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Christine Tobin Transcript

 “Behind the Scenes with Little Women Food Stylist Christine Tobin” Transcript

Padma Lakshmi: Hi, this is Padma Lakshmi and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe, you're the bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female-focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond.

Kerry Diamond: I am so excited about today's show. Our guest is Christine Tobin. Christine is a food stylist and consultant who has worked on 16 film sets, most recently Greta Gerwig's highly anticipated adaptation of the beloved novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. In addition to her work on TV and film, Christine works as the key food stylist at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street.

Kerry Diamond: Some housekeeping first, tickets are on sale right now for the Cherry Bombe Jubilee Conference, the biggest gathering of women in the food world in the US. That's true. It's taking place Sunday April 5th at the Brooklyn Expo. Visit Cherry Bombe dot com to snag your ticket and for more information.

Kerry Diamond: Also, the new issue of Cherry Bombe is out right now. It's our first ever fashion issue and it's filled with lots of great stories, photography, and recipes. You can get a copy on Cherry Bombe dot com or from your favorite bookstore or magazine shop like Casa Magazines in New York's West Village and Coutelier in New Orleans and Nashville.

Kerry Diamond: Not only is this your Radio Cherry Bombe debut but it's your first podcast, right?

Christine Tobin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my God. I kind of cannot believe that. We're honored.

Christine Tobin: Oh, well, thank you for having me.

Kerry Diamond: How did you wind up working on this film?

Christine Tobin: I got a call from Dave Gulick, who is the prop master and someone I've worked ... I think this is my fourth film with him. He said, "What are you doing starting in September?" I said, "What do you have going on that you need me?" I immediately signed on and jumped onboard.

Kerry Diamond: I mean, you must be so excited when you got that phone call.

Christine Tobin: I was very excited. I knew it was coming to town but I'm not needed on all films that come to the Boston area so you just never know if there's someone else that they're thinking about or they even need food but clearly with Little Women I knew there might be a phone call coming my way. I was sort of bouncing.

Kerry Diamond: What was your relationship like to Little Women? I mean, had you grown up ... When you were younger had you read the book?

Christine Tobin: I read the book. Being from Massachusetts we would go to the Alcott House for field trips. Probably starting when I was eight years old, nine years old. Coincidentally, just a few months before I was up with a friend of mine and just to go on a hike and revisit that area and saying, "I should really spend more time in this area. It's just such a nice place" and then here I was then embarking on a piece that I'd be spending a lot more time there. It's a beautiful part of Massachusetts.

Kerry Diamond: The story is set in Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-1800s. The Alcott House is still in Concord?

Christine Tobin: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: That's amazing.

Christine Tobin: Everyone if they can visit it, should. Especially being a fan of the book or a new fan because of the film, it's just a magical place to visit.

Kerry Diamond: You get called for this project.

Christine Tobin: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: How do you even begin figuring out the food and the food styling for a project like this that's set 200 years ago?

Christine Tobin: I went back to Concord on a whim for another hike and thought, "Why don't I just parachute into the Alcott House, maybe see if I can get a tour ..." I had made visits to that area. I know that the Alcott House is there but wouldn't necessarily pop in there each time I would go visit.

Christine Tobin: In this case, I went for that specific meeting. I happened to then find myself with Jan Turnquist, who is the executive director of the Alcott House, and she was so generous with me. I am forever indebted to her. She spent four hours with me. I had the whole house to myself with her. We sat and we talked and talked. I took scrap papers. Asked for a pen.

Christine Tobin: It was a gift really because it's from my meeting with her from the very beginning after that first phone call helped me focus on what I needed to do to bring not just Little Women to life but bring the Alcotts and their family foods and what they would prepare and what they grew and their surroundings and their community to life. I'm completely indebted to her.

Kerry Diamond: I haven't read the book in decades but are there a lot of sort of lush descriptions about food in the book?

Christine Tobin: We have the limes. The limes were a big part. You have the Christmas scenes. You have cookies and cakes but not in a written ... Like MFK Fisher description of the succulence of anything. Just knowing that you are a family and there's food on the table, there's breads being kneaded, it's not just the food for the scene itself but also for background, for staging.

Kerry Diamond: How much time did you have to prepare in terms of research?

Christine Tobin: Maybe a month?

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's it? Wow.

Christine Tobin: Yeah. It happens really quickly and you get quickly absorbed into ... You're hired to be just that when you work ... In my experience in film, you're hired to be obsessed with nothing else except what you got hired to do.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. You technically are part of the prop team, right?

Christine Tobin: Technically, yup.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. We learned that from Sofia Coppola few weeks ago. She was on the podcast.

Christine Tobin: Anything that an actor picks up.

Kerry Diamond: What are the production meetings like? What is your interaction with the production team like?

Christine Tobin: You're sort of your own deserted island a bit. In this case, again, having my relationship and comfort zone with the prop master Dave Gulick, he brought me into meetings, he made sure that I was included in production meetings that involved the food scenes.

Christine Tobin: My first meeting very quickly was to meet Greta and her assistant director and the prop team and I came with the start of what would be my bible and various cookbooks to show visuals. I baked an array of scones to see which ones she preferred.

Kerry Diamond: You must have been very popular in the production meetings.

Christine Tobin: Everyone gains five pounds when I'm on set. It's true. All the food is edible, it's real.

Kerry Diamond: Right. I was going to say, one of my favorite things that I read about you was that you don't make fake food for film sets.

Christine Tobin: I don't. Even what would be considered fake food ... Sometimes, which I didn't like at first when I started this, I'm like, "No, you don't tell people you sprayed things with hairspray." Then I learned after the labor intensiveness that goes into making this food that they're going to eat it and they're going to ask for seconds and thirds and that's there ...

Christine Tobin: Now, say for a large restaurant scene where there's burgers, say a Friday's or something, I'll take pumpernickel bread and make circles and put it in-between other breads. It's real food but there's no meat in it or anything that would go bad or smell up the set and the extras sitting there pretending, doing their job.

Kerry Diamond: I would think that's so much more expensive for the film, it's so much more work on your part to make it edible-

Christine Tobin: Sometimes I don't have the equipment to even prepare on site. My work that I do is typically out of my own space and so everything is prepped, everything is put in Cambros, and packaged and then I arrive on set, as a caterer would, and sort of shift into action. Again, not knowing if when I land there's a refrigerator or a stovetop. I mean, running water. I've been put in very dodgy situations in the past.

Kerry Diamond: I understand why they would gravitate toward fake food because it has to withstand the lights and time and people touching it over and over again. You still manage to make real food that withstands all that.

Christine Tobin: I've gotten away with it. For me, and especially depending on the scene at hand, so if there's a feast and people are surrounding the table and they are being asked to eat, it's not that they're doing it because they're asked. They're doing it because they really want it and enjoy it.

Christine Tobin: You know, it makes for beautiful moments to be captured. I can't see myself putting a product that couldn't be enjoyed. That would make me really sad and make everyone else sad. "I can't eat it? I can't touch it?"

Kerry Diamond: When they're eating your food they're not acting, they're actually enjoying what's in front of them.

Christine Tobin: No. They're really eating. There's only one time on Labor Day because there was just so many takes on a biscuit scene that eventually you can't eat that many and they'll introduce the spit bucket. It's a very rare occurrence.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I didn't know a spit bucket was a thing on set.

Christine Tobin: I think that's just happened once for me.

Kerry Diamond: It's like a wine tasting. You mention a feast. The most beautiful food scene in the movie is when Mr. Lawrence sends over the Christmas feast for the girls. You must have had such a great time.

Christine Tobin: I did.

Kerry Diamond: Working on that scene. For those who haven't seen the movie yet can you sort of set the scene for us?

Christine Tobin: Well, what was in the book and what was scripted and even reading the script it is in capital letters, "Ice cream is pink." Thinking, "Okay, what's pink ice cream? Is it cherry ice cream? Is it strawberry ice cream?" No, it's peppermint ice cream.

Christine Tobin: That was sourced by a local ice cream maker in Roslindale, Mass. They've been in business for over 100 years. If I could have made the ice cream myself I would have because of the importance of that for that scene.

Kerry Diamond: It was a huge beautiful bowl of pink ice cream scoops.

Christine Tobin: It was a huge beautiful bowl, a punch bowl, and the funny thing is is on set ... We're working together with set dressers and people bringing me the platters, me selecting platters, and you're just sort of ... As if you're about to have this huge dinner party at your house, you're just sort of making magic happen, and it was the prop master Dave who ... I was like, "Where are we going to put this ice cream?" He was like, "Eh ..." He just shows up with this beautiful sterling silver bowl. I would love to take credit for that prop but it was all him.

Christine Tobin: We filled it and we babysat the ice cream. It was real ice cream. Fake ice cream could have been used but to have the result that it did, having the girls ... I mean, they were immediately excited. They didn't know what they were walking into themselves. I think it brought a real life exciting moment for young women to walk into and say, "Wait, what is this?" They were just licking their fingers.

Kerry Diamond: Peppermint ice cream was a thing back then?

Christine Tobin: Peppermint ice cream was a thing back then.

Kerry Diamond: I love that.

Christine Tobin: Luckily, my Puritan ice cream company was still making it and it's still popular and usually it's a seasonal item so to have them make it for me off-season was something I appreciated.

Christine Tobin: As far as the cakes, looking at the table scape, to scale and just sort of playing with various textures and colors and heights comes into play with that. We just came with a lot of different things-

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Tell us what else was on that table.

Christine Tobin: A Victoria sponge with fresh cream and strawberries that would have been preserved because we did a lot of that prior to the filming. We had a plethora of things that we could use for each of the food scenes that would be very realistic to what they would have done. There were fresh artichokes. Things that would be exotic for the March family being brought from the Lawrence house.

Kerry Diamond: Because Mr. Lawrence was the rich guy across the street.

Christine Tobin: Just exotic candies, Turkish delights, little marshmallow-y treats covered in chocolate. Not so much cookies but it was more a cake-based spread. A beautiful ham that had the little cloves ... You know, a carving ham. Creamed spinach was on there. I mean, then all around ... I mean, there's just food everywhere. I'm very happy with that scene.

Kerry Diamond: How big was your crew?

Christine Tobin: Three of us.

Kerry Diamond: You did everything in your kitchen?

Christine Tobin: Or I said do it ... If you have to stay up all night in your space that's totally cool, but typically I work alone and so talking to ... Right upfront I said, "This is going to be impossible" and so I had actually one of my closest family friends, I've known her since she was nine, Caroline White, who is a chef in Boston. She was my on-set.

Christine Tobin: Then poaching Brianna Berelli from Clear Flour Bakery, who is a master pastry chef, so she was sort of behind the scenes and constantly rotating out the scones that ... All the things that I designed that would just be on rotation for the March family to have on hand, for example, tons of pie doughs, discs in my freezer. There was never a moment where we had to scurry or scatter. It's quite seamless and it's because of them really. I owe a lot to them.

Kerry Diamond: How much do you interact with the cast?

Christine Tobin: I want to say everyone likes me around a bit.

Kerry Diamond: That's okay. You can say everyone likes you.

Christine Tobin: You're stationed there and they're just the loveliest group of kind people that were curious and I called them my naughty nibblers and they would come. I would sometimes, at the end especially, send them home with little box of treats. Most especially for the director. I just loved handing over to her assistant like, "Just take this cake."

Christine Tobin: I don't know. I just liked that element of sharing. I know it's for the production costs ... It's not purposely done but at the end of each day if you have a plethora of cookies that we slaved over I'm not going to throw it away. They're going to find a home.

Kerry Diamond: I love that it's real food too because everyone is trying to find ways to cut food waste and there's so much food waste on photo shoots and film sets. That's really wonderful that you're fighting that.

Christine Tobin: One of my assistants actually started bringing a compost bag. She did it in the most heightened feast. I was like, "What are you doing? My head is about to explode. I'm totally in the weeds. I can't think about where these eggshells are going right now." She did it for me and so in the future working ... You know, for future projects I think it's a wise place to start with new habits.

Kerry Diamond: Did you watch the film?

Christine Tobin: I've seen it three times.

Kerry Diamond: You have? You're not like Adam Driver. You can't go watch your work.

Christine Tobin: No.

Kerry Diamond: I'm joking. I love Adam Driver.

Christine Tobin: I saw Marriage Story. Heart wrenching. I went to watch that a second time and I was like, "I can't. I'm not ready yet."

Kerry Diamond: That scene where he breaks into song?

Christine Tobin: All of it. The film ... All of it is brilliant. I'm a huge fan. I went the first time for the crew screening and then I went Christmas day at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline. That was ... The energy in the room, the charge of it, and I've never been to the movies on Christmas before. I don't know if that was part of it.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, my family goes every Christmas.

Christine Tobin: It's a game changer. Then a third time with my daughter and my mom so over Christmas break, which was really special.

Kerry Diamond: That's so special. How old is your daughter?

Christine Tobin: She's nine.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my gosh. The perfect age.

Christine Tobin: We've been reading Little Women. Every few nights ... We're almost done. It's a slow read for her. She says, "There's just so many words. I can't ..." We just take turns and her seeing the film and her little part at the end with Marmee's birthday cake she wasn't expecting that. I kept that from her as a little surprise. It was a touching moment for us.

Kerry Diamond: It's so amazing. I mean, congratulations. The film really is so beautiful. It's just so beautiful to watch. The costumes and just everything about it.

Christine Tobin: Everyone on it took such great care of what their jobs were and I think also because it's such a huge endeavor for this director and the producers to take on this project so I know, for me, I just felt a great responsibility to her to know that I had her back in my little cocoon of my craft, that I think most people took on that same attitude. There was a really just wonderful feeling of care and thoughtfulness I think with everybody that was involved. It's just taking care of New England and the cinematography and the photography.

Kerry Diamond: Well, it 100% comes out in the film.

Christine Tobin: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Did you cry when you watched it?

Christine Tobin: I just had a huge smile on my face. I was touched by the Marmee cake scene because it was scripted to be this cake that was made by the children with Jo and Jo was to bring it to Marmee. In the script it doesn't say it's ... We're going to play this cake all day long so I just thought it was a couple of hours that I would need to be on set but, in fact, it was a full day into the very early evening light that this cake was played. I knew standing there this was to be a special part but I wasn't expecting how it showed in the final product. I was really touched.

Kerry Diamond: Since you did so much research what goes into a mid-1800s cake versus a modern cake?

Christine Tobin: Well, for our purposes we use modern recipes but mimicking old recipes where their recipes would be more dense and egg-y ... They had leaveners so that was sort of saving our butts all across that we were able to use those agents.

Christine Tobin: It really is not that much of a difference. I mean, I had a Victoria sponge on New Year's Eve. That's my go-to cake for my own personal entertaining. You know, having spent time with Jan Turnquist and my meeting with her and her sharing of what the Alcotts loved to eat or prepare themselves was really the point where the granulated sugar came in. You'll see strawberries, which were a huge Alcott family favorite and the pears.

Kerry Diamond: There was some jam making. I remember that from the film.

Christine Tobin: There was jam making. Laura Dern took a jam making workshop the day before and that was the first day on set that I met her. She came right up. She's like, "I took a jam making workshop yesterday."

Kerry Diamond: I'm impressed.

Christine Tobin: "What do I need to do?"

Kerry Diamond: I'm impressed. That's how you win a Golden Globe. Oh, she won it for Marriage Story. But still-

Christine Tobin: That day was a hot day. There was jam everywhere. There was a cranberry jam and a raspberry jam because they weren't sure what season it was to be played. Another circumstance, you're outside, there's no running water, there's yellow jackets everywhere. We all survived. No one got stung.

Kerry Diamond: I'm happy to hear that.

Christine Tobin: Everyone wanted to go home with a little container of jam.

Kerry Diamond: How did you break into food styling for films?

Christine Tobin: Well, for films I first started food styling for print with Ana Sortun of Oleana and Cambridge. I was with her for six and a half years working front of the house and, like many people in restaurants do, they have another passion or another profession besides waiting on tables. In my case, I was an artist and just I was like, "I think I want to get into food styling" having watched Ana and studying her on the other side of the counter while she plated foods and just sort of ... She really made me just awaken to this wonderful ability to look at food as art and sharing it and people being wowed.

Christine Tobin: She was at actually my father's wake with a group of people from Oleana, which I was very touched by, and it was my friend who I would be ... My confidant, who I'd be like, "I really want to get into food styling" who shared with her, "Hey, Christine wants to be a food stylist" after Ana said, "I need to hire a food stylist."

Christine Tobin: Her first cookbook Spice was my first project. Then from there I came to New York with those connections that I made with her photographer Susan Kushner, assisted for a number of years, had babies, took time off, was sitting at a park with my two kids going, "What am I doing with my life? I totally am not ... The phone is not ringing."

Christine Tobin: Literally the phone rang. It was Chris Ubick from Los Angeles based on a referral from my mentor, John Carafoli, who is the godfather of food styling. I was brought into that meeting with producers. They're like, "There's no sign of you on Google. Who are you?" I'm like, "I'm someone who has this experience but I'm also a home cook, I'm a mom, and this movie needs those sort of hands potentially" and they hired me.

Kerry Diamond: Which film was that?

Christine Tobin: That was for Labor Day directed by Jason Reitman. It was Susan Spungen who was hired as the culinary consultant and director and food stylist that I had the amazing opportunity to work with and for. I mean, you can't get bigger than Susan.

Kerry Diamond: We love Susan.

Christine Tobin: She taught me everything I needed to know. I'm still learning things on set but just on set etiquette, how to play with the walkie talkie, timing, "Do you really need 100 pies?" "Yes, Christine, we need 100 pies." That experience was incredible.

Christine Tobin: Then immediately came American Hustle and then immediately came Olive Kitteridge with Frances McDormand. I've just been doing this work since. If the phone rings I, of course, say yes because I love the pace of it. It's gritty. It's not glamorous. It's working on a circus. I really enjoy it.

Kerry Diamond: Like all good members of the bomb squad, it's not your only job.

Christine Tobin: It's not my only job.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us what else you do.

Christine Tobin: I am key food stylist at Chris Kimball's Milk Street.

Kerry Diamond: Which is based in Boston.

Christine Tobin: Based in Boston. I work on their magazines, their cookbooks. We just won the James Beard cookbook last year for best general cooking. That was super exciting, and their television production. Their beauty pieces. When I'm not there I pick up the phone and work with other photographers on various projects, commercials, editorial.

Kerry Diamond: How did you hook up with Chris?

Christine Tobin: Based on a referral.

Kerry Diamond: People must really like you. You get lots of referrals.

Christine Tobin: I think that's just how all this works. Frankly, I have terrible social media presence. I'm terrible at it.

Kerry Diamond: You know what? I think that's good for people to hear because today I feel like we live in such an Instagram world that if you don't have a certain number of followers and a beautiful Instagram ...

Christine Tobin: People really beat themselves up or especially people getting into or wanting to launch into, say, this profession in particular to obsessively take pictures of what you're cooking and it's great but ...

Kerry Diamond: It doesn't come naturally to everyone.

Christine Tobin: It definitely does not to me or my hands are always dirty and I can't or I'm like, "No one needs another person to say, 'Look at this beautiful cucumber."

Kerry Diamond: You got referred to Chris. A lot of cool women there.

Christine Tobin: Very cool.

Kerry Diamond: I visited a few times. I always love all the people I meet there.

Christine Tobin: It's mostly a women staff. They're all bad ass chefs and they come in with every week they do ... I think it's Thursdays. They source the most funkiest flavor potato chips. Everyone is just each other's cheerleader a bit. I like being in those environments.

Kerry Diamond: Do you cook at home much or are you so burned out on food?

Christine Tobin: I'm kind of burned out on food.

Kerry Diamond: You're like, "Can I just have some yogurt?"

Christine Tobin: I do cook a lot. I do miss cooking the way I used to cook when the phone wasn't ringing. I hate to say it like that but I was self-teaching, especially when I was working at Oleana, and taking notes and asking lots of questions and then coming home and trying to replicate. I miss those days a bit but now I'm just ... I'm a single parent. I have two young children. We always eat dinner together. That's the most important thing. It's always just very simple cooking. You know, there's always a roast something and a fluff of salad and call it a day, take showers, go to bed, repeat.

Kerry Diamond: Rinse, repeat.

Christine Tobin: I like a nice challenge every once in a while.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Are you in Cambridge?

Christine Tobin: I'm in Roslindale, which is part of Boston proper. Yeah. It's funny because going back to the social media presence and referrals and such I think in a lot of regard it's about your skillset but also how you are to work with and what you bring in your personality and if you're flexible, if you're not going to lose it because X drops out of the universe and you sort of are creative in making executive decisions on the fly without being a jerk about it I think it's come pretty handy for me.

Kerry Diamond: What was your first job in food?

Christine Tobin: Waiting tables.

Kerry Diamond: Where?

Christine Tobin: Oh, boy. The Village Restaurant in Brewster, Massachusetts when I was a teenager.

Kerry Diamond: Were you a good waitress?

Christine Tobin: No, I was a terrible waitress. I would spill trays with pancakes and syrup. That's so funny. I'm having a flashback. Yeah. Then an ice cream stand at the pool. You know? Stuff like that. Those were my first. I grew up in a suburb of Boston and my mom is from New York City as my dad was and New Yorkers do food like no one else does food, especially coming from a Sicilian family as my mom did and my nana lived with us off the boat from Sicily my whole life until she passed when I was a teenager. Food was always just the most important element of our existence.

Christine Tobin: On Pine Crest Road, each month my parents and some other friends, I think there was six couples-

Kerry Diamond: That's where you grew up?

Christine Tobin: At Pine Crest Road. They created this group called the Gourmet Club and every month they got together ... This was in the '70s and the early '80s and they picked a country and the ladies got together and they created a menu and then it was rotating in the houses.

Christine Tobin: The children we got to then not only just be part of it, we were hidden at adult time with our own snacks and goodies, but sit at the stairs and listening to all the adult chitter chatter and then eating the leftovers the next day and enjoying them as much as if we were there.

Kerry Diamond: Do you think that somehow planted a seed?

Christine Tobin: Oh, it absolutely ... I owe a great deal to my mom, who is like the Martha Stewart of Pine Crest Road. She really is.

Kerry Diamond: Every time you say Pine Crest I feel like you're saying pie crust.

Christine Tobin: Oh, no. Pine Crest.

Kerry Diamond: Rename the street Pie Crust.

Christine Tobin: In fact, she handed me ... One of the last times I was home she handed me a huge box of all the binders with that thin tissue-like typing paper and all the menus, all the recipes of the Gourmet Club. I've yet to have a second to look into this box but it's going to be a treasure chest.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely.

Christine Tobin: I hope to do something with it.

Kerry Diamond: I know you said you don't love Instagram but I would love to see you Instagram.

Christine Tobin: Well, that's a project that would probably get me fired up to get on Instagram.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, you're not on Instagram?

Christine Tobin: No, I am on Instagram but just to be more present. I did snap a picture on my Instagram of Ted Allen today because I accidentally was following him.

Kerry Diamond: Did you say hi?

Christine Tobin: I sure did.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Good. He's a nice guy.

Christine Tobin: So lovely. So nice.

Kerry Diamond: You've really had just such a remarkable existence in this industry. It seems very special.

Christine Tobin: I'm very lucky.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. What's next for you?

Christine Tobin: Well ...

Kerry Diamond: Are you allowed to say?

Christine Tobin: I'm not allowed to say but ...

Kerry Diamond: Just whisper. Nobody will hear.

Christine Tobin: I got a text ... It's a go-ahead for me to be part of an HBO pilot series coming up.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, how exciting. Are they filming it in the Boston area?

Christine Tobin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond: Great. Are you the go-to gal when there's something filmed over there?

Christine Tobin: I'm the only person in the local union 481. That's something ... While on set with Olive Kitteridge ... I mean, that's what's interesting too about this. The industry because ... Especially as a specialty craft ...

Christine Tobin: For example, at Olive Kitteridge I was asked not to get on stage and do the job that I was hired to do because I wasn't union. There's all these rules and regulations that get into it, which was really cumbersome to me doing my job. I was, luckily, forced through.

Kerry Diamond: I mean, you can explain this more but it's not just a matter of joining the union. You have to do ...

Christine Tobin: You have sponsorship.

Kerry Diamond: And you have to do a certain amount of work and a certain amount of hours first. It's pretty complicated.

Christine Tobin: It's very complicated. There's a lot of people who dedicate their hours and jobs that they might not even want to be doing to get to.

Kerry Diamond: To qualify?

Christine Tobin: Yeah. To qualify to then get to that next ... Once you're union and you've started out as a PA, for example, but your ambition is to be a screenwriter you're just sort of plopping on little opportunities when they come. It's a lot of work and I think it takes a lot of ambition.

Kerry Diamond: Before we get to our speed round, what advice do you have for anyone listening who is really interested in food styling?

Christine Tobin: I would say if the phone rings and you don't think that you can pull it off just say yes to it because you're always going to be asked to learn and asked to dive into someone else's life. You know, to help create a storytelling or a character development ...

Christine Tobin: It's not as simple as just preparing food and bringing it to a stage for camera. It's very much more involved with it. I think having various life experiences, both devastating and happy, sort of all helps you evolve your work to be as real as possible.

Kerry Diamond: You can't really go to school to be a food stylist.

Christine Tobin: School of hard knocks.

Kerry Diamond: There you go, folks.

Christine Tobin: No. I know that there's some that will do workshops but, no, there isn't. There's conferences around our country that have people but I don't know ...

Kerry Diamond: In terms of honing your eye is it museums? Looking at photography?

Christine Tobin: Well, my background is in fine arts so my degrees ... I never went to culinary school. I went to art school. I have a thousand bazillion dollars in student loans because of my art school experience. I go in looking at things sculpturally ... Meaning, my hands on approach to food but everyone is different. I think that's the thing with the food styling niche. Everyone has a niche. Some people are really into precision and microscopic whereas I just use my hands and the less I touch food, the more alive I think it is. That might not jive with people but what I look at is it's creating it sculpturally but using various textures and balance as you would a painting and colors and shapes. I think that's how my eye works.

Kerry Diamond: That's so beautiful, Christine. All right. Speed round.

Christine Tobin: Oh, boy. Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Most treasured cookbook?

Christine Tobin: I will have to say it's Julia Child's The Way To Cook and I say this because it's my go-to ...

Kerry Diamond: Because she's from Boston?

Christine Tobin: She was from Boston, Cambridge. Just go-to, straight forward, foolproof recipes. Her Boeuf Bourguignon, AKA beef stew, I use ... You'd be amazed at how many times I have to make beef stew for movies. Everyone is being fed a beef stew and it's Julia Child's recipe.

Christine Tobin: I want to followup with Food 52 Genius cookbook. That saved my butt quite a number of times for some really foolproof baking.

Kerry Diamond: They're really genius?

Christine Tobin: I think so.

Kerry Diamond: Good to know. Good to know. We love our pals over at Food 52. Okay. Favorite kitchen utensil or piece of equipment?

Christine Tobin: I have this massive Brazilian cast-iron pot that is something I have used ... This is the only thing I use. It's like I can fry in it, I can braise in it, boil in it. It's the only thing I use.

Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile?

Christine Tobin: Sara by Stevie Nicks.

Kerry Diamond: Dream vacation destination?

Christine Tobin: I never leave Boston. I'm really excited to be here. I turned 48 this year. Just a few weeks ago. I said, "When I turn 50 I'm going to Italy." Like that's ... If I could be Susan Spungen, right? And someone calls me and says, "We need actor X to be slurping spaghetti" like Eat, Pray, Love I would ... Take me anywhere.

Kerry Diamond: All right. If anyone is listening and they can make that happen.

Christine Tobin: Yeah, make it happen.

Kerry Diamond: Oldest thing in your fridge?

Christine Tobin: Pickles.

Kerry Diamond: One food you would never eat?

Christine Tobin: I'm not a fan of eel.

Kerry Diamond: If you had to be trapped on a desert island with one food celeb who would it be and why?

Christine Tobin: Julia Turshen.

Kerry Diamond: We love Julia.

Christine Tobin: If I was to meet her I would faint because I'm a huge fan and I was introduced to her through her working on Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, which I think those are awesome recipes. Knowing that she was a big contributor to it, I was like, "Who is this wacky lady?" I've been following her and her cookbooks are wonderful but, most importantly, what she's doing in her community is just what we all ... I do my small part in my community but what she's doing is something that's very inspiring to me.

Kerry Diamond: I think what you're talking about is the volunteering that she and her partner Grace do for the food pantry and food kitchen up in their community in upstate New York, which is really amazing.

Christine Tobin: We all started ... I remember going with my dad to Rosie's Place on the Pine Street Inn in Boston and volunteering when we were old enough and I plan to do that with my children but more that.

Kerry Diamond: I'm so sad this show is over. I've had such a nice time talking to you.

Christine Tobin: You're both very nice. Thank you very, very much.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you. Thank you. We try, right, Jess? All right. Everybody, that is it for today's show. Big thank you to Christine Tobin for stopping by today. If you want to see Christine's food styling work be sure to check out Little Women in theaters right now and congratulations. I know that's such a big professional milestone.

Christine Tobin: I'm very thrilled. Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: We are just getting to know you but we're really proud of you.

Christine Tobin: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Kerry Diamond: Don't forget jubilee tickets are on sale right now. Get yours at Cherry Bombe dot com before it sells out. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited, engineered and produced by Jess Zeidman. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening, everybody. You're the bomb.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Tara Hankinson: Hi, my name is Tara Hankinson and I'm the co-founder of Talea Beer Company. Do you want to know who I think is the bombe? Suellen Tunney, the general manager of McCall Wines because Suellen has revolutionized the way we experience Long Island wines through her focus on education and hospitality.