028 Adam – Primal Iron BBQ

Primal Iron BBQ

028 Adam - BBQ

Adam from Primal Iron BBQ is my special guest in Ep 9 of Season 2 ‘Living the Dream.’ In this digital age, if there aren’t pics on Instagram and Facebook, then it never happened. Pitmaster Adam is a professional food stylist and is now the captain of competitive team Primal Iron BBQ and works as a freelance food stylist. If you want to up your Food Porn game, this is your Ep!

Much thanks and appreciation go to this episodes sponsors:

Harvey’s Kitchen

JAGRD Woodfired Smoker Ovens

Ministry of Smoke



  • The last thing Adam cooked was the brisket that they did at Port Mac
  • Primal Iron BBQ
    • Adam and his friend Damien, also an ex-chef also wanted to get into BBQ
    • Thought as chefs they would have something to bring to the sport
    • The name lends itself well to branding
    • Adam even got the logo tattooed the logo on his arm
  • They cook on a 24 inch Yoder as their comp cart. They prefer the standard flow design
    • It weighs 550 kilos
    • It is shared between them
    • His personal BBQ at home is a Pro Q, he has a borrowed Kamado and a converted wine barrel for cold smoking
    • He’s done vanilla beans in the wine barrel, which could be used to make custard, creme brulee, panna cotta ice cream
  • He got into BBQ after keenly watching food trends professionally and seeing the rise in popularity
    • He was getting into Succotash, Gumbo, and Jambalaya. From there he got right into Texan BBQ
    • Succotash – a southern bean dish, like a stew. Often has corn and ocre
  • As a French chef, he found that he was over-working food and the food itself got lost. American BBQ made more sense to him
    • Making the food not look or taste like it used to is what he considers to be over-working
    • Molecular gastronomy is an example
  • He believes Texan BBQ is a great match to Australian culture
  • His training as a French chef affects his BBQ in the way he trims meat
    • E.g. Chicken – breaking down the chicken, ensuring the perfect shape of the breast including the skin, squaring off the bones on thighs, deboning chicken wings
    • He presented deboned chicken wings to the judges, but the judges can’t be told what they’re eating so sometimes the efforts that go into the food can be lost
  • BBQ Wars Port Macquarie has been the highlight for him this year Primal Iron BBQ worked so well together
    • Chefs have to have strong teamwork skills and he believes this has carried over to his BBQ
  • Food styling – main objective is to make food look good
    • They work in print media – everytime you see a recipe card at a supermarket, there’s been a food stylist behind the scenes
    • They have to make the product they’ve been hired for look like the hero. Can be difficult e.g. making mayonnaise the hero of a photo of a sandwich
    • Might even work in movies E.g. Ratatouille
  • Food stylists are not always chefs
  • Some tricks
    • Keep the foods warm so fats don’t solidify
    • Use glycerin to keep things shiny
    • Use polystyrene blocks to prop food up
    • Get lots of product in there without looking overcrowded but make sure your subject is the main focal point
    • Glueing food into place is not a good idea as people like fresh food at the moment and glued food would be too apparent. You can fix food in place with other things and it shouldn’t be that hard – you should always shoot food on a flat surface
    • Positioning food carefully on the plate should make it reasonably easy
  • A day in the life
    • You’ll get to the ‘set’ – usually someone’s house with plenty of light and big tables
    • He goes to the kitchen and gets ready
    • Works out the shooting schedule based how quickly he can get the plates out
    • There will be photographers and computers set up for live shots
    • Then prepping and selecting props
    • There will be a mood board – all the information that you get from the client – which target market, which colour pallet, examples of styles that they want and other photos as reference points, different materials (cloths or woods) that they want in the shot
  • How could someone get into food styling?
    • Be creative and have a broad knowledge
    • Be willing to work with low to high-end products
    • Be able to switch between multiple cuisines
    • There is a course available through Gourmet Traveller
    • Get into contact with a food agency that has contacts with bigger food companies – they will be a liason to bigger brands who outsource their food styling
    • Have a nice, calm demeanor – you’re catering to a customer’s needs so you need to be able to listen to their suggestions but also point them in the right direction when they need it
  • How food styling has helped Primal Iron BBQ
    • Their hand-in boxes are getting better every time
    • They have great attention to detail and attention to symmetry
    • Evenness is key to any hand-in box – it needs to square, equal, balanced and well-placed
  • A good tip is to take an overhead photo of the hand-in box to check symmetry
  • He could work with a range of things from processed avocado to high-end steak
  • On parsley in boxes?
    • He’s pro parsley. Kale doesn’t create an even bed to lay protein on. Curly parsley can be trimmed down to create an even bed
    • Parsley also hides drips of sauces well too
    • Plain boxes will be too messy – a food stylist doesn’t want to see pools of sauce in the bottom of a plain styrofoam box
    • Meat will not be hot enough to wilt kale to a point that it will smell bad in a box
  • Most valuable tool for food styling?
    • Multiple pairs of gloves to change between, putting two to three pairs on at a time
    • Have someone standing by with a roll of paper towels
    • Most important tool for food styling BBQ – a set of tweezers for picking up specks or straightening parsley
    • Most important tool for food styling in general – a good sharp knife for cutting clean lines and some chef tweezers
    • Chef tweezers are quite long and thin, almost like a pair of chopsticks used to garnish
  • Most difficult food to make look good?
    • In BBQ, anything pulled is hard to make look good. He doesn’t find it visually appealing
    • In general, fried eggs or anything oily is a little bit hard to make look good coz the oil wants to pool and not where you want it
  • What inspirations does he draw on for his food styling?
    • Depends what he’s styling – he’ll research what it is that he’s styling and draw inspiration accordingly. Might be the food itself, or how it’s handled
    • Most often, the inspiration is drawn from the mood boards
  • Tips for comp teams?
    • Symmetry in the box is key
    • Don’t overcrowd the box
    • Make sure the sauce doesn’t pool in any part of the protein, but it also has to glisten
    • Don’t present food that looks dry – make sure it shines. Maybe with some of the animal’s fat or some of the sauce or even au jus. Au jus would be perfect
  • Top Three Pieces of Advice
    • Be well-rounded when it comes to cuisine and really versatile when it comes to ingredient knowledge
    • Have a good attitude toward a clients needs – it’s not about you
    • Try to align yourself with like-minded people – people who are taking photos of foods regularly and people who know styles


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