A Feast for the Eyes
as Well as the Palate
You procure the best ingredients you can get your hands on. You take great care to ensure that your food preparation is well-executed. Be sure to do your finished dishes justice with a beautiful plate presentation. It’s a fact, food that looks appetizing actually is perceived to taste better. While no amount of camouflage will save a ruined dish, a little artistic flair will go a long way in taking your fare up a notch or two. Your customers will be impressed, and you will get compliments and return visits.
What elements comprise a pleasing plate? There should be a variety of colors, textures and shapes on the finished plate, and all of the elements should come together cohesively and aesthetically into appetizing, edible art.
Chefs have tried to outdo each other with architectural food towers that sometimes resemble a Jenga game. Diners must be artful dodgers to carefully remove a morsel without the whole thing tumbling down before they have the chance to taste it. Layers are lovely, but rather than taking things to dizzying heights, it’s safer to restrict your creation to three or four stories. That “whew” sound you hear is your wait staff collectively sighing in relief. Interesting designs can be created horizontally as well as vertically.
I Want What She’s Having
When a server walks through the dining room with a gorgeous dish, heads turn and diners remark: “I wonder what that is. Maybe I’ll order that.” Here are several ideas that will provide food for thought when punching up your plate presentations.
Space Invaders: Depending upon the size of whatever sits in the center of the plate, you’ll want to adjust the portions of side dishes to a pleasing balance. A little space between items will ensure that one item won’t invade the space of another. However, too much free space, and the portions will appear skimpy and diners may feel short-changed.
Finger Paint: Get your hands on one of those plastic squeeze bottles with a writing tip. A few squiggles of flavor-packed colorful sauce that compliments the entrée swirled on the rim of the plate not only looks good, it provides a flavor profile of its own. If your patronage includes kids, use ketchup to write their names on the plate. They will be delighted, and so will their parents.
Grow Your Own: Plant a kitchen herb garden and use the harvest in your recipes and as a fresh, gorgeous garnish. For example, present a chicken entrée containing chopped, fresh rosemary with a long sprig of fresh rosemary on the side of the plate. A pack of basil seeds will yield enough leaves for house-made pesto, and lovely minced greenery to top tomato sauce and salads.
Get Shapely: It’s relatively easy to achieve different shapes with foods. Use molds, garnishing utensils and tiny cookie cutters to make fast work of edible art. A side of julienned zucchini and summer squash looks smashing on the plate. Use a star-shaped cutter to shape cheese for your burgers, then serve them open-face.
Consult the Color Wheel: A plateful of all white, beige and brown food will do nothing to elevate your presentation. Thus, use a variety of colors to draw the eye and whet the appetite. Rice is a great side, but infinitely more appealing with the added color from minced red onion, slivered carrots and fresh peas. Everyone loves mashed potatoes, but they become more interesting tinted with hue from spinach, roasted red peppers or Cheddar cheese.
Stamp Out Vessel Violations: Not only should food be beautiful, it should be presented on beautiful dishware or other vessels. Use your imagination to elicit "oohs " and "aahs" from diners with unusual vessels to carry your specialties. For example, a cast-iron skillet is the perfect carrier for a one-dish meal such as paella or jambalaya. A seafood salad entrée will look fetching in a shell-shaped bowl. Religiously replace cracked, chipped and faded dishes and bent utensils.
Use your imagination and hone your technique. With a little practice, you can create a masterpiece time after time.