In this post, I will try to share some techniques I have learned on plating. Use these tips to turn your next dinner party into a hit!
First things first, you need nice WHITE plates. White plates allow you to show off the food without distracting designs or colors from the plate interfering. In the duck dish above, you will notice that a long rectangular plate is used. The food looks like it naturally belongs on the plate. The duck is sliced and fanned out, and the cabbage side was molded using a rectangular metal mold. Molds can be found in a lot of stores, think of cookie cutters without the goofy heart or star designs. An impressive trick to use at dinner parties is to sauce table side. This means that instead of adding the sauce to each plate in the kitchen, you place the plate in front of the guest then add the sauce. You can use a gravy boat or can buy porcelain sauce cups for this.
Don't overcrowd the plate. Just like in art class, you learned that negative space is good. Always leave a border around the food and don't plate on the lip. Not only does it look tacky, but when you carry the plate your fingers are going to touch the food. In the plate above, you can see that the sauce was painted onto the plate. You can buy food grade paint brushes at stores like Crate & Barrel or Williams and Sonoma.
Color, texture, and height are all key components in making food look good. We eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths. Play around with different shapes and ingredients. A good plate goes together though, so don't needlessly throw ingredients on the plate just to add color. Each ingredient should complement one another.
The other day I was looking thru Art Culinaire, which is a hard cover quarterly publication that takes amazing photographs of food. I noticed how much the art of plating food has changed over the years. Just like clothes or anything else, fads come and go. So feel free to play around, keeping the simple tips I wrote about in mind.
Most of the photos were taken by me while cooking at Gotham Bar and Grill, created by Chef de Cuisine Adam Longworth