This story first ran on TAPinto South Plainfield.
After just a few days of being home and unable to report to her job at the Today Show, South Plainfield resident Katie Stilo took to social media, launching an Instagram page designed to bring culinary professionals — and amateur cooks — together, virtually.
A culinary producer and food stylist for the NBC morning show, Stilo, along with her co-worker Anthony Contrino, launched @the_quarantine_collective on March 21 and, now have more than 1,300 followers.
“When we realized we weren’t going to be in the studio for quite some time we wanted to keep everybody united in some way and, for me, cooking makes me feel comfortable and comes really natural to me,” Stilo said. “I understand it is a talent that not everyone is blessed with and we wanted to start @the_quarantine_collective for those at home. We were already cooking at home and sharing it with our followers so why not use the connections we have from the Today Show and all the places we have worked at over the past eight, nine years and bring them together?”
A schedule of chefs and bakers — between three and five daily — is posted on the page’s Instagram Story and followers can head to the respective pages at specific times for live demos as well as return to the @the_quarantine_collective page after the segment to view the recipe.
“We have celebrity chefs, food stylists, sommeliers from all over the world and all over the country going live for us. It’s not just six people from the Today Show; it’s gone beyond that and it’s really nice to see all who are participating, sharing what they are cooking at home,” said Stilo, adding that the site isn’t just a platform for celebrity chefs and bakers or well-know restaurant owners.
“As much as we are reaching out to people we know, it’s not limited to celebrities or big-name or job titles. We welcome anyone and everybody to join in,” she said.
Stilo attended South Plainfield High School and following graduation in 2011 made the last minute decision not to attend William Paterson University. Instead, she enrolled at Middlesex Community College for one semester while waiting for classes at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) to start. At the institute, Stilo first completed a course in culinary management and, following a short break to work at the Choc O Pain Bakery in Hoboken, went on to study pastry and baking arts while also interning in Martha Stewart’s test kitchen.
“For nine months, I would work at Martha Stewart in the morning and go to classes in the afternoon. That was basically the kick off to my entire career. It really helped me to make a lot of connections and built my way up from there,” she said.
She took roughly a three-year break to work in the food media industry before returning to ICE to complete her third program in culinary arts. Over the next seven years, Stilo worked freelance in the food media industry for various national magazines, including Martha Stewart, Bon Appetit, Food Network, Women’s Day and Ladies Home Journal.
She also spent time honing her skills in the Michelin Star restaurants around New York City and in other New Jersey establishments. Additionally, Stilo’s work has appeared in various print and online ad campaigns, including but not limited to, Amazon, JCPenny's, Macy’s, Chobani and Shape.
Stilo transitioned from traditional print food styling to digital media and began culinary producing a variety of series at Martha Stewart. She then moved into television production, working as a culinary stylist for QVC before landing ‘her dream job’ at the Today Show in July 2018. There, she and a team of five, including Contrino, are responsible for all food segments that air between 7 and 11 a.m.
“Any time you see any food, drinks, even a bowl of chips, on the Today Show between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m. my team and I handle that. Essentially, we are culinary producers, but we are called food stylists. We produce the guests, help familiarize them with the recipe they are making, assist with the setup and ingredients,” she said. The guest chefs are on the show five days a week and typically have just between three minutes and 30 seconds to five minutes “at most’ ”on air, she said.
“We are responsible for preparing their demos and getting them ready for live TV. We make all the food, set up everything for them, so that when they come in it's all ready for the segment," said Stilo, telling TAPinto that @the_quarantine_collective enables her to continue cooking and keep busy during this difficult time.
"It provides me with a creative outlet to share my passion with people who are in need of a little distraction from reality," she said.
Anyone who might be interested in being a part of @the_quarantine_collective can send a message directly through Instagram or reach out to Stilo or Contrino directly; Stilo’s Instagram page is @katie.stilo and Contrino’s is @anthonyissauccy. Additional information on Stilo, including recipes, can be found on her website, https://www.katiestilo.com.
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