentum ; ) directly opposing the proliferation of fast food. We cocoon! (cozy down at home with our food and drinks!) Now is when Fairtrade coffee makes its splash on the coffee market. Chefs continue to climb the celebrity ladder, as do cookbook authors. Beyond doubt, Toronto has joined the global dinner party.


The natural trend lives on into this decade. Natural is good, but minimal whites push out natural frenzy! The vertical stacks have had their (short) day and now we allow imperfections to attest to the natural; we see food partially eaten, turkeys have wrinkles (maybe not just turkeys!), aesthetic messiness is vogue. Organic becomes mainstream and local foods gain more than a little attention. Healthy is hip: less meat, less ingredients, dark leafy greens make Kale king and chocolate, pure and dark, becomes a health food! Gluten Free also becomes prominent and attention to local food production extends to sustainable seafood sourcing as well. Coffee finds a new normal with quality and variety as well as Fairtrade.

Cooking, Chefs, cookbooks are popular entertainment on all media venues! Colours return to oranges and blacks and the natural trend presents natural lighting, rough woods, slates and stones in food styling. After all these years, fat comes back into style, with nose to tail eating including bone marrow, offal, pork belly, and the like. Even foraging is cool now. Old is new again, but with a fresh ethos of ethical sourcing, buying, and use. But in the food studios digital technology has transformed the old film photography irretrievably. A new media age is here.

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