Presentation is everything, and while it is easy to spend your time looking for the very best ingredients and the ultimate preparation of those ingredients, how much thought have you given to how your food first appears to the diner?
Less Is More
First thing’s first: don’t overload your plates. It is easy to fear empty space on a plate but fight the temptation to fill the entire dish with sauce, salad or gigantic portions. Leaving space on the plate showcases the food and allows space for flavours to be gently mixed rather than overlapping to create one single flavour. Overly large portions are a contributing factor to food waste, it is estimated that over 1/3 of food is thrown away. Encourage diners to ask for seconds rather than presenting them with huge dishes of food that you will end up throwing away.
How colourful is your dish? A platter of beige food is not going to appeal to anyone. Spiralled carrots, bright cherry tomatoes and vivid fresh herbs can provide contrast at all stages of a dish. With regards to regularly used vegetables, look for heirloom or ‘rainbow’ varieties for a wider range of colours. Purple Peruvian potatoes look stunning paired against a chicken breast or nestled amongst a warm salad. Sauces can also be a good way to add to the overall look of the dish, squeezable sauce bottles are a great way to make controlled lines, shapes or pools with sauces.
What are you serving your food on? Large white plates are favoured by many restaurants but by no means are those your only options. Get creative with your dish ware and don’t shy away from colourful or patterned plates. Look for connections between the designs and the cuisine you are serving or research traditional ways observing dishes. Cedar planks, for example, can be a beautiful way to serve whole fish, either family style or as a centrepiece to a served buffet and also honour traditional methods of preparation. A note of caution however, don’t take inventive flatware too far or you may just find yourself featured on sites like We Want Plates; no one needs a fry up served on a picture frame or bread in a flat cap.
Complete your dish with an accent on the plate. Delicate lines of sauce, as mentioned above, can make a delightful first impression. Similarly to plate ware, take inspiration from the dish itself, with a sprinkling of spices or herbs that feature in the dish on the rim of the plate. Don’t shy away from contrasting or unusual flavours when it comes to garnishes; edible flowers and fresh fruit can be a good palate cleanser and allow diners to enjoy the different flavours of the dish.
Set the scene
Now that you have crafted a beautifully presented dish, don’t just slap it down on a bare table. Encourage your diners to linger and take time over your creation by giving them an inviting environment to enjoy their meal. Fresh flowers, instead of fake ones, are a good place to start! Services like Bloom Magic allow you to search by colour and/or variety if you want coordinate table decor such as napkins and tablecloths.
Taking the time to consider what finishing touches you will add to a dish turns a meal into a savoury experience for the diner.