Plate up perfectly

Eating is a multi-sensory experience – before you’ve taken your first bite, your eyes are already evaluating the aesthetic appeal of the dish, gauging tastiness based on formation, colour and texture. If you ‘eat with your eyes’ it stands to reason that when serving food, how you choose to present your dish is of the utmost importance. Here to provide a few guidelines in the quest for food excellence from start to served finish is N1, leading South African meat wholesalers.

Let’s begin with colour – and not just the colour of the food, but the colour of the plate which acts as your canvas. If your food is dark in colour (think BBQ ribs and darkly roasted vegetables) you don’t want it served on a dark plate, you want to create a contrast that best showcases the food, so it’s best to choose a light coloured plate and vice versa. The various elements served on the plate should contrast in colour too – try to always include a few different colours so that one item of food stands out from another. Even when serving butternut soup you can create a colour-contrast by sprinkling chopped parsley on the surface of the soup.

Keep the size and ratio of serving dish to food in mind. Thankfully nouvelle cuisine and its minute portions are a thing of the past; these days your portion size should moderately match your plate size; and remember to always leave some space between your food and the rim of the plate. Consider including the odd visual technique, it can add an exciting element to your meal. A smear of raspberry coulis here, a drizzle of olive oil there can easily take your creation from ordinary to extraordinary. Adding the element of height to your dish can also be hugely impactful – creating a tower of food by layering or stacking items adds interest and gives the dish more depth.

Texture is another factor to consider. Unappealing to the senses is uniformity in texture – imagine a meal where everything was mashed or pureed, not in the least bit appealing is it? As with colour, there should be a contrast in texture – in ‘The Art of Styling a Dish’ Veronica Brandy writes “A crunchy texture builds happily on a creamy and smooth cushion while a creamy ganache resting on a foundation of nougatine doubles the pleasure of tasting”. Contrast adds interest and increases the likelihood of a sumptuous dining experience.

Regardless of the techniques you employ or the fresh garnish you choose to complement the different flavours on your plate, be sure to clean up any spills or drips to prevent the plate from looking messy – the aim is to serve a simple, but delectable work of art that makes your mouth water in anticipation. And if you truly want to take ‘the exhibition of gastronomy [to] a form of high art’ be sure to click through to The Art of Plating for further inspiration.