The Meringue Girls talk food styling, travelling and how the industry is evolving

If you haven’t heard of the Meringue Girls, boy are you in for a treat (excuse the pun). When London-born Alex Hoffler, who was working as a Sous Chef, met New Zealander foodie Stacey O’Gorman, it was a culinary match made in heaven.

Using both their skills and passion for creating edible delights, they formed the Meringue Girls.

Are you considering a career in the food world? Or perhaps a gap year has inspired you to try out cooking and creating different dishes? Well we chatted to the pair about how YOU can get into cheffing and food styling, how travelling has influenced their creations and just how the food industry is changing.

1. How did you start the Meringue Girls?

The Meringue Girls was a dream two young chefs came up with while working in a hot kitchen in Hackney. We met and instantly bonded over our love of sweet treats, and we thought that there was a gap in the market for something different. Cupcakes and macarons had had their day, and we wanted to bring something new to the table. We started out with a reality TV show spot, winning our episode, and since then we’ve grown from a small stall in Broadway Market to a full bakery. We now create bespoke creations for high end clients, cater for weddings and hold award winning masterclasses, and we also have two cookbooks! It’s been a rollercoaster journey but we’re loving it!

2. Has travelling influenced your cooking?

Absolutely! Stacey left her native New Zealand to expand her culinary experience, and Alex completed cookery courses in Cambodia, India, Thailand and Vietnam. Incorporating different styles of cooking and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking is important for us when it comes to food, and the best way to learn was to put ourselves out there and travel.

3. How did you get into food styling?

Alex got into food styling after being inspired by her best friend’s older sister, who was a stylist at Jamie Oliver HQ. At the time it was quite niche, but it looked like such a fun job that she couldn’t resist! She did all the work experience possible, building a portfolio and creating her own unique style.

Now food styling is really popular, and part of excellent cooking is presenting your food beautifully. Food styling felt like a natural progression for us as the Meringue Girls. We think that a lot of our success is due to our eye-catching pictures, which are all over our Instagram and our cookbooks. We wanted our sweet treats to look good enough to eat, and we were lucky enough to work with photographers such as David Loftus to create gorgeous, enticing photos.

4. What would your advice be to an aspiring chef or food business entrepreneur? Is getting specific qualifications always necessary when it comes to the food industry?

Our advice would be to find your particular niche and to really love what you do. It’s hard work being an entrepreneur or a chef, and while having qualifications may help, a dedication to your work and a drive to get yourself out there is the most important thing. We started from very humble beginnings, but we’ve set ourselves high goals and focused on achieving them.

5. Do you think the food industry is becoming glossier, (with glamorous chefs such as the Hemsley sisters and people wanting to Instagram their dishes)? Do you think this is always a positive? 

We do think the food industry is becoming more editorial, because food is not just about taste any more – it’s about how it looks and how easily the photos are shared on social media. Everyone – whether they admit it or not! – takes a picture of really gorgeous food, so the industry has responded to this new behaviour. We think it’s a positive – it’s so much easier to get your foodie product out there, now that we all look at food on social media! Having glam chefs to look up to and aspire to be is not really that surprising – chefs are the new role models for many people. >

EVERYTHING SWEET by the Meringue Girls is published by Square Peg at £18. Buy it here.

Now what?