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The Allure Of Hannibal: It’s Food To Die For

The Allure Of Hannibal: It's Food To Die For

While a show centred around the escapades of a cannibal serial killer seems like a reach to draw parallels with the gourmet food element of the show, Hannibal has deservedly earned its reputation on the foodie scene.

The story goes like this; criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is tasked by FBI agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to help catch the Chesapeake Ripper and Crawford employs brilliant Psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to oversee his mission, oblivious to the fact that Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper himself. So where does the food come in?


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Food has become ‘one of the characters’ of the popular series, and one of the factors behind Hannibal’s reputation as one of the most aesthetically beautiful shows around. The food has our stomachs rumbling and mouths watering until we kick ourselves and realise that we’re actually watching the lead character cook his latest victim.


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Throughout the show Hannibal, a sophisticated cannibal and show-off cook, hosts dinner parties serving sumptuous meals, often throwing in a human body part for flavour, such as fellow serial killer James Gray’s calf (Osso Buco) to forensic Beverly Katz’s kidneys (fancy meat pie). He is as witty as he is murderous, throwing out great lines to his dinner party guests such as “Before we begin, I must warn you… nothing here is vegetarian”. The food is cooked and presented so divinely to his oblivious guests, half the time audiences don’t know whether to write the recipe down or feel nauseous.

Forget paddock to plate, this show has created a completely new trend, person to plate! Hannibal makes eating humans look appetizing and this wouldn’t be possible without the brains behind the… well, brains.



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Hannibal’s food stylist Janice Poon, 62, is from Toronto and grew up in a Cantonese family where she learned to cook from a young age. Working as an art director at an ad agency, Poon’s career changed when she took the path of food styling, her curiosity being sparked by her astonishment over what actually went into creating camera-worthy food. Poon’s extensive knowledge of cooking techniques and her artistic eye coupled with chef Jose Andre’s skills has made Janice Poon a star. We sat down with Janice and asked her some questions we were dying to know.

How (and when) did you get involved in food styling?

I was not long out of art school and had just become an Art Director in a big advertising agency and three of my accounts were food accounts: Kraft, McDonalds and Maple Leaf. That was my first exposure to food styling. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that, in photography, food was as fussed-over and as made up as any supermodel. I found it fascinating (hilarious, actually) but didn’t really get involved in food styling until years later when I opened an interior design shop that happened to be beside a fine food boutique. A food photographer had come into the food shop looking for someone who could prepare a complex Chinese dish and the food shop owner directed him to me. I agreed to do the dish and it went so well he convinced me to do other food styling jobs. So it started as something I did as a lark between sewing drapes and designing cabinetry.

What’s your take on the ‘rule’ “True foodies eat meat”.

Same as I feel about most rules and generalizations: meaningless. There is a world of excitement in vegetarian food…that’s where all the colour is!


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What are your top three foods to cook with and why?

Pastry – because even your mistakes are a joy to eat; tomatoes – because their perfect balance of sweet, sour and freshness makes almost everything taste better; fish because of the wonderful variety in flavors and textures.

How did you feel about the premise and style of Hannibal’s show?

At its heart, it is horror – my least favorite genre. But Hannibal transcends genre with such creativity and virtuosity that I absolutely consider it art. Like all good art, it makes us question our assumptions and beliefs. The quality of work I do for the show is, in no small way, a result of the response of the Fannibals who constantly look for deeper meaning – knowing that in Hannibal, there are many layers that will be revealed to those who look closely.

What is your most memorable meal from Hannibal’s menu and why?

Every meal has been memorable. I think that’s why this show is so great – each episode is treated as a magnificent jewel. And I try to make each meal speak as if it were the only meal. But if I had to pick one, I think it might be the ortolan shared between Hannibal and Will..

What dish did you enjoy creating the most on the show and why?

I can’t think of a dish I didn’t enjoy making but I think the food scene I loved the most was the hallucinatory feast Will imagines he is having with the Wendigo. I covered the entire table with a whole roast suckling pig, lobsters, oysters, fruits and flowers – all arranged in a beautiful but macabre tablescape – including an octopus with tentacles hanging out of a silver bowl. In post-production, they created an effect of a tentacle lunging out at the camera.

What was the most difficult food creation of the series for you?

The Anchovy Kholodets was the most problematic but that made it the most rewarding because of the fun is in finding solution for the impossible challenges of creating food for Hannibal..

What’s it like working with Mads Mikkelsen?

Mads is a joy to work with. He is incredibly gifted and quickly masters any and all techniques required to do the cooking scenes. He has a wicked sense of humor and puts everyone at ease when we are shooting. For example, one of our crew brought his eight-year-old son to set one day and was showing him the food at my work station. Mads came over to ask a question about the scene and the boy eyed him nervously. Mads smiled at him and said “Don’t worry, I promise I won’t eat you.”


Season 3 of Hannibal is available now on iTunes and other digital platforms.

We are also running a competition for all cooking fans, and the prize is a killer! Worth $800, the first prize will be a KitchenAid Artisan FoodMixer, with runners up receiving 10x DVD packs of Season 1 & 2 of Hannibal. To enter: all you need to do is post photos of your Hannibal inspired ‘food porn’ cooking (no human body parts please!) with the hashtag #cookingwithhannibal to be in the running to win,and tag @carouselfood. Hannibal’s food stylist Janice Poon will be judging the competition. Hannibal comp

View the competition Terms and Conditions here.

Check out the Hannibal trailer below…


By eOne

Written by Millie Constable

Millie Constable is an avid traveller, photographer, foodie and writer. After travelling the world, Millie moved to Florence, Italy, where she completed a Diploma of Photography and Multimedia. Whilst experimenting with food photography during her studies, she decided that was how she wanted to spend her life, eating and documenting her way around the way world!

On returning to Australia, Millie started working for The Carousel and continues to write and dream about food.


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