It really is all about the light. Way back in the late 70's I fell in love with realistic hard light. I loved the way sunlight broke through the trees and bounced off the sidewalk. I began experimenting with a bare Calumet strobe tube. Back then it was tough. Most of my shots were on 8X10" film and with the head maybe 6 feet from the subject I had to pop the strobe 6 or 8 times to get the right exposure. Polaroid helped but I never really knew what I had until I saw the first test sheet of film.
Back then commercial lighting was all about soft shadows made with light banks. A product sitting on plexiglass back lit by a light bank was all the rage way back then. Nobody was experimenting with hard light back in 1980.
I was fortunate to have some younger art directors at some of the larger ad agencies who were willing to give me a chance. You see above an ad I did for Weight Watchers, one for ABC TV's North & South mini-series, a Gold Toe sock brochure and a Black Book self promotion piece.
Each one was lit using the bare strobe tube.
In 1989 I joined Nabisco as a photographer and made them buy me optical spots. By 1994 we were digital and the combination of optical spot strobes (which replaced the bare tubes), and digital's instant imaging so I could tweek the lighting on the fly, made this light perfect. I would say that today, I shoot 80% of my work in this same hard light way. Most of my clients hire me for just that reason. The chicken parmesan is one I did recently. I guess the lesson here might be that if you stay with what you like, eventually it just might be popular.