“The eye eats first” his a well-known saying. Our first impressions of a plate of food set our expectations and a well presented meal should engage the senses. The sight of beautifully presented food stimulates our appetites, starts our digestive juices flowing, and makes us eager to dig in. If the food looks carelessly served, tossed onto the plate in a sloppy manner, we assume it was cooked with the same lack of care. Let’s take a look at a few ways to enhance food presentation:
As you see in the plate above, the starch is the start point in the center of the plate from which we will build upwards, then the vegetable, then the protein leans against it- creating height, with sauce placed around the outside. This is a traditional approach that keeps things simple yet elegant, and… it just works. The nice china makes a difference as well, and the bones are frenched on these lamb chops, which makes all the difference. It’s all in the details.
Above we see that a beautiful china pattern compliments the course being served. The colors work beautifully in a non compete fashion, allowing the food to shine brightly with an upgrade to what it might have looked like on a paper plate or random careless choice of dish.
Above we also see that the portion size fits the plate size nicely, and the three clams in shell create balance. I find that odd numbers tend to create a more interesting visual experience.
Above, the seaweed salad is cleverly served two different ways. It is rolled in cucumber strips AND piled for height. Color variation by way of a few simple carrot slices brings this course to life.
Color, Shape and Texture
Above we see a well choreographed dish that is quite frankly a work of art. The complimentary contrast of colors and shapes make for eye popping elegance. The variation of textures effect both visual experience and how the flavors will feel in the mouth. A common presentation error is serving too many soft foods.
Efficiency and Adding Sauces Attractively
When plating courses, do them with efficiency in the name of keeping your guests’ food warm and consistent in appearance. Sauces are an essential part of many dishes, but ladling the sauce across the top of the food is a no no. Niet. The sauce should always be thought of as part of the overall design of the plate.
Building a Flavor Profile
These bite sized lobster egg rolls and caviar blinis are not only a feast for the eyes, but for the tastebuds as well. Why? Because the flavor profile was very carefully considered along with the presentation. Above you see the chef adding a last minute dollop of wasabi aioli to the lobster egg rolls. Serious wow. It absolutely makes that bite divine, hitting all taste sensors in your mouth simultaneously. AND it looks amazing. Find a way to make both flavor and presentation work together.
Good things come in small packages. Easy for me to say because I am short. But in all seriousness, these bite sized tuna tacos score a home run in presentation and flavor.
A few more presentation pointers:
- Good Presentation does not make up for bad cooking techniques. Bring your A-game to the kitchen as well as the table, and by that I mean properly cut your vegetables and trim your meats…. and don’t over/under cook.
- Serve hot food on hot plates, cold food on cold plates
- Always make sure the rims of the plate are cleaned before serving
- Make every component count- Garnishes are not added just for color. Sometimes they are needed to balance a plate by providing an additional element. Having said that, do not add unnecessary elements, especially unnecessary inedible garnishes.
If you have any other presentation pointers to add, by all means, add into the comments below.