Fake Food

Is this food making you hungry? Well don’t try to take a bite, because these delicious looking foods are actually fake.

TV shows and movies will try to use real foods on screen when possible, but there are a number of reasons why food props might be used instead. For example, if ice cream is used, they don’t want it to melt between takes. Or if you need a lot of food in the background of a shot. Companies like Independent Studio Services and Display Fake Foods offer pre-made food props that can be ordered in bulk.

But often times, movies need items specially made.  That’s when they seek out a fake food artist like Lisa Freedman. For people who need something specific, that’s why they reach out to me. I’m an artist. I went to school for art, and I also love to cook and bake. There’s not a lot of us out there that do this.

Brenda Chapman also makes fake foods in Oklahoma. I just kind of figure it out, so I’ve had no formal training. I didn’t go to college. Started this just so I could be a stay-at-home mom with my kids.

Both women work out of studios in their homes. They can recreate pretty much anything. Much of their day-to-day business is in restaurant displays and food shows. But prop-masters will contact them if they need food items for movies.

In the last 20 years I’ve done almost three million (3,000,000) dollars worth of fake food business.

Brenda has had her work featured in a number of productions. For Glee, she made some ice cream for this diner scene.

In their diner scene, they wanted milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes and banana splits that were new, half-eaten, quarter-eaten so that they could switch them out during the takes. (Note: When a movie is recorded, one scene will be recorded repeatedly and each time is called a “take.”)

She says you don’t always know where your food will end up. Like when some of her items popped up in “The Muppets”.

When Miss Piggy eats my donuts I didn’t realize they had bought my donuts. 

And sometimes your food doesn’t even make the final cut.

“Thor”, the movie, actually bought $500 worth of donuts, and they had a building that said “Donut Shop,” or “Donut Land,” but they never went inside, so I could see my donuts. It was very sad.

Here’s a creamsicle Lisa Freedman made that was featured in a scene from “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World.”

The coldest thing they had.

Oh, thank you.

I guess his eye was swollen. He got hit in it.

While the details may vary based on the artist, the creation process is pretty standard. We stopped by Lisa Freedman’s home in New York to see how she makes her fake foods. After the order is submitted, typically the customer will send her a real version of the food they want duplicated. Then she will produce a mold out of the item to get the exact size and shape.

We try to mold it close to the color, so that we’re not starting with a blank white canvas.

Typically, fake foods are made with rubber or foam. She pores the material into the mold and lets it sit. Foam rises like actual dough, so she needs to prevent it from spilling out.

It’s like I’m baking a cake, right? I’m baking my bread…

Then she sands the excess pieces down. Once the item is dry, it’s painted and detailed to look like real food.

With my background in painting, I can color it to be as, you know, as realistic as it is. You just kind of have to look at things a little differently, and think, okay, it’s not made for this, but it does look like this. We do use a lot of styrofoams, a lot of just stuff from the local hardware store. You know, caulking and dry wall patching and sheet rock mud.

To replicate granola and ground beef, Lisa uses crushed cork board.

Cork kind of breaks up like granola, so we took some corkboards, and we started breaking it down.

Sometimes real food is used. Like covering actual pop corn, cereal or candy in resin to preserve it. It’s often hard to tell the finished product from the original.

I don’t do this for the money. It’s kind of more for the accolades when my customers write, “Oh, I love it. It came out great.”

And while these items might make your mouth water, they’re only a feast for your eyes.

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