The fine art of plating

The fine art of plating

Plating has attained its rightful place alongside its older creative cousins as a captivating medium of self-expression, writes Ashwin Iyer

Dumpling Soup

The coalescence of culinary culture and fine arts has led to the plate becoming a canvas, and a well-plated dish, a masterpiece, much like any renowned painting or sculpture. 

The clichéd remark “You eat with your eyes first,” couldn’t be more accurate. This is why fine dining institutions strive to create culinary experiences that are not only delicious but are also artfully executed. So, how can one create this artful fine dine experience at home?

Whether you are serving a traditional recipe, one of your own culinary creations or just handing out food from a delivery box, knowing how to properly arrange food on the plate makes all the difference and shows the guests that you care. You can do this and here are some tips to help you along the way:

Think portion sizes

Every plate should leave them wanting more, right up to the dessert, when they finally realise that they are wholly satiated. While you don’t want your guests to head out for a light snack right after your wonderful meal, you want them to savour each plate and have an appetite for the next course.

Roasted vegetable salad
Roasted vegetable salad

Create a focal point

Pick a striking visual element on the plate that will catch the eye, for example, emphasise the gorgeous rasmalai with a tiny contrasting coloured edible flower. Consider adding height by layering some elements while leaving the rest of the dish simple. Adding height to dishes is a very popular food plating trend that can never go out of style. The key is to not overcrowd the plate with undesirable ingredients that take away the focus.

Garden Soup
Garden Soup

Stimulate with colours 

Studies have shown that bright colours stimulate the senses and enhance appetite. The study also found that the most memorable taste and colour associations were sweet-red, sour-green, bitter-black and salty-white.

Work with colourful ingredients like carrots, beetroots, lettuce, yam, fruits, edible flowers etc., to make the plate attractive. Always use fresh produce for vivid colours and stay away from synthetic colouring.

Play with textures

Contrasting textures always creates visual appeal on a plate, a quenelle of sorbet set on a bed of crumb with some meringues elevates the overall appeal of the dessert.

Foams, sauces and oils create a whimsical play of textures as well.

Be dramatic

Drama goes a long way in keeping the memory of the dish alive. Splash, splatter, or pour some of the elements to create a surprise theatrical effect.

Rasmalai and vanilla ice cream with edible flowers
Rasmalai and vanilla ice cream with 
edible flowers

Choose the right plates

Picking the right plate is one of the most crucial aspects of plating. The size, shape and colour all add to the visual interest. When in doubt, use white.

Like a canvas, a white plate accentuates your dish. Keep in mind that a plate, like a picture-frame, must be used to showcase your culinary creation in the best possible way and must not overshadow the dish in the process.

Tell a story

Express yourself! Draw inspiration from your surroundings, your travels, handlooms, gardens etc. The plate is a representation of you as a person, a beautiful non-verbal means of communication and a conversation starter.

Landscaping is a popular food plating trend that is derived from landscaped gardens and has an influence on many tableware as well.

These are just some of the tips from an endless repertoire of creative plating techniques.

Try blending these into your culinary creations and wow your family and guests both artfully and flavourfully.

(The author is an artist who wears many creative hats. He is a famous food stylist and food photographer and a finalist on MasterChef India Season 5. An avid gardener and Ikebana artist and a model who promotes handlooms and jewellery for men, he is known by the name “Magicplateman” in the culinary circles. Connect with him on Instagram @ashwin.tv)