Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Cooking great tasting food is an art of it's own, but to create a restaurant quality dish requires the food to be professionally presented.

I have no formal training in cooking and really struggle trying to make my dishes look as stunning as you would see on the food channels or gourmet magazines, so I ask:

What simple techniques or tips exist that a novice chef could use to enhance the presentation of a dish (i.e. make it more visually appealing?)

For example: balancing colours of food, drizzling this or that, stacking items vertically.

share|improve this question
    
Questions calling for a list of answers should be community wiki. I converted this. –  hobodave Aug 25 '10 at 11:19
    
This question is almost identical: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3597/… –  daniel Aug 25 '10 at 19:08
add comment

10 Answers 10

Try to get some verticality in your dish. Everything just laid on a plate is boring. Instead stack your meat on top of your potatoes, stand a large asparagus spear upright, put some onion straws on top of your dish. Anything that gets some differing heights to your dish will make it more visually appealing.

Use your colors. Avoid dishes that come out with nasty colors, or do something to correct them. My wife likes to select vegetables that have complimentary colors. It makes the dish look more interesting than if it is mono-tone. You can sprinkle fresh herbs over the top to add some more color and flavor.

Add some flair. You see this all the time with desserts in restaurants but can do it with thick sauces on a main dish too. Put sauce on your dish in a nice pattern and then run a tine of a fork through it at a perpendicular angle to make sharp streaks through it. Dollop a sauce in a spiral pattern in ever smaller amounts so that you get smaller circles around the edge.

Watch Grant Achatz at Alinea preparing a dessert straight on the table. If this won't inspire you, nothing will. He uses all three things I mentioned to make this interesting. Not to mention that he's doing it straight on to a silpat table cloth. And one of America's greatest chefs makes dessert for you table side, there's more than a little "presentation" in that alone. We ate there for our anniversary, and he signed a copy of his book for us, even his signature uses the circles and lines so common in dessert prep.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I usually don't add anything to the plate that doesn't flow with the food. i.e. i hate it when cooks add one piece of parsley on top of a meal. I love parsley, either give me a plate of it, or don't put it at all. I digress, but here are some of the things I live by:

  • You need to present your plate in the matter, it should be eaten:
    • Appetizers, let's say you're serving a shrimp, dip and greens, you'll serve the shrimp on one end of your plate, the associated veggie / food item in the middle, and the sauce at the other end.
    • in desserts, don't squeeze the hell out of a choco sauce bottle all over the plate, rather put the chocolate sauce in the center of the plate and place the dessert over it
  • Plate should not make it look that you either have too much or too little food
    • This is important with salads and pastas, as you can make the same amount of food look to little or too much
    • plate temperatures, hot food goes on hot plates and cold foods goes on cold plates
  • Veggies, you need to know which ones could be grated, slivered, julienned, and chopped or on the other hand, you can get a radish or tomato peal and make a tulip out of the whole god-darn thing.
  • you should make the food look edible, regardless of how good/ bad it tastes. Take sushi for example, whether you like it or not, a nice boat of sushi, is usually something very sexy to look at. On the other hand consider creole, a mishmash of brown stuff on top of rice, so you need to a bit of color, hide the rice under the food, put it in a deep bowl, even in a bread made bowl.
  • if something is layered, show it (Especially for desserts)
  • If you're gonna paint brush let's say a brown jus with a steak or a piece of lamb, then do it in a fashion where the eater understands that he or she needs to dip the piece of meet into the sauce.
  • Don't put stuff on there that doesn't belong, but only makes the dish look pretty
  • let the main player stand out. let's say you're serving a shrimp pasta, you could always have the shrimp buried in the dish with the tails standing out.

anyways i digress, I'm sorry

share|improve this answer
add comment

There's one word I keep constantly in my mind when presenting a dish.

Balance

For example:

  • If all the food is in an ungainly heap on one side of the plate - the plate isn't visually balanced
  • A big steak with a tiny amount of sauce - the plate isn't balanced from the POV of the "eating" as there won't be enough sauce for the steak.
  • Too much sauce for the meat - almost worse than the reverse as the likelihood of spillage is higher, and the diner may find it hard to actually cut the meat without sending sauce flying everywhere

It's also important when presenting a dish, to think about how the dish will work from the moment you put it in front of the person eating it, until the moment it's taken away. For example, if you have two fantastic vibrantly coloured sauces that will start on the plate separately, but end up mixing together whilst being eaten and turn an unpleasant colour, steer well clear.

share|improve this answer
add comment

One thing that helps me make better-looking plates is to plate from the center outward. Instead of putting stuff on the plate in no specific order, and ending up with a lot of the plate showing because everything's a different size, start with the main item in the center, and fill the plate around it.

share|improve this answer
add comment

From Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential:

Use those little plastic squeeze bottles to dispense sauces on the plate as well as on the food. Draw some squiggly patters, and use a toothpick to make lines in the sauce. Herbed oils make good colors (mostly greens and reds), demiglace can add brown or black color, chocolate and caramel or a fruit reduction/syrup can add color for deserts.

Use metal rings to stack food. This seems to be a popular resutraunt presentation thing in recent years, stacking a half dozen items in a nice neat pile with sides perpendicular to the plate. I'm not sure where to get them, but you can find various sized metal rings to fill with food to create these vertical stacks.

You can add some interesting character to the meal by varying the plate/serving vessel. Fish can often be cooked on a wooden plank, and served on the same. It adds a bit of a rustic feel to the dish. An Indian restaurant I like serves curries in neat hammered copper pots. A up-scale sushi restaurant I've been to has a platter that is served in a model wooden boat. Be creative.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Clean and appealling: I've noticed that restaurants often wipe the inside of a bowl to make sure that there are no splashes or unevenness of any liquids to be presented. A small touch, but it makes the dish look that bit more polished.

share|improve this answer
add comment

A little drizzle of balsamic vinegar on an otherwise clean-white plate goes a long way.

share|improve this answer
add comment

There are many ways of improving the presentation of your food, such as layering it to give it more texture, here is an odd picture for you, think of a cheese cake and as you take a bite you can taste and feel the creaminess of the topping with the flavours swirled into one then you taste the crunchiness of the biscuit base, also if it smells good more people would want to eat it, and my final tip is drizzle some sauce around and on the outside of the item that your preparing such as if its a chocolate cake you could drizzle some golden syrup and chocolate sauce around it and maybe some chocolate powder or chocolate curls.

Hope this helps enjoy!!!

share|improve this answer
add comment

One I've heard is that only present items in odd numbers, so 3 carrots or whatever you are presenting - I heard this off the Uk programme masterchef - Michel roux jr. said it so it has some weight behind it.

I also try and keep my plates simple but it depends on the style of food you are going for - I tend towards simple, rustic (but tasty).

share|improve this answer
add comment

I just use flavors in the food and colors on the plate, and use a variety of ingredients for more interesting appearance.

I'll be sure that the dishes are neat and clean before serving, that's all.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.