The Art of Food - Meet Chandara Phanachone

Chandara Phanachone has what many would describe as a dream job: styling, photographing, and blogging about delicious eats on beautiful tablescapes.  This styling genius is an expert when it comes to creating exceptional menus that are best eaten in creative settings. We could stare at her creations for hours (we often do), so today, we're turning to Chandara to help us plan the perfect summer get-together, whether it be for 10 close friends or 150 wedding guests.  Read our interview with Chandara below, then head on over to her site for even more delicious inspiration.

1. As we hold on to the last of summer, gardens are blooming with flowers and produce. What are your favorite summer tid-bits to put on a plate and the table?

This is my absolute favorite time of year to wander into our garden!  Here in California, I'm going to say we're pretty spoiled when it comes to having fresh produce available to us practically all year long. At the peak of summer, I love to garnish with fresh herbs like homegrown basil and mint. Whether I'm mixing up a cocktail or tossing a salad, these herbs add that extra pop of refreshing flavor. And when it comes to produce, you'd be hard-pressed to find me without a plate of melons...from watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydews..these luscious ripe jewels are the perfect thirst quencher for that hot summer day when all you want is a bite of something juicy, cold, and delicious!

Editor's Note: We're pulling our jaws up off the floor at these stunning images capturing Chandara's love of all things melon!  It's no surprised her work earned her a feature on Style Me Pretty!

Chandara Creative melon food styling as seen in Style Me Pretty, summer tablescape
 Chandara Creative melon food styling as seen in Style Me Pretty, summer tablescape
Chandara Creative melon food styling as seen in Style Me Pretty, summer tablescape
melons styled by chandara creative and seen on style me pretty
 Chandara Creative melon food styling as seen in Style Me Pretty, summer tablescape

2. When planning an event, big or small, what is the first element you choose? And do you plan everything else around this primary detail?

The food!!! I'm a total sucker for planning my menu and then having everything else be built around it. Right now, I'm planning a Vietnamese pho dinner party where I'll be stewing my own pho broth made of the best beef marrow bones, and then inviting my nearest and dearest to assemble their own bowls--I guess it's like a pho bar. They pick their fresh and dry condiments & noodles, and I provide the broth. I think the most memorable parties I've ever been to have always had an appreciation for food...where food serves as the icebreaker to melt the nerves of even the shyest guest in the group, but it also becomes one of the best topics of conversation that introduces me to somebody else's culture. And I think that's pretty awesome!

3. Flower arranging looks like it’d be so simple, but it’s not! Any advice for someone dappling in the art of floral styling?

You can never go wrong if you style with the season in mind. You not only get the freshest and lushest blooms, but you also go a long way in cost savings; not too mention reducing your carbon footprint b/c the florals won't have to be shipped from another continent.

Bride and groom, wedding bouquet styled by Chandara Creative as seen in Style Me Pretty
Bride and groom, wedding bouquet styled by Chandara Creative as seen in Style Me Pretty
bride and groom standing in a field, bride holding bouquet designed by chandara creative, photo featured on Style Me Pretty

4. Picnics are synonymous with summer. What’s packed inside your ideal picnic basket?

What? I only get to bring along one basket? I normally will also tote around a mini cooler to store my icy cold drinks and fruit. But ideally, in my picnic basket, I'd have a of couple plates, an oyster shucker, some freshly plucked meyer lemons, and a bottle of tabasco sauce b/c on any given sunny weekend, you can find me at the local oyster farms lining the shores of Tomales Bay, CA. Here, they farm the sweetest sweetwaters and the yummiest kumamoto oysters you'll ever slurp. Don't believe me? Then, join me next time!

oysters from tomales bay styled by chandara creative
chandara of chandara creative styling summer oysters from tomales bay
chandara shucking oysters
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5. Outdoor summer soirees can stretch from hot afternoons into cool nights. What’s the best way to make this transition as seamless as possible?

I always carry around my light (polka dot, to be exact) scarf. When it's hot, I use it to tie my hair up or shade me from the sun in case there's no trees around. And when the nights get cooler, I wrap it around myself to keep the chilly air from ruining my evening. And did I mention a refreshing margarita or mojito in one hand would also do the trick...haha!