Why Harley Langberg loves playing with his food

Meet your Mentor Harley Langberg

Harley from @harleysfood_art is a food artist from New York. He creates amazing food art from the contents of his fridge and pantry. From portraits of celebrities to cute animals, I don’t think there is anything Harley hasn’t tried his food art hand at. We caught up with Harley to get to know him better and find our some of his tricks of the trade to help us play with our food too!

Q&A with Harley

Hey Harley! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared foodie challenge Play with your food. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m 31 years old, was born and raised in NYC where I currently reside today. While I work in a family investment office by day, food art has become my creative outlet at night and on the weekends. I have always had a strong interest in food and art growing up and food art is the perfect combination of these two passions. Apart from my financial job and food art, I enjoy traveling where I get lots of inspiration for food art and cooking - a lot of times using the food art ingredients to prepare delicious and healthy meals for myself and my husband Zach.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to create next with your food art?

I often look to current events and pop culture for inspiration, whether it’s a popular Netfix series like “Stranger Things” or a celebrity birthday. Other times I will be inspired by something I see in nature or on my travels. I keep a photo album on my iPhone of inspiration photos for future food art pieces.

What is your favourite creation so far?

My favorite piece is one of my more recent creations, a food art portrait of Taron Egerton playing Elton John in the movie “Rocketman.” It was definitely one of my more challenging, more detailed pieces and I love the different textures and colors in the piece.

Harley’s portrait of Taron Egerton playing Elton John. Source:  @harleysfood_art

Harley’s portrait of Taron Egerton playing Elton John. Source: @harleysfood_art

You are so talented at food art and making food look like something else or someone. What are your three top tips for creating food art?

  1. Focus on the details 

It’s important to try to focus on the details. It’s going to be hard to capture every detail but the more details you can capture, the more realistic the piece will look. I would also say don’t start with an overly complex piece, start simple and work your way up to a more detailed piece. 

      2. Choose ingredients that you enjoy eating 

For the most part try to use ingredients you enjoy eating, then you can use those ingredients to cook with or eat as is. 

       3. Have patience

Patience is very important when creating food art. When I first started each piece took a while to create but food art can’t be rushed as you do more pieces you will be able to create them in a shorter amount of time. That’s why I suggest starting simpler and dedicate at least 1 full hour to a piece. Don’t forget to have fun with it as well! I often listen to music or podcasts or have the TV on in the background since the process can be tedious.

Any tricks or tools which aid in using food in your captures?

A toothpick is my tool of choice as the small point helps keep the foods in place especially the finer details. Make sure you have a very sharp knife when cutting the produce. Natural lighting is very important when taking the photo. You do not need a fancy camera, any smartphone camera will take a great photo. Make sure when taking the photograph, place the plate on a simple, neutral background (floor, carpet, counter, etc..). This way the attention can be on the piece and not the background.

What equipment do you use?

I use my iPhone to take the photo and edit the photo in the Instagram app.

What happens to the food once you have used it? Do you plan meals around what you have created that day?

I will either eat the piece right after, use the ingredients to cook with, or save the ingredients to remake another piece depending on the condition of the ingredients. I will often make pieces for breakfast or for snacks.  

Do you have any hacks when it comes to using food to avoid wastage?

I try to use ingredients that have long shelf lives. If the ingredient has a short shelf life I will try to consume it right away. I tend not to freeze food, especially since I cook everyday so the ingredients all get used.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

I have tried to keep my account fresh by constantly throwing in surprises whether it be new subjects or ingredients I’ve never used before for my followers. I never want my account to be seen as monotonous and predictable. I also used to do a lot more “throwback pieces” reposting previous work however now I just focus on creating new content even if it’s less often. When I first started out I used to create and post about 5 times a week, now it is about 2-3 times a week. I also am genuinely appreciative of each and every follower and comment so I always make it a priority to respond back to each person even if it may be a day or two later due to my crazy schedule.

Harley is the guest mentor for our July 22-28 creative challenge ‘Play with your Food’ and will be featuring his favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Harley at @harleysfood_art on Instagram. We invite you to join Harley and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for some fun with your food. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.