Inside the Kitchen of a Brilliant Food Stylist

Food & Wine: Susan Spungen in her East Hampton kitchen
Susan Spungen in her East Hampton kitchen Photo © Johnny Miller
By Christine Quinlan Posted August 21, 2014

Susan Spungen, a stylist responsible for fabulous-looking food in print and on screen, has a new kitchen where she doesn’t need tweezers or tape to create exceptional dishes.

Food stylist and recipe developer Susan Spungen makes food look astonishingly beautiful for cookbooks, magazines and movies: Julie & Julia, Eat Pray Love and, most recently, Labor Day, the Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin film that lingers in memory mainly for its sensual peach pie scene.

After years of living in a house with a small galley kitchen, Spungen finally got the chance to build her fantasy kitchen in East Hampton, New York. Given her work, she wanted a space that could double as a set for photo and video shoots, with an open layout, lots of natural light and a cooktop on a peninsula that allows her to face into the room instead of toward a wall. Spungen, who is the author of What’s a Hostess to Do?, a cheat sheet to easy entertaining, also envisioned the kitchen as an ideal party space. “I’ve spent my career dreaming about food without ever having a real kitchen, until now,” she says.

Spungen had amassed props and equipment for shoots, so she put a premium on storage space. There are loads of lower cabinets throughout the kitchen; plus, the large back wall has floor-to-ceiling storage, including pullout pantry cabinets. She wanted a lot of windows to maximize the spectacular light and views, but wasn’t willing to give up on upper cabinets. She had to settle for just two, which she uses for plates and glasses. “The cabinets jut out like floating art installations—very Donald Judd. They’re a conversation piece,” she says.

Once the kitchen was finished, Spungen realized just how big it was, so she added a table in the center. It gives her an extra surface for plating and for setting out bowls of the gorgeous local produce she buys from Quail Hill Farm and Balsam Farms. She explains: “I had a French antique table in the basement, so it’s auditioning in the space at the moment. My husband and I were worried that it would obstruct our dance floor, but it doesn’t restrict the flow. We can still dance in the kitchen.”

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