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Most Chefs are fond of saying that we eat with our eyes first.

Science agrees and backs this up with studies stating that eating with our eyes first, is said to be hardwired in our brain and is deeply rooted in man’s evolution. In particular, this research indicates that visual stimuli have been shown to alter the perception of taste, smell, and flavour. With this information, it’s no wonder that professional Chefs take particular care when plating their dish.

For restaurateurs and any other food service business, food presentation plays a significant role in providing satisfaction to your diners. This is very apparent even more in this day and age, where social media encourages this new culture of appreciation for food plating and artistry — more on this topic in the link below.

RELATED READ ON FOOD PRESENTATION

Awareness of good food presentation can demonstrate your Chefs’ skills to customers and highlight your offerings. With knowledge of these basic principles, techniques, and tools, you’re sure to enhance your business’ plating and increase sales.

Here are some essential concepts on food plating:

Cuisine and Restaurant Style

Build the plate based on the cuisine or restaurant style. Think of it as the theme. Use this as a guide for the dinnerware that will be used: as there are various materials of dinnerware (china, ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, wood, etc.). Typically, fine dining restaurants use china or porcelain, since these types convey a sense of formality and elegance. Casual restaurants may opt for stoneware or ceramic or wood for a more rustic feel.  And then there are quick-service operations that usually go for melamine or plastic since they are more practical and economical. Create a style around it, whether casual or formal. 

The Plate

Since food plating and presentation is artistry in itself, your Chef acts as the artist, the plate as the canvas, and the medium is the food. Ideally, it should be big enough for the food to stand out but not too big that the portion will look small. This is important because the plate size can influence the perception of the quantity and portion of the food. You do not want customers thinking that they are not getting their money’s worth. Typically, fine dining restaurants use dinner plates that are around 12 inch/30 cm or appetizer plates that are a 7-9 inch/18-23 cm. The colour of the plate can complement or contrast with the food, depending on the impact that is wanted. The white plate is popular because the starkness puts the focus on the food. In visual arts in general, the concept of white space or negative space is important. Think of the plate rim as the canvas frame. But remember, that aside from plates, service wares include bowls, cups, and other vessels used to hold the food.

Portion Size

Focus on balancing your protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable to create a nutritionally balanced meal. 

Placement of Ingredients

Think of the plate as a clock. Position the protein between 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, the starch or carbohydrate is from 9 o’clock and 12 o’clock, and the vegetable is from 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock. The main ingredient in the dish should take up the most space on the plate.

Quantity

As again with visual art, serving food in odd amounts is more aesthetically appealing than an even amount. There is something about odd numbers that people tend to perceive they’re getting more. Avoid getting carried away when completing the dish by crowding the plate. Put the focus on one ingredient- on a savoury dish, it is often the protein ( meat, fish, or poultry). For vegetarian dishes, this can be pasta, risotto, grains, and legumes. By being simple, it will allow the other ingredients on the plate to play a supporting role. Which leads us to —

Colour and Contrast / Garnish

Adding brightly coloured fruits or green vegetables can serve as accent points. This is important because the main focus is usually in colours of beige, brown or white. Reverse engineer the dish and pick an ingredient that you can use to accent the plate. Not only will it be complementing the food with the smell and taste, but it also cues in the diner of what ingredient there is in the dish. You don’t put a beautiful star anise in a dish if the dish itself doesn’t have it  as an ingredient. It has a potent spicy smell that only goes with specific dishes. Consider that point, no matter how pretty or attractive it looks. Alternatively, there are beautiful edible flowers that can be used to elevate the plating. More on this topic here. You can also achieve colour and contrast using sauces such as placing them beneath the main protein or drizzling across the plate. Use the squeeze bottle as if it is a paintbrush by creating dollops or streaks. 

Structure and Height

Height catches the diner’s eyes. Position flat items by leaning them on the taller ingredients for a balanced look.

Texture

By contrasting smooth with crunchy, you are creating a palate surprise that can be exciting. This is no wonder why croutons are delightful in soups or why that caramelized top in the creme brulee is just divine. 

In Summary:

The food plating and presentation is a reflection of your Chef’s vision, the style and cuisine that you serve and the overall image that you want to convey. Explore various styles and experiment which will work for you to help distinguish your food service business from the rest. But don’t forget that taste still takes priority over presentation. 

With the right execution, no matter what kind of food service business you have, thoughtful and attentive plating can not only improve your customers’ appetite but their impressions of your business as well. 

That’s it for this week.

As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,
Thomas


 


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