Plating up food to whet appetite

Eye candy

A well-plated dish, balanced with the right amount of colour, portion and garnishing like a sprig of fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley, a few rings of sliced green onion, a wedge of fruit, or sprinkled toasted sesame seeds, is definite to increase one’s appetite, appeal to the eyes and add to the overall dining experience.

This is exactly why restaurants give special emphasis to the art of food presentation and add to its visual appeal, saying “we all eat from our eyes first”.

“Presentation refers to placing the food on a plate in an as appealing manner as can be. As we eat from our eyes first, before savouring the food a person looks at it, and it is the looks which makes them want to eat it. Since we know that food presentation definitely has an effect on how we perceive and enjoy it, making an effort to plate it in a thoughtful way also makes guests feel special and honoured,” Harman Singh, head executive chef at Garam Dharam restaurant, tells Metrolife.

Elaborating, Singh says that there are five key elements which need to be considered while presenting a dish. “Create a framework, keep it simple, balance the dish, get the right portion size and highlight the key ingredient,” he adds.
Echoing similar views, Varun Puri, food consultant and owner of Lights Camera Action – Air Bar in Rajouri Garden says that matching the portion size with the plate size is essential. He says that the right combination of elements makes the entire dining experience more enticing.

“One must layer the food and play with contrasting colours and textures to boost its visual appeal. While plating food, the goal is to create a dining experience that tempts all senses not just the palate. Beautiful-looking food is more wholesome than food that does not look appealing. Just like a soldier is incomplete without his uniform, a dish is not perfect if not served in suitable cutlery. Cutlery can affect how pleasurable or filling the food appears; selecting dishware is an integral part of any good chef's repertoire,” Puri explains.

For Sunny Bhatia, food expert at Penthouse in Greater Kailash 1, balancing the variety and contrast of a dish is the key factor while plating up. “It is good to have a variety of textures on the plate, but how these textures are combined is just as important. Using the finest cutlery, with right portion of serving are very important key elements while plating up,” he says.

“Things like colour, cutlery, garnish, portions play major role. Visually appealing cutlery is must have. Garnishing, a decoration on the dish or drink, in many cases may give added or contrasting flavour to food items. It should be done to the extent that it should enhance the beauty of plate, not overpower. Matching portion size with plate size is another important aspect. A plate that is too small for the food portions it offers will look messy, while a small portion on too large a plate will look empty” he says.

But are there any thumb rules that need to be followed based on the cuisine being served? “It varies from chef to chef, restaurant to restaurant and most prominently personal choice and style as these days the presentation has become more innovative irrelevant of the cuisine. No set rules, but just remember ‘BUFF’ when plating: balance, unity, focus and flow. Sticking to the indigenous presentation style of each country and cuisine would make the food look more authentic for the region chosen. For example, Indian food when served in brass bowls and thali looks more authentic than being served in classic ceramic crockery,” Singh says.

Adding, he says that entrée and appetizers are dishes that are hard to plate up. “There are a lot of components such as starch, sauce and meat which need to combined and presented as one, where as soups and salads are easy to present,” he shares.

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