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This food stylist sets the table according to her clients’ personalities

Food stylist Nurit Kariv, the force behind cookbook author Adeena Sussman’s latest, “Shabbat,” alongside many other cookbooks, food websites and design firms, could eat cake all day long.

As long as it’s served on the right dish.

With Kariv, it always is. The food stylist now has her own brand, Nu, working with a series of local artisans, including ceramicists, glassmakers and textile artists.

Together they create high-end, handmade tableware series, such as Avi Ben Shoshan’s pastel-hued apple and honey sets, bowls and platters, along with Bar Gantz’s gently rounded ash wood trays and Gur Inbar’s perfectly grasped porcelain water pitchers.

Some of the pieces are sold at museum shops as well as at the drop-in events that Kariv hosts twice a year, during the holiday periods when Israelis tend to host more intensely.

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Food stylist Nurit Kariv sets a table with a tablecloth printed with her own design and other artisan items created for her Nu home collection (Courtesy Nurit Kariv)

Kariv’s upcoming Nu sale for Rosh Hashanah is September 8-9 at Habanot, 37 Israel Meslant Street, Tel Aviv, 11-4 on Friday and 10-4 on Saturday.

The home collection is also an opportunity for Kariv to return to textile design, her first passion.

She creates one-of-a-kind watercolor patterns and drawings, including a holiday-inspired pattern of fall-colored fruits and vegetables this time around. There are also whimsical floral, block prints and geometric designs, all printed on fine, soft linens in a range of sizes.

Knowing what table linens and serving pieces look best with food is a skill that Kariv comes by almost genetically.

It dates back to her childhood with her elegant, Berlin-born, interior designer father and mother who would regularly host dinner parties in their Tel Aviv home, with Kariv and her younger sister serving as sous chefs.

Nurit grew up in Afeka, the Tel Aviv neighborhood often known now as Ramat Aviv Gimel, with neighbors such as Yitzhak and Leah Rabin. While her family wasn’t the most well-to-do in their neighborhood, they had the nicest home by far, said Kariv.

Fast forward some 50 years and Kariv studied graphic design at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy before working in textile design for Kitan during the early 1990s, soon migrating into styling for the bed linen company.

Food stylist Nurit Kariv likes to fit her clients’ backgrounds to their personalities, like this vintage tablecloth used for one of the recipes in Adeena Sussman’s newest book, ‘Shabbat’ (Courtesy Dan Perez)

It was early days for styling and the culinary arts, just as chefs such as Erez Komorovsky were launching businesses like Lechem Erez, one of the country’s first artisan bread bakeries that emphasized styling and food beauty.

Kariv liked textiles, but she loved food even more.

“My sister and I loved cooking,” said Kariv, who used to cater small events with her sister, including events for Leah Rabin, Ellen Gur and other notables of the time.

Being summarily let go by Kitan was all the prompt Kariv needed, as she migrated to styling food, interior design and cosmetics, working closely with several photographers over the years.

She’s been a full-time stylist for the last 25 years, working closely for the last dozen years with Dan Perez, who photographed Sussman’s last two books.

“It’s been a journey, and it took time to make it all happen,” said Kariv. “It’s a ton of work, but I love it the most.”

Adeena Sussman’s Golden Challah from ‘Shabbat,’ styled by Nurit Kariv, and launched September 5, 2023, (Courtesy Dan Perez)

Finding the right setting for cookbook recipes, such as Adeena Sussman’s “Shabbat” salads, brisket and challah, or Heddai Offaime’s “A Book about Food,” requires understanding the cook’s vibe and intentions.

Kariv has Sussman on the brain right now, as the “Shabbat” cookbook was launched this week in New York City.

“I wanted to express Adeena’s personality and identity in ‘Shabbat,'” said Kariv. “She grew up in a religious home in the US, but now lives a very Tel Aviv life, and she loves things that are modern but vintage, too. She’s Ashkenazi but Israeli and American, and it was important to me to express all that.”

For instance, Sussman’s first book, “Sababa,” had a more Israeli feel, said Kariv, while “Shabbat” is more about hosting and family meals, and she used more tablecloths to express that homey sentiment.

“It’s a feeling of being a part of a family meal,” she said, “and the reader should just feel that. That’s good food styling.”