In today’s increasingly gastronomically aware world, diners are looking more for experiences when they dine out. Taste and quality are always important and must be good, but may not always be enough. Thought-out plating techniques can help to create a lasting and more memorable eating experience.
Remember, food that looks beautiful awakens our senses and actually tastes better. This is why so many chefs place so much emphasis on food presentation. These days, we’ve all been presented with a dish that we perhaps thought should be considered a serious work of art.
While you don’t need to be an artist yourself, you should make the meals you serve something special for your clientele to keep them interested, and coming back. An interesting looking plate will also help boost your social media presence, as your customers are more likely to take a photo of their food and post it online.
Here are a few suggestions and tips to bring a little something extra to your operation’s food presentation:
1. Highlight the key ingredient
The main ingredient should stand out to create impact with your diners. Placing your food on a larger plate will make the dish look more appetizing and can help diners focus on the food on the plate, while cleverly cut or sculpted ingredients can enhance visual appeal of the main ingredient. Never ladle sauces over your food, as you are covering the star of the show. Ladle sauces under or beside the main components of the dish. By doing so, you can add depth to the visual composition of the plate and show off the food itself.
2. Create a framework
Your food is the art, and your plate is the frame. Always make sure that you place your food in the centre of the plate and that it tells a story. It is equally important that your dish be something your guests can relate to, that it evokes a memory, has a basic familiarity or is just something guests want to eat. Use this as a framework for your creativity with the plate. Some chefs sketch to help visualize their plates better and even assemble a “practice” plate to work on executing the vision. But always make sure this reinforces your brand.
3. Create a perception of value
Ultimately, your customers are paying for your food, so your plate needs to convey the price you charged for it. Be sure to offer a healthy portion, but not so large that it is overwhelming for the customer to eat. Create some height with your food to make it look more commanding. Using a larger plate will also add value to your dish.
4. Go outside of white
Creating colour contrasts with your food is also a key point in highlighting your food. Most restaurant owners and operators think that using white plates and bowls shows off the food best, but it could be fun to use different plate options. If you’re serving a lot of white foods, perhaps investigate nonwhite options from tabletop manufacturers; often these are offered as easy add-ons to a dish repertoire. If your dish looks a bit bland with those white potatoes, consider using sweet potatoes or blue potatoes. Adding colour to your dish will make it more exceptional to the eye.
5. Garnishes should say a lot about the dish
Today’s gastronomically savvy diners expect garnish to be a part of the total flavour enhancement of the dish. One way to achieve this is to find ones that add elements or match other flavours in the dish. The right garnish can help add and create different textures in the dish. Every ingredient on the plate must serve a function to the overall taste. And always err on the side of only using garnish that can comfortably be eaten in full as part of the dish itself. Obviously, microgreens send the wrong message when garnishing your stacked smoked meat sandwich; delicately fried onions or even other fried vegetables might go with the feel better.
6. Keep it simple
Try not to clutter your plate with a lot of unnecessary ingredients that do not say much about the main elements of your dish. Also, be sure that your plate is not swimming in a pool of sauce. Consider ladling sauces under your meats, or using eyedroppers to drip a more concentrated sauce that requires less liquid, but still adds the same amount of flavour. Your plate should look clean, streamlined and appetizing.
About the author:
Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training.