Get plating tips for bigger WOW factor
Plating food is an art that requires mastering. Tweezers and edible flowers aren't needed, but thoughtful intent should inform every plating decision. Color, texture and balance form the basics of sound plate presentation, but to really stand out, make room for creativity and panache. Sketch out your ideas, then rehearse with a practice plate, assembling and adjusting ingredients until they please you. And then, you're ready for showtime.
"Plating is the philosophical extension of your concept," says Elaine Sikorski, chef instructor at Chicago's Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and author of Cooking to the Image: A Plating Handbook (Wiley, 2013). "The composition of the plate should guide the diner on how to enjoy the dish."
Ensure ease of service—Avoid tall or layered builds that could fall over in transport; make sure serving vessels aren't too heavy or cumbersome.
Ensure ease of eatability—Make sure your customers can eat the food without difficulty. If the plate looks gorgeous but is hard to approach or needs labored instruction on how to consume it, you've sacrificed eating enjoyment for wow factor.
Tell a flavor story—Plating should make your intention clear on which ingredients go together; composition should help promote flavor and texture.
CEC, CCE, CHE, Chef Instructor at Kendall College School of Culinary Arts
"Garnishes are an easy way to make your dishes stand out," says Barry Miles, senior corporate chef, Kraft Foodservice. "They should add texture, interest and flavor, promoting the freshness and authenticity of the recipe."
No garnish on the rim of the plate—
Keep the edges clear so the server can present it without touching the food.
Make sure your garnish is edible—
Don't add a cinnamon stick to a dessert, for instance.
The garnish should match the dish—
For example, a roasted pepper soup maybe sees finely diced peppers.
Senior Corporate Chef, Kraft Foodservice
Heather Terhune, executive chef at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago and an alum of Bravo's ninth season of Top Chef, uses whimsical plating as a way to extend her menu's fun, shareable vibe. "The first thing I think about when conceptualizing a dish is how we're going to serve it," she says. "Can it be plated in half and full portions? Is it easy to eat? And does it have flair?"
Metal milk carton creamers—I use small ones for milk to accompany coffee and tea, and I use larger ones for tableside soup presentation. I prefer the stainless steel because they're more durable than the ceramic ones. Durability is important for high volume.
Mini fryer baskets—I like the industrial look of them, and they really make for a unique presentation. They're great for all kinds of fried foods, like our cheese curds (see photo above).
Magnetic wooden boards—These have hidden magnets in the wood, so the vessel on top of the board doesn't slide off. We use them for a number of things, including our marinated olives.
Executive Chef at Sable Kitchen & Bar
Take a quick stroll through this gallery for clear examples of how to plate food so it entices. Like the photos? You'll LOVE the recipes—just a click away.