Style in Sustenance: The 5 Basics of Plating 

You could throw in some roast chicken, slap a few scoops of rice and toss some vegetables on a plate and call it dinner, sure. Perhaps you may want to up your game next time you prepare a meal for your lover or when you have guests over. First things first, you eat with your eyes. For instance, when the waiter walks by with someone’s meal you’ll exchange looks with your foodie buddies, “That looks good.” And when your food arrives, you’ll start feeding your Snapchat and Instagram before you have a dig. In essence, food plating is the arrangement of food to seduce and increase people’s appetite and craving till they feel guilty about diving into your meal.

Here are 5 basics of plating that every cook should know like the back of your hand.

Learn to read the clock as classical plating places three primary elements of the dish in specific parts of the plate. Put yourself in the diner’s shoes and look from their point of view, a fool-proof way of food arrangement is: carbs (such as rice, potatoes and bread) at right–bottom layer, greens at left, and protein at right-top layer. To step up your plating skills, visualise the food as you want it to look and bring it to life. You could sketch the presentation to help with inspiration.

Keep it sweet and simple (KISS) by keeping space between items, unless stacking. Avoid overcrowding the dish by using as few elements as necessary for the dish to feel complete. Garnishes should add an understated wow factor and be in total harmony with other ingredients on a plate. “If someone lifts off a garnish and puts it off to the side, it’s overbearing,” says Karen Hatfield. By keeping it simple and elegant you will draw your diner’s attention to the main components of the dish.

Keep in mind the principle of Yin and Yang. Think about the plate as a whole and avoid weighting one side more than the other. Use sauce and gravy attractively and don’t drown every plate with it. Garnishes can come in handy to add colour or texture and it should be edible, and if anything, give that extra kick of flavour. For instance, grilled salmon can be served with a lemon wedge. However, adding garnish solely for the purpose of colour is a big no-no because it doesn’t always make sense with the dish. Therefore, you must take into account the balance and texture of each ingredient and how it syncs with the structure of the plate as well as enhancing the taste.

Note that the size of plate matters. If a plate is too packed it looks overloaded and messy, and if a plate is too large the portion could look skimpy. As the saying goes, “Do not plate food that is way bigger than your plate.” With that being said, the right proportion of carbs, greens and protein are nutrition goals for a balanced diet and evidenced most notably in how you present them.

Key Ingredient
Do not place overly chunky side dishes that could possibly steal the limelight from the main ingredient. Again, you can use garnishes to highlight the key ingredient without losing it. In a nutshell, keep practicing and start styling in sustenance. If it’s Snapchat- or Instagram-worthy, pat yourself on the shoulder, you’ve done it right. These are the 5 basics of plating in a social media driven world. Follow us on Facebook and be the first to know about our events at Cilantro Culinary Academy!


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