We had the good fortune of connecting with Claire Perez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Claire, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I decided to start my own business twenty years ago as a means to continue a career in food styling while juggling the demands of single parenthood. With no desire to end up in a corporate cubby, I was determined to pursue a freelance position that provided the flexibility to dictate my own schedule, while allowing me to be present for as many recitals, plays, athletic events and sick days, for my daughter as possible. Ruby has always been my driving force.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I think what differentiates and defines my work is my diverse work history. The range is varied from time spent in European kitchens as a stagiaire, a fancy french term for unpaid interns that do grunt work, to cooking in mom-and-pops and fine dining restaurants, to owning catering and delicatessen businesses to editorial and advertising print and film gigs, among others. These experiences allowed me to develop skills and appreciation for a wide variety of projects and clients. As a self-employed freelancer, having the ability to “speak the language” with executive chefs, prep cooks or CEO’s, navigating professional kitchens and equipment or understanding budgets, ad campaigns and timelines, provided me an opportunity to cast a wider net for potential clients.

The freelance life is not for everyone. For those just launching a freelance career, my advice is to be patient and trust in yourself. Be flexible and diversify as much as possible for the lean times. For me, this meant exploring menu copywriting, recipe testing and development and food writing which led to a part-time 12-year stint with the Tribune Publishing company. Incorporating these services not only made me more valuable but allowed me to offer a concept-to-completion approach for larger scale projects for corporate accounts and cookbooks. Freelancing is a constant ebb and flow. Eventually you learn to ride the wave of uncertainty.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Having spent the last 20 years in South Florida, the beach is my happy place and where most visitors prefer to go. Morning walks spent shelling, afternoons relaxing with a book, happy hour sunsets or watching fish being reeled in off the pier – it’s perfect any time of day, easily accessible and always restorative.

The food scene has come along way since I moved here from New York. I definitely have my favorite spots but, shopping for great ingredients, cooking in my kitchen and setting a beautiful table with friends to enjoy an alfresco meal on the patio is my cup of tea.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Where do I even start? My shoutout is dedicated to several experiences and individuals throughout my career. Looking back to my early days as a pastry chef and food editor, working alongside Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Jacques Torres and the ubertalented staff at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, these experiences “set the bar” and established my work ethic and desire to strive for the highest standards in the industry. When I made the decision to pursue a solo, freelance career as a stylist, it was the unconditional love, support and encouragement from colleagues turned dear friends, Chefs Lisa Schroeder and Virginia Willis that guided me along the way.

Website: claireperez.com

Instagram: @mclaireperez

Twitter: @goesbyclaire

Image Credits
Libby Volgyes; Knives Pompano Puttanesca Mango and Peppercorns Cookbook Florida Pompano Herbs & Spices Chai Rum Still Life Andrew Meade: Sushi Roll Mexican Mule On Set

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