For someone who didn’t grow up watching many television shows or
films, Bonnie Belknap spends a lot of time on the set.
As a food stylist, the Burbank resident has created edible props
for 15 years for films “Dick Tracy” and “Barton Fink” and TV shows
such as NBC’s “Friends” and “Hidden Hills.”
Along with creating elegant meals, Belknap is also called on to do
period food, like the work she did on the miniseries “North and
South.” For that, she consulted a historian to learn the types of
fruits and vegetables that weren’t available during the Civil War.
On Steven Spielberg’s “Hook,” she created a forest scene that was
made entirely of edible props so the Lost Boys could tear a branch
from a tree and eat it.
Her first stylist job in the entertainment industry was for the
television show “Love Boat.” She was hired at the recommendation of a
crew member who knew she had attended cooking school and worked as a
Her business, Gourmet Proppers, was born.
“I learned about what holds up under the lights, about [shooting]
continuity, and realized that nobody was doing that work,” Belknap
said. “When I started out, people were pretty much stumbling through
it on their own.”
Though food stylists had worked for print photographers, Belknap
“was pretty instrumental” in establishing a niche for people working
in film, which now has dozens of freelance stylists, she said.
Charlotte Garnell Scheide is the set decorator for “The Bold and
Beautiful,” and has worked with Belknap on the show for eight years.
“She’s the master of detail,” Scheide said. “She can set up a
buffet in its full glory at the top of the scene and it will dazzle
everybody, and two months later, bring back the same buffet.”
Not only does the chef ensure the continuity of a film shoot, she
also pays attention to the special dietary needs of the actors. By
having several backups of a dish prepared to look the same in every
shot, meals can be frequently replaced.
“I taste it ... so when those actors are saying ‘Mmm, this is
really good,’ I know that they mean it,” Scheide said.