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In cooking, plating is the attractive and appealing presentation of food on the serving plate. Professional gourmet cooks must not only prepare food well, but also present food well. A dish could be cooked to perfection and taste absolutely delicious, but how can the taste be anticipated favorably if the food looks unappealing? Plating, or food plating, should involve placing the food on the plate in a way that is both attractive and sensible for eating. The three main elements of plating are the plate, the food and the arrangement of the food.
Food arrangement not only involves how the food is placed on the plate, but the order in which it is put on the plate. For example, the arrangement of sauces in food plating often works best when the sauce is placed on the plate in a pattern before adding the food item such as meat or a dessert. Then, a little more of the sauce plus a garnish can go on the top of the food.
In proper plating, food shouldn't look like it was just plunked on the plate without a care, but the food should be carefully placed there. Plating is especially important in expensive restaurants as patrons expect the proper care and attention that goes with premium food. A good rule of thumb in plating food is to begin in the middle of the plate and work outwards. It's also important to be creative without being too fussy or elaborate in your designs. In other words, don't try to build food structures that require an engineering degree!
Simple elegance works best in plating and you can create interest by making sure that the food is not all flat on the plate. You don't want to make tall heaps of food, but rather rounded portions of items such as potato and rice. This can make bland-colored starches look more interesting. Techniques such as neatly stacked foods such as asparagus spears may work in plating at times and you can add quick garnishes such as orange wedges or tomato slices to everyday dishes to add some appealing color.
Of course, the food is the most important thing in food plating. After all, people are going to eat the food and not just look at it. Speed counts because restaurant guests are waiting for their meals and hot meals need to be served hot and cold meals need to be served cold. All foods put on the plate must be edible, including the garnish.
As for the plates themselves, most chefs prefer plain white plates as they showcase foods rather than being too showy. Plate shapes should be simple geometrics and patterned plates are rarely used in professional food plating. Embossed or textured white plates are preferred by some chefs to add some interest while still keeping a low-key background for showcasing the food being served.
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