People eat with their eyes.
Cooking is just part of the process in serving food, and the presentation of it adds another layer. It’s really a form of art.
In the professional world, it’s also a time stamp.
“Trends come and go, and you can look at a plate and it’s easy to tell when a dish was a made,” says Mark Zitelli, a private chef in town who’s currently working to open a downtown restaurant. “In the ‘90s everything was in a martini glass, and now it’s plated more organically.”
That means taking the guesswork out of the diner’s process, he says. Instead of deconstructing meals, the chef is dictating how to eat the what they’re serving.
There’s also an emphasis on quality ingredients today, says Randy Placeres, who owns and operates Aspen Culinary Solutions. As eaters become more informed consumers, they want quality products going into their meals and that often translates into fresh, bright, beautiful produce. Bold colors make a pretty plate.
Placeres even goes as far to draw inspiration from the art world, finding textures and patterns in pieces of art which can be recreated on the plate. Certain foams, food brushes and different vessels to serve purees and sauce out of help to achieve different artistic effects.
But, for those who are cooking at home and want to improve their presentation, the chefs have a few DIY tips:
— Start with a white plate. This blank canvas allows the food to be the focal point, and colorful patterns and designs only distract from the main course. Once everything is plated, be sure to wipe the edges of the plate clean, says Placeres. Food splatters around the side make for sloppy delivery.
— Keep it simple and clean, says Zitelli. If it’s difficult to eat, and you have to struggle to eat it then it’s not worth it. That includes not stacking foods. While it used to be a very popular way to serve food a la “‘80s cruise ship,” that’s lessening and it may be because it’s hard to eat food that’s piled on top of each other.
— Don’t follow the 10-2-6 rule: starches at 10 o’clock, meats at 2 o’clock and vegetables at 6 o’clock. Instead, feel OK with combining the elements together or layering them. Use the starch as a base, and put the protein on top. Vegetables can go on or around, and finish it off with a light sauce drizzle to bring it all together. Too much garnish is not a good thing, so avoid over-decorating.
— Everything on the plate should be edible. It should go without saying, but Placeres has to remind people to only serve what others can eat.
— Let the components of the food speak for itself. Bright blue potatoes, fresh greens and purples beans are intriguing to the eater and pop on a white plate. Instead of having to dress up a dish, the vegetable’s natural state does the talking.
— Be your own artist. There is no one set of rules when in the kitchen, so add your own signature to a dish to make it unique and memorable.