If you have a passion for cooking and have equipped yourself with an impressive set of knives then chances are you are interested in improving the presentation of your food. Let’s face it, if you are lucky enough to possess a Damascus Santoku knife or Chef’s knife then you’ll be making some high quality cuts already, so why not elevate your presentation and impress your guests at your next dinner party?
Why Food Plating matters
Maybe you are a fan of Masterchef and have looked on in amazement as the amateur cook’s plate up a masterpiece? Or maybe you have sat at a restaurant and have been unable to resist the urge to pick up your camera and start snapping pics. Either scenario is unsurprising. After all we are visual creatures and nowadays the way that your food presents is almost as important as the way it tastes. So, how do you elevate your presentation and present a plate worthy for a queen at your next dinner party?
Read on as we provide some tips to elevate your food’s visual appeal.
Tip #1 - Plan Ahead
It is absolutely crucial to get your cook off to the right start and this start with preparation and organization. If you get frazzled at the start of the cook then you can expect that by the end, any patience required to plate with care and precision will have long left the kitchen. In order to plan to perfection you need to consider the following:
- Prepare everything from the ingredients list to the music playlist - you can reduce the potential for a sloppy cook by writing down a list of what you will need, the steps you will take, even down to which background music you will put on during your meal preparation and whether you’ll be sipping on white or red wine!
- Make sure to have all the tools you’ll need - make sure to keep track of inventory. What pots and pans will you need? Will you need any squeeze bottles for decoration, are paint brushes a necessity for the aesthetic during plating? Are your Damascus knives sharpened so that they are ready to make smooth, clean cuts?
- Cut and chop whatever you can ahead of the cook - To save time and alleviate potential stress, try to cut and chop as many of the veggies as possible before you start. Please be careful to only do this for certain food products as some vegetables or fruits will lose color composition if prepared in advance (such as avocados and apples)
Tip # 2 - Select your Display piece
It’s important to choose a plate or bowl that will make the aesthetic of your dish. If you select a larger than needed plate then the ingredients may look underwhelming. Conversely, if you choose a smaller plate than there is a good chance that you’ll end up with a messy, crammed plate of food.
In addition to the size of the plate or bowl, you should also consider;
The color - where possible, some will try and match the plate to the food being served to create a nice contrast. However this is not essential. More than this it is a chance to showcase some razzle dazzle, and vibrant, new age colors are currently in style throughout many restaurants around the world.
Hot or cold plates - During plating it is often important to heat (or cool) the plate so that the temperature and flavor of the food remains intact .
Cleanliness - Make sure that any watermarks or smudge marks are removed from all dishes being served to your guests.
Tip #3 - Where will the hero of the dish be placed
When it comes to plating, and you may have observed this on your favorite cooking shows, it is very rare that the hero of the dish will be placed directly in the middle of the plate. Rather this focal point item is generally placed to the left or right of the center. This is known widely as ‘the rule of thirds’ and involves leaving ⅓ of the plate free while covering the other ⅔ with food.
Tip #4 - Placing the other elements
There are a few key considerations when it comes to placing the rest of the food around the hero of the dish. These include:
The Height - How high will you present? Generally, there can be up to 3 layers of food on the plate:
- The bottom layer which is largely for liquid components like a puree or sauce and is a great place to add texture and color
- The middle layer is a bridge between top and bottom and this is where rice, pasta, noodles or potatoes usually feature. It is also not unusual for the protein to be placed here in the middle layer as well.
- The top layer can often contain longer, visually striking items such as spears of asparagus or carrots cut julienne.
Contrast - Mention briefly above it is crucial to provide contrast and this is largely done by adding texture and color. This can easily be applied to the bottom layer when placing the elements but also often features prominently on top of the protein.
Odds or Evens - This one is quite easy. It’s a widely considered fact that placing odd numbers of food on a plate is more pleasing to the eye. Always ensure that you are placing 1, 3, 5, 7 items of food and avoiding even placements.
Tip # 5 Add Drizzles, Swirls and Garnishes
To finish up it’s always a great idea to add a bit of personal touch and a splash of style and this is most easily achieved by decorating with sauce and placing garnish.
When adding sauce it is handy to use a spoon and create dots, lines, smears and arcs as these are visually pleasing and instantly recognizable. A light drizzle can also work well if the sauce is not too thick.
As far as garnishing goes they are highly underrated and are a great chance to add a final splash of color, and a little extra taste. Keep in mind that the garnish needs to be a little subtle. You don’t want the garnish to take away from the dish at the last possible moment, so try focusing on garnishing with micro herbs.
Best of luck!