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  • VOL 08, ISSUE 01 • WINTER 2020
Find Your Soul Plate

Find Your Soul Plate

Character Rules When Choosing Serving Dishes to Showcase Food

How much thought do you put into the plateware upon which your beautiful food sits? In the age of social media madness—when presentation is absolutely everything—it should be on your mind always. Plates can literally make or break a dish, so they should be a top-line item as much as the dining room décor or the menu’s design.

The plates don’t have to be incredibly vibrant, uniquely shaped or ultra- trendy to make a statement, but they should complement the food. At Bold American Fare in Algonquin, Ill., the plates are all white, but they’re in different shapes. Most appetizers like crab cakes, the caprese salad, and dips accompanied by house-made chips arrive on long, rectangular plates.

Chef/partner Mathew Lucas plates them in this manner to create a sharing experience. “(The rectangular plates) are easier for guests to use to pass food to each other,” he explains. In addition to being functional, the longer plates, as well as wider plates used for entrées, allow for creativity on the plate.

“Everything at the restaurant is big and bold—like the name of the restaurant: the servings, the plates, the flavors,” says Lucas. “Everything we do is over the top. That was the whole idea with the restaurant.”

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At Chicago’s trendy, Mediterranean-inspired Beatnik, you’ll find vintage, one-of-a-kind plates, plates tirelessly sourced from Europe and Morocco, and plates with unexpected colors and designs. They match the restaurant’s offbeat décor and energy, yet Executive Chef Marcos Campos makes a point never to allow the plates to overwhelm the cuisine.

“I don’t use any blue plates because the colors of the food won’t come out very well,” says Campos. “I like using black, white or brown as my styles of color.”

Plating dishes also influences how consumers spend, says Christ Christon, a partner in Second Salem Brewing in Whitewater, Wis. “If a plate looks cheap, they will be disappointed about paying $14 for a burger—even when the ingredients on the burger are premium,” he adds.

Christon grew up in the restaurant business; his family owned a Greek-American diner he bought when he reached adulthood and eventually transformed into Second Salem Brewing. While his tastes have evolved, he knows to keep a balance between brewpub chic and blue-collar practicality when running his business.

“We are not overly high end,” says Christon. “I need to find a happy medium (when it comes to the plates).” He’s found through trial and error that plates with sharp edges break easily, and those that are “cool looking” are difficult to replace. He’s more concerned about serving his food on plates that will hold up while making it look appetizing.

“We wanted something as eye-catching as the chandeliers, plants and dining room. My thinking was that I couldn’t
look at (the plates) as an afterthought.”
– Chef Marcos Campos of Beatnik Chicago