The art of plating

Putting food on a plate is a no-brainer. Literally. The more you think about how to present what you've cooked (and the longer you fuss with it), the more contrived it comes across. "I don't necessarily want to know that lots of little hands have been touching it", said our instructor Chris Douglass. Contemporary plating should be natural and effortless, but it still takes practice.

 Lauren brought the components to pistachio apricot profiterols and everyone got to try their hand at artful plating

Lauren brought the components to pistachio apricot profiterols and everyone got to try their hand at artful plating

Both the morning and afternoon sessions today focused on the aesthetics of food presentation. In the AM lecture and demo with Lauren Kroesser (executive pastry chef for Eastern Standard, ICOB, Row 34), we discussed the key elements for successful dessert plating. Taste is always the most important thing to consider, but just as a chef must balance sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami, she must also create visual appeal. What it the color approach—rainbow or monochromatic? Does the plate have any white space? Are there different levels of height? Is it whimsical, modern, fancy, or homey? Whatever the style, it's important to have a point of view.

Being a designer, I am aware of the increased appeal of food that's plated nicely. I like to think I'm pretty capable of making dinner guests drool, yet in class I seem to be stuck. Maybe it's the pressure of being in a professional setting, or maybe it's knowing that my finished dishes will be judged, but everything I do looks unnatural.

 Why didn't I just place the pieces in a straight line on top of the sauce?

Why didn't I just place the pieces in a straight line on top of the sauce?

In our afternoon technique review, I perfectly poached and seared a chicken roulade, then cut it into slices on the bias. My sauce had just the right "nappe" (consistency). But when I fanned out my masterpiece on the plate, it just didn't look right. The arc of the pieces. The puddle of sauce. Did it look like something you'd get in a good restaurant? No.

I must be thinking too hard.