Plate like a pro
Ever heard the adage “we eat with our eyes first”? I think many of us would be hard pressed to argue against the fact that a beautifully presented dish trumps a fast food burger wrapped in paper. In fact, the art of styling a dish is fast becoming one of the tools used by foodies and executive chefs the world over to woo customers, and ensure patrons keep returning for more.
So, what is the trick? When plating food, it is essential that you balance out the tastes, colours and textures. Always remember that the diner’s experience of the food is heavily tied to what they see on the plate and this will have a direct impact on their opinion of the actual taste of the food. Caterers, photographers and advertisers definitely understand this – so here are some tips on how you can too.
Use a white background: While coloured dishes work well for warm and hearty stand-alone foods like stews, they aren’t really great for setting the scene for a great plating. Try and select a white plate if possible so that your food forms the focal point at all times.
The focal point: The hero of the dish, which should be the main component of what you have cooked, should be plated at the centre and form the focal point of the dish. The rest is the literal garnish that then embellishes this.
Plate in odd numbers: While we aren’t entirely sure this is a must, many of the world’s top chefs suggest you plate in odd numbers, especially if your dish is made up of smaller pieces – such as cannelloni. The simple reason chefs give is that things look bizarre in even numbers.
Play to the senses: Sight, taste, smell and feel (texture) are the four of the five senses that come to play when enjoying food. So, play to them. This in particular includes colour and texture when plating and this is where balance is the most important approach.
Channel your inner artist: We all have one. So, let your inner artist shine. Think in pictures and well-balanced ones at that. If the plate is your canvas, think of the sprouts, sauces and garnishes as the frame for your picture.
Less is always more: Every day plating is about simplicity. A literal mass explosion is not ideal for a hearty home cooked meal, think to the finer steak presentations where the only thing on the plate is the steak itself, the sauces and vegetables are always served in side dishes.
Think of flavour: If you think of plating as a means to package each bite then build literal flavour parcels as you build your plate. You can lead the diner through your flavour presentation by doing the leg work for them if you build the flavours into little stacks on the plate.
Play with garnish: This is an area where you can really throw your passion at. With micro herbs, garnishes, sauces and even fresh herbs and spices you can do a lot to lift an otherwise bland food presentation to entice your diner to “climb in”.
Mix it up: Craft food halls are all the rage and they aren’t afraid of using slate and wooden boards, jam jars and even biscuit tins to serve food on. And why not? It looks fabulous – so if you want to mix it up and you aren’t too partial to a stark white plate – then be adventurous..
The most important tip is to have fun. Not everyone is blessed enough to be creative or artistic. So, food is an area where you can really tap into your inner Van Gogh.
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