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Creator Spotlight: Elis Halenko - Food Stylist

Updated: Jun 16

Food Stylist Elis Halenko wearing citrus fruit crown.
Photo courtesy of Elis Halenko

Meet Food Stylist and Registered Dietitian, Elis Halenko


Location: Toronto, ON


I create for: Fulfillment, Joy, Business, and Personal Hobby


Creative Avenues:

  • Painting

  • Pottery/Ceramics

  • Film/Videography

  • Photography

  • Poetry




Background:


I am a Registered Dietitian, food stylist, content creator and creative director/designer. I am also an entrepreneur and founder of Snapstudio55. I studied Food & Nutrition and Creative Writing at Toronto Metropolitan University. I also studied Public Relations, and film at the University of Toronto, and interior design at the Interior Design Institute. 


For most of my career, I have worked in marketing and the food industry in some capacity.  I was a food demo lady at your local grocery store after my internship because the thought of working in a clinical environment made me want to cry. In this role, I enjoyed meeting people and networking. I quickly made career connections (and rejected a few date advances). I’ve worked in high-level marketing and communications roles for food brands and marketing companies soon after my food demo stint. 


In 2016 I started my own business and developed a creative content agency as a one stop shop for brands. I was so successful that I forgot about burnout but burnout didn’t forget about me.... I sold my business and started Snapstudio55 a year or so later. 


During the pandemic (like many others),  I had to make things with my hands. I rediscovered my love for living slower, making sourdough bread, writing, pottery, and painting on canvas. 


Now I do “it” all (content creation and running a content creation school among other things) because I’ve learned to say yes where it's aligned and no when it's not, while scaling my business in a more sustainable way, while eating an ice cream cone sporting a side pony obvi. 




Philosophy and Inspiration:


My two biggest inspirations right now are Martha Stewart and Athena Calderon but I have many others. I also get inspiration a lot from other creators, nature, my travels to Europe, things family and friends do or say, patterns in my life, things I read, things kids say, things I find funny and so on.


My philosophy would probably consist of a bunch of sayings: 


Success is making money doing what you love to do and having a life you love to live both at work and at home.  


We are all students and teachers. If you never learn to be a student again, you will never be a great teacher. 


It’s ok to change your mind, and then change it back. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to say no, it’s ok to want more, it's ok to not have the capacity for something else.




CLIENT WORK GALLERY


Photos courtesy of Elis Halenko




Creative Journey:


I was always seeking a creative outlet outside of dietetics and didn’t really merge the two until I was a year or so out of graduation. My creative journey started with me being completely and utterly miserable.


I discovered this Vegan Fully Raw Youtuber, named Full Raw Kristina and she would make … you guessed it fully raw and vegan foods that looked so delicious! Not only were the recipes so creative, they promised little compromise- lasagnas and noodles and desserts-WHAT?!  Her content mesmerized me!


She was obsessed with food and her content made me want to eat Raw Vegan. So I did enjoy many raw vegan dishes, in addition to my normal diet, and then I started taking photos and started creating my own raw vegan recipes. This was the inspiration which led to me creating my own successful content creation agency in 2016.


Food stylist Elis Halenko poses with a knife stabbing through a ring into a citrus fruit
"Lady Boss" Photo courtesy of Elis Halenko

In between, I studied PR and film at UofT and interior design at the Interior Design Institute. Currently, I create content for food and lifestyle brands as well as run a content creation school for other nutrition experts, Snapstudio55. 


As someone who can be such a deep thinker, I enjoy activities that get me out of my head and into a soul centered creative space. Getting my hands dirty is almost a requirement. Some things I love: making pottery, painting abstract art, writing and poetry, food photography and films and doing anything crafty with my hands.


The next creative chapter for me involved taking a sabbatical from content as I know it and pushing the creative boundaries. I bought some new software and food photography tools and toys… after years of creating beautiful (but generic) foundational food photography for brands I love, I want to explore more editorial and risky styles. I may take some additional courses and work with some folks I’ve looked up to for a long time. I’m very settled into my career but it’s time to take some risks and I'm ready for my next bloom. 



 

Achievements:


Some of the notable projects we’ve worked on and been a part of include: 


Elis Halenko, Food Stylist laying out bowls and utensils for food photography.
Behind the scenes with pottery Photo courtesy of Elis Halenko

I’ve been a guest speaker at a few podcasts and collaborated with many other RDs in different ways, creating resources and working on client projects together. This feels like an accomplishment as I feel it’s important to foster community in entrepreneurship and dietetics as opposed to competition and rivalry, a feeling I felt while I was applying for an internship as a student. 


We ran 2 Creative Symposium for Dietitians so far in 2022 & 2024 via my content school Snapstudio55; these events help other RD creatives feel supported, stay inspired and learn from others.  


I have been accepted to the YEDI Incubator Program, which is a free and exclusive business coaching program associated with York University. So I felt pretty special about that one!


I have also been the recipient of a couple other grants. 


I am a proud preceptor and mentor for many students, most commonly from TMU; recently I received recognition for my contribution here. 


I was mentioned in a Globe and Mail article along with 12 other Canadian RDs (not a good mention), but a mention nonetheless (fades into the shadows). Overall it was a good experience because it made me reflect on transparency and my role as an RD in media and communications. 


I’ve had people from all over the world strike up a conversation with me online telling me what they love about what I do, and it turns out we often have lots in common! I feel pretty proud I get to do what I do and meet the people I meet.  




How do you do what you do? Give us some insights into your tools, techniques, and creative process. 


Food Stylist Elis Halenko behind the scenes photographing a plated dish.
Behind the scenes food photography Photo courtesy of Elis Halenko

I would say I am in the process of tweaking my process and about to take a creative sabbatical and become the student again… so ask me again in 3 months : ) 


Early on in my career, I would “copycat” as much as possible to help me figure out how to get certain effects in my food styling and photography or pottery, paintings etc. Now, I try to avoid copying and if I am inspired, I try to always include the source. 


My current process would involve doing creative research online and in life, in nature and compiling inspirations onto a mood board and then using this as a template or guide to create. 


My everyday tools for food styling and photography can be found here: 




What advice or tips can you offer someone interested in doing what you do?


Be willing to be a student and be willing to invest in some mentorship, the tools and equipment, go to some free events hosted for creatives, network, tell yourself you are a (insert what you are aiming for), go ahead, change your bio and linkedin. I dare ya. Then of course follow me and reach out! I offer lots of free events and workshops for students as well. 




Any upcoming events, projects, shows, appearances, or collaborations?


We don’t have any upcoming events right now as we are moving homes but for up to date events and information subscribe to our newsletter, find us and our school Snapstudio55 on Instagram below. 




Food Stylist Elis Halenko posing on couch with pizza.
Editorial Food Play Photo courtesy of Elis Halenko

Connect with and Support Elis



Subscribe to the newsletter 


Check out our online courses


Send me an email for collaboration ideas or a quote



Socials

Follow me on social media! (best way to support a business for free) 


Instagram @thefoodstylisrd

Instagram @snapstudio55   






 

Thanks for checking out our Creator Spotlight on Elis! Drop us a line below if you know of another creator you think we should feature or if you would like to be featured. We love supporting our fellow creatives!


Also, if you haven't already, join the Artists & Creators in Dietetics Facebook group.



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