Dressing up the food on a plate is just as important as cooking a exquisite dish. Here are some tips on do's and dont's while presenting your food on a plate.
You may have cooked an excellent dish, but presenting it on a plate is just as important. Dressing up the food and presenting it in a plate is also an art. From dramatic extravaganzas like a live bird flying from a pie, to modern garnishes full of unexpected twists, presenting food to your guests is also an art form. We bring you some modern ways to present food.
Start at the foundation: Selecting the right plates, right cutlery, right glasses and correct linen will enhance appearance of all dishes kept on the table. Your presentation in itself should make the food look appetizing, without detracting from its actual taste. Mostly chefs rely on simple colors, especially white, to set off the food. Aside from the color, you can choose plates in a different shapes and styles to make the gourmet meal more interesting. If you don't already have interesting plates, they can be sourced very cheaply. Depending on the occasion, some are practical, some are more decorative and some are conservatively formal.
Best places to find interesting looking tableware, try Asian grocery stores, craft or flea markets, antique stores and Middle Eastern wares. You will find some very interesting curios in all these places. Using the right size plate is crucial for every presentation. A small portion on a large plate may be fine for an artistically minded diner, but small portions may convey the impression of unsufficient food and leave the guests unimpressed. You can serve the sauce separately or the sauce the dish comes in a decorative design. A soupy dish on a flat plate looks messy, unless you serve it on something like rice, pasta or potator. Better to serve it in a soup bowl or a deep dish.
Best way is to go by the shape of your cooked vegetables, an appropriate presentation can make a simple dish look special. Vegetable cut in formal shapes can enhance the look of your dish, but it will also add to your workload. Using an icecream scoop to make domes is fine for children's parties. You can cook and serve vegetables, desserts, pot pies and other items inside uniquely shaped vessels, but they should be fire-proof. It is better to keep a food processor along with all kinds of cutting blades such as shapes and julienne cutters, this will reduce considerably the time and effort required to produce specially shaped dishes.
Like all fashions the presentation styles change every season, so update yourself by checking out cooking magazines, cooking or foodie websites and cooking shows for the latest trends. If last season vast and complex garnishes requiring more space was attractive, this season towers or stacks of food might be in vogue. Sometimes a fashionable dish is tricky to prepare and serve, but mostly older formal styles keep coming into vogue every now and then.
The importance of presenting you food impressively has increased because educated dinners base their opinion on a simple presentation as low skill and effort. To impress your guests, focus your presentation on high art, i.e. quality over quantity. With today's technology it is possible to make Five Star grade food easily at home. It will earn you plenty of brownie points because the diner's will be impressed that you can make Five Star courses at home, most of them get to taste it only when they dine at a cafe for a break from home cooking.
Different serving vessels for serving each item is getting increasingly popular, because a variety in food presentation is a reliable indicator of whether the restaurant has moved ahead with the times! Always present the main course in relation to the side dishes. It could be a slice of pie, meat, a flan etc, but you have to decide where it will look best on the plate with everything else around it. Bear in mind that the appearance and symmetry is all affected by whether the food is sliced thinly, thickly or left whole. Experiment a little and ask your guests for a feedback about what looks best. You'll soon get the hang of what works best. Also there's no harm in borrowing ideas from your favourite restaurants.
Always decide the menu to suit the occasion - context is everything. Never offer children's fare to adults and vice versa, otherwise you'll have a culinary disaster on your hands.
Always decide what courses you will serve with an eye on the character of the diner. Some restaurants serve just a meat and sauce portion, expecting the guest to buy an additional serve of vegetables or other side dishes. This is appropriate with certain styles, where the roasts often serve the meat plain on the plate, leaving the diner to select the side dishes. But this will be unpopular with those who want a varied meal, they expect a complete value packed meal. Always psychology can make all the difference.
Often gastro-pubs and modern restaurants are good sources of inspiration. In this scientific age, sous-vide is a common method for steaks, and extraction, distillation and ice filtration for clear soups and sauces is available at lower costs. Modern diners are eating more complex meals without realizing their chef is reinventing common fare.
Start with simple garnishes: Depending on the food, the garnish should complement it, such as a small side salad, sprinkling of herbs, nuts or ground spices. Always make it relevant, opt for simple, easy elegance. Confusing diners won't impress them. There are machines to make easy garnishes. It would be a good idea to train older children to make these, as part of their pocket money.
Choose your garnish wisely: Many cultures, flowers are an acceptable garnish, or the food sitting on a large inedible leaf. In Western culture, it's customary that nothing inedible is served on the plate. And remember that certain garnishes can affect the flavour, so choose carefully. Flowers are impressive as art form, and it does have its place in such as buffet and smorgasbord, but they are not very common in wider presentations. Its also good idea to include edible flowers.
Colours and textures are also important: White sauce can go with a white meat, but a sliced chicken and white sauce, cauliflower and potato, are all lacking in colour and will look bland and unappetizing. Try to add different colours and textures to spice up your presentation. Its fairly easy to do and will add a lot of appeal with just a little extra planning effort.
Most importantly, consider what you can achieve within the range of your skills and time available. You can’t be wasting time on fiddling with ice, butter or vegetable garnishes, it can sometimes be unrealistic, unnecessary, and tedious. Enjoy your cooking chores as much as the eating.
Always keep your presentation relevant and simple: A difficult formal dish is fine for a celebration, but even simple meals can be embellished some herbs. And know that there are now plates available that keep food hot. Some dishes are delicious hot recipes which need such insulting tableware to keep them warm.