How to put the wow in simple food.
An old friend of mine called me the other day. This individual was opening a restaurant. A restaurant with Malaysian Eurasian cuisine. Something his mom or grandmon used to cook at home when he was a kid. Much like most home cooked dishes, mothers were only concerned about the taste. Not too much into presentation. He recently got a good cook in terms of flavor but bad on presentation. So he asked me to help him to plate some of his dishes to make it visually appetizing. As the saying goes “People eat with their eyes first“.
In my Restaurant Promotion Ideas #43 – Take Amazing Food Photos and Share It, I mentioned that visually scrumptious looking photos get resend and retweeted over and over again. Therefore most restaurant site suggest you promote your food through pictures through the social media like Pinterest or Tweeter. According to a report by Pinning Down the Impact of Pinterest. “Food related content was the most overwhelmingly popular content that consumers interacted with on Pinterest – 57% of consumers interacted with food related content according to our Online Shopper Intelligence survey.”
You don’t have to be a trained chef to learn the basics of plating. Plating is the art of presenting food in an attractive way.
1. Decide what plate you want to use.
The size of your plate should match the portion of your food. A large plate and small food portion could make your food look small and not worth the price. A small plate and large portions, can make the dish look clusteted. Even the colour of the plate plays a significant role. All my Chefs hate coloured plates, it is so difficult to match the food to a coloured plate. Thats why white plates are the best. Also choose plates that are not difficult for your service personal to carry. I have seen restaurants use plates that is so hard to carry or grip. Especially when the plate is hot. So much so the service personnel can only carry one plate at a time. So its a waste of resources.
2. Play with color and texture.
As stated above, chefs prefer white dishes plates. With white plates they will play around with colours. My former manager one of my mentors in the restaurant industry. Mentioned that even for buffets you need to consider the colour of the food. If you put many of the same colour dishes on the buffet, it is going to be boring and plain. Same goes with your dishes. Choose colourful foodstuffs to place but never make use of artificial colouring. Plan ahead before you start plating. A case in point is grilled fish, mashed potatoes and sauteed couliflower. All looking white and pale. You can include some baby carrots to the cauliflower or add an edible flower on the fish. Also a bowl of oatmeal will looking yummy, in the event that you chopped diced fruits. A word of advice. Make sure the presentation is not too elaborate that it might slow down your kitchen crew.
3.Add some height
This method I learnt in a little resort in Koh Samui, My chef loved to stack his food. It looked really nice and unique. My former chefs always did the usual flat food. This stacked up food was a new concept. It gave a whole new design. What he did was put some sauteed green vegetable at the bottom, a beautifully seared fish on top. Topped with a half a parsley potato. A word of advise take also into consideration how the service personnel. How are the going to transport the food to the table. Can it topple over. We found it the hard way in Koh Samui. One of the dessert on the ala carte was a banana pancake dessert. He stack one on top of each other slices of fresh banana and pancakes. About three stacks and topped with a scoop of ice cream. So the waiter had to walk pretty steady, so as not to topple the dish. Eventually we removed it from the menu.
4. Have your own set of tools.
These days you will find various tools in the kitchen other than knifes.
You will discover squeeze-bottles for gravies, a wooden spoon intended for smearing some sauce on the plate and even a paintbrush. Yes a paintbrush. I have noticed chefs be decorating a plate with just a swish of a paintbrush. See what works for you. Do some experimentation. Just use your creativity.
5. Add some props to your plate.
You don’t have to put all food on your plate. You can add some props to enhance and lift up the food. Some examples are little baskets to put your French Fries in, small clear bowls to put a small side salads. Later I saw some dishes on the net with test tubes and syringes filled with sauces. This gives a creative look. Do ask around. Your customers might not share the same creativity as you. Some might shudder at the sight of a syringe, it might give them the impression thats its unhygienic.
When looking for inspiration on how I want my food plated. I usually turn to Pinterest. My advise is experiment but also take inconsideration on your kitchen, can they plate the dish the same way and fast. Can the service staff carry it to the table without destroying it. Will the customers like the layout or find it difficult too much of a hassle to eat.