For Rochester private chef and food stylist Sydney Brokaw, there was never a time that she remembers not cooking. She grew up in the kitchen baking cookies and experimenting with food, which quickly turned into creating meals for her family. This led to her becoming the designated party planner for family events. If there’s a family brunch, it’s being held at her place, and you know the spread is going to be good!
Along with planning the family gatherings, Sydney has a full-time job and her own side business catering private dining events. When given the opportunity to cater a friend’s event during COVID, Sydney quickly realized that having her own business in private catering would be the experience she needed to get into food styling and help curate a portfolio.
When asked what exactly being a food stylist means, Sydney says she’s still learning, but that to her, it means creating an experience through a photo. Looking through a magazine like Bon Appétite, for example, you may see a beautiful photo of a grilled Italian sausage with unique topping inspiration. Something like this photo, Sydney says, takes her to a backyard picnic on a hot Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s all about taking the reader and putting them where that photo was taken.” It’s also a great way to generate ideas for new recipes! If you scroll through Sydney’s Instagram account, you’ll find colorful photos that will both inspire your next meal and leave your stomach growling with a wide variety of foods, ranging from Mexican to Italian and everywhere in between. When asked what her favorite food to cook is, she can’t choose just one dish. Sydney does, however, say that her favorite cuisine to cook is Asian. Anything with bold flavors like ginger and scallions will be a winner for her!
Sydney finds inspiration for her love of cooking from many different places, one of them being the city of Rochester itself. “I love how excited and supportive the community gets when there are new dining options in town.” Velvet Belly is one spot that she can’t wait to try out, making a birthday dinner reservation for it two months in advance. This new spot just had their grand opening, located in the Rochester Public Market, and is inspired by coastal cuisine.
As for one of her long time go-to’s in the Rochester food scene, Sydney loves Vern’s on Park Ave, stating, “Their tomato pie is life changing!” She’s tried to recreate it at home, but it just isn’t quite the same.
As the food and beverage industry in Rochester was greatly affected by COVID, Sydney says that it has made her appreciate going above and beyond to help these businesses out. “I’ll make that effort to tip a little extra, try a new spot, or drive to the restaurant to pick up the food because I understand the struggle.”
Doing it all on her own, Sydney is the party planner, chef, server, and dishwasher all in one! She also says that COVID has given people a greater appreciation for the convenience that dining in their own home brings. She wants to give people the option to have that restaurant atmosphere and experience at home, by curating a personalized menu just for them. As for where she sees the future of dining in Rochester going, Sydney is excited that when she walks down Park Ave now, more and more restaurants are starting to see a lot of business, and she has high hopes for what’s to come in both the restaurant world and her world of gourmet private dining!
Don’t follow the recipe to a T! Decide what you like about the recipe and try making it several times. Also, don’t be afraid to fail because that teaches you what to improve on next time.
Sydney’s Dream Food Destination: Italy! Sydney loves a good charcuterie board and wants to learn more about their meat curing process! She’s also curious about the education that chefs go through in order to become pizza makers and is eager to taste the level of standards that these pizzas must meet in order to be presented!