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Q&A: Plating and Presentation

137 posts in this topic

No questions yet as I need to spend some time with this text and the photos but I did want to say that I am so excited about this course which I have pleaded for again and again. Thank you!


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I really enjoyed this course, and it was informative and helpful. I was particularly glad to learn about the methods of preventing liquid from running out of the food and on to the plate.

The biggest challenge for me as a home cook (who loves plating and presenting food with lots of visual appeal) is to create a plate that I am satisfied with in time for the food not to get cold. Any tips?

Thank you very much for the course on this subject of great interest!


Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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One point you made that really hit home with me was the idea of protien juices running all over a plate. I whacked myself in the head when I realized that if I would just lead the meat rest prior to plating, this would fix the problem.

I always figured that the meat could do its resting while I plated. DOH! :raz:

I'll second the earlier question though, what does one do about food getting too cold?


Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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This course really struck a chord with me. I definitely don't give enough attention to plating when I serve food. Yet it doesn't seem that it takes too much more effort to plate food pretty well than it does to plate it poorly.

There are two issues I was hoping you could expand upon, Tony:

1. When I'm serving food to guests, sometimes I'll plate a dish, but most of the time what I have to plate is a platter of food to be served family-style. (Well, I guess that's not technically plating, but surely a lot of the same principles come into play on the large canvas.) Do you have any plating advice for large platters of homestyle food? You know, like braised brisket with potatoes and spinach -- how would you plate that on a family style platter? Or a whole roast chicken? Or spaghetti carbonara?

2. What about soups? When you have a nice bright color to work with -- like a zucchini soup or a coral-colored shellfish soup -- it's easy to present it well. But I find that a lot of my soups look really bad -- like lentil, split pea and all those other soups that look like greenish-brown goo. What can you do to make those look more enticing, without resorting to tired old tricks like sprinkling tons of parsley around the bowl? Here, by the way, I'm talking about individually plated portions.

Many thanks for a great course.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Great stuff, Tony.

Actually, I would be very interested also to hear about how you would clarify family style presentations.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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One thing that I got out of the course that I had never really thought about is what you did with that first salad. Oh, I guess I have thought about colors in a salad. I make a simple salad with light and dark greens, mandarin orange sections and red onion. Everyone likes how that looks. But then, there you go and "arrange" lettuce leaves as though you were putting flowers in a vase. That blew my mind, I tell you. I like to arrange flowers, even though I am not very good at it. But I will be thinking about salad in a whole new way.

I also do a lot of stews, soups and braises that are a real challenge to plate. Then there is that pot roast and BBQ that just isn't going to slice neatly. Help!


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I really enjoyed this course, and it was informative and helpful.  I was particularly glad to learn about the methods of preventing liquid from running out of the food and on to the plate.

The biggest challenge for me as a home cook (who loves plating and presenting food with lots of visual appeal) is to create a plate that I am satisfied with in time for the food not to get cold.  Any tips?

Thank you very much for the course on this subject of great interest!

Susan,

Thanks for the compliments, it is always nice to hear that something that you have done is helpfull to others. There are a few things that I could say as far as keeping your food warm. #1. Keep your plates warm in the oven before you start to plate. THis is very helpfull, and will give you as many as an extra 5 minutes to get your food out. #2. Sous Vide Cookery. This is an awesome way to keep food hot, as the simmering water will keep your food at about 190 degrees, and you are not loosing any quality of the food. I did a dinner for about 90 ppl. a few months back, and we plated 60 lamb shanks with gremolada mashed potatoes, all sous vide. It worked awesome. #3. Have a game plan. As silly as it might feel, draw it out on paper, or make a practice plate if it is not too expensive. When you have a game plan going into the game, you will perform better.


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I'll second the earlier question though, what does one do about food getting too cold?

You can always flash your food too... by that I mean resting your proteins on a sheetpan or plate, and then flashing under a broiler really quickly to heat them back up if you want, which shouldn't cause them to run everywhere......

1. When I'm serving food to guests, sometimes I'll plate a dish, but most of the time what I have to plate is a platter of food to be served family-style. (Well, I guess that's not technically plating, but surely a lot of the same principles come into play on the large canvas.) Do you have any plating advice for large platters of homestyle food? You know, like braised brisket with potatoes and spinach -- how would you plate that on a family style platter? Or a whole roast chicken? Or spaghetti carbonara?

2. What about soups? When you have a nice bright color to work with -- like a zucchini soup or a coral-colored shellfish soup -- it's easy to present it well. But I find that a lot of my soups look really bad -- like lentil, split pea and all those other soups that look like greenish-brown goo. What can you do to make those look more enticing, without resorting to tired old tricks like sprinkling tons of parsley around the bowl? Here, by the way, I'm talking about individually plated portions.

When plating family style, I try to focus on keeping the main player in the center of the dish, obviously, while ensuring that all of the items are visible, so that everyone can get some. The actual dish that you are serving in will play a very important role, both as a functioning piece (is it large enough to fit what I need to serve?), as well as decorative. I might do a Roast Chicken family style, but I would make sure that the roasted fingerling potatoes that I serve with it might be underneath the chicken, so that they crossover flavors, as well as provide height, and visual appeal. I might have some roasted asparagus coming from the cavity, or fanned along the back or front of the plate, maybe even underneath the potatoes, fanning from all around. Braised Brisket is another story, of course, it would be served sliced, and I woudl make sure that I had a nice long platter, almost like a turkey platter. Something that I did not talk about in the course was about maintaining slice order. THis is very important, and will make your food look better if you can get it down. YOu do not want to have the first slice you take from teh brisket next to the tenth slice. You want to have it next to slice two, and slice three, and so on. Also, if I have to slice soemthing, I usually like to prop it up on another component, but that is not a hard rule. Pasta is always fun to plate, for noodles, I like the twist, almost exclusively. Take a pair of tongs, and as you drop the noodles in a bowl, lower them and twist the noodles at the same time, leaving a nice little cone shaped top (for carbonara, a fried sunny side egg and some shaved parm is all I need!!!!! :biggrin: ).

Drab colored food are another story. Split pea and lentil soups are two toughy's, ones that I must say will be challenging. For the lentil soup, I usually cook the lentils seperately, as well as the vegetables, all in just salted water, and finish them all into a cooked clearer broth, so that it doesnt' look all muddy. Garnish would of course, be the nice cuts on the vegetables, and whatever herbs you do decide to put into it. Drops of EVOO always look nice too. For split pea soup, I would suggest a drizzle of olive oil, in a controlled, but not too controlled, cordon in the center, with a dollop of creme fraiche sitting on top. A seared Shrimp on top of that would look nice, or even some micro greens if you can get ahold of them. All of these items are bright on their own, which will make your soup look stupendous. The biggest thing you have to worry about is the consistency of your soup, you need to make sure it is thick enough to hold these ingredients up.


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I also do a lot of stews, soups and braises that are a real challenge to plate. Then there is that pot roast and BBQ that just isn't going to slice neatly. Help!

As far as your slicing concerns go, use an electric knife, they are awesome, just let the knife do the work, don't push on it at all. Then use a fish spatula to transfer carefully. BBQ is a challenge in itself. Ribs, brisket, pulled? Please specify, I will be able to help you a little bit better I think.

Do you use the Boston squeeze bottles with the twist-top or long-top caps ? I have not seen any with changable tops.

Cheers

Percy

Percy,

Thanks, my aunt the photographer expained that to me, and my food plating started looking better. The boston squeeze bottles that I use are from Chef Revival, available here... they call them drizzlers. The ones that have taller threads for the tops are better, and these work great, never have any leaks.


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I'm relieved to see that you haven't been taken into a recent trend of placing very tiny blobs of sauce or powder on the plate in such a fashion that it's impossible to eat.

Sure, thin lines of powder and sauce LOOK pretty, but that sauce was expensive and I want to taste all of it dammit.

The big problem I have when plating at home is that often, my portions are significantly bigger than restaurant portions since I serve fewer courses but my plates are probably slightly smaller. This makes it hard to plate without having the plate feel eqtremely busy or crowded. Any suggestions?


PS: I am a guy.

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I'm relieved to see that you haven't been taken into a recent trend of placing very tiny blobs of sauce or powder on the plate in such a fashion that it's impossible to eat.

Sure, thin lines of powder and sauce LOOK pretty, but that sauce was expensive and I want to taste all of it dammit.

The big problem I have when plating at home is that often, my portions are significantly bigger than restaurant portions since I serve fewer courses but my plates are probably slightly smaller. This makes it hard to plate without having the plate feel eqtremely busy or crowded. Any suggestions?

Shalmanese,

I do not want to make the claim that I have never done thin lines, dots, or strips of sauce or powders on the plate, I just do not favor them heavily over other techniques. As far as your smaller plates are concerned, I have only two suggestions: 1) Buy bigger plates, 2)Try to build your plates as vertically as possible. Hope this helps!!


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Back to plating for family-style serving. Easter. What do I do to attractively plate a 18 lb. ham that will be sliced? I think I can figure out the rest of the meal, but this one has me sort of stumped.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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What do I do to attractively plate a 18 lb. ham that will be sliced?  I think I can figure out the rest of the meal, but this one has me sort of stumped.

If you're slicing ahead of time, a great option that is very simple is the whole curl and shingle. Think of a deli platter, just really sexy!! Line the whole tray with pieces of ham that are succulent and dripping because they as so moist, a testament to your cooking prowess!!! Or, if you are carving "to order", just make sure that you DO NOT stuft cloves all over meat on the outside. I see pictures of hams like that, and they look nice, but clove is very strong, and the tradeoff will not be in the best interest of your guests. A nice platter, line with your gorgous vegetables, with your ham, again, cooked perfectly, in the center with a nice glaze of some sort (I like preserves or honeythinned with a little bit of water basting throughout the cooking process). Tourne vegetables are always a nice touch, but a difficult thing for the amateur that has never attempted.


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Well folks, I must say that I am bummed that none of you have posted any pics up to this point. I was screwing around yesterday at work after I was done with all the stuff I had to get done, and I came up with a few things, let's start a discussion about those perhaps, and keep the posting of pics going!!

Wild Mushrooms with Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear Tomatoes

gallery_23382_1001_266855.jpg

Seared Sea Scallops on Radish with Brown Butter, Chives, Scallion and Scallion Puree

gallery_23382_1001_309459.jpg

Seared Red Snapper with Sweet 100 "Concasse", Poached Leeks, Wilted Mizuna, Arugula Puree

gallery_23382_1001_206485.jpg

Crepe filled with Lemon Curd and Chantilly, with Sabayon, Poppy Shortbread Cookies, Meyer Lemon and Ginger Compote, Brulleed (a little bit too much) Meringue

gallery_23382_1001_542516.jpg


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Well folks, I must say that I am bummed that none of you have posted any pics up to this point.  I was screwing around yesterday at work after I was done with all the stuff I had to get done, and I came up with a few things, let's start a discussion about those perhaps, and keep the posting of pics going!!

As for me, I am totally intimidated by your beautiful photos and food plating. BUT, I was still inspired enough to try a very different (for me) plating of a fruit salad. I arranged it on plain white, square plate instead of in a glass bowl - I do wish I had taken a photo. So, don't be discouraged - we are following along.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thanks, Tony, for the advice. When I manage the courage, I will post a photo.

BTW, I love tourne. It is relaxing. Sort of like yoga. Focus and beautiful results.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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I like the tadpoles. Are those done with a squeeze bottle, or a spoon?

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This is very cool stuff, Tony. I wonder if you could comment briefly on the size of the plate. One thing I have noticed is that restaurants tend to use a much larger plate-to-food ratio than most home cooks. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that one of the biggest things a home cook can do to achieve a more "restaurant" look at home is to purchase oversize plates. It seems that having a lot of "white space" around the food gives one a lot more to work with in terms of presentation. Also, another thing I see a lot of is dishes that are plated in deep "bowl/plates" with broth around them instead of a sauce.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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As for me, I am totally intimidated by your beautiful photos and food plating.  BUT, I was still inspired enough to try a very different (for me) plating of a fruit salad.  I arranged it on plain white, square plate instead of in a glass bowl - I do wish I had taken a photo.  So, don't be discouraged - we are following along.

Glad to hear that it has been helpfull...keep up the good work. It just takes alittle bit of playing sometimes to get your rythm and style down.

Thanks, Tony, for the advice.  When I manage the courage, I will post a photo.

BTW, I love tourne.  It is relaxing.  Sort of like yoga.  Focus and beautiful results.

I love to tourne too, it is very relaxing I find, especially with teh fast pace of restaurant life. Don't be intimidated, please, post some pics, if it helps, I will post some pics of my disasters!! That sounds like fun....

I like the tadpoles. Are those done with a squeeze bottle, or a spoon?

Both. When using a squeeze bottle, you want to squeeze a dot with the tip, and then without squeezing any more product out of the bottle, use the tip to drag the tail wherever you want it to go. If you are having problems with the length of the tail, squeeze very lightly, and end the squeeze about an inch before you want the end of your tail to be. With a spoon, the same principle applies.

This is very cool stuff, Tony.  I wonder if you could comment briefly on the size of the plate.  One thing I have noticed is that restaurants tend to use a much larger plate-to-food ratio than most home cooks.  Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that one of the biggest things a home cook can do to achieve a more "restaurant" look at home is to purchase oversize plates.  It seems that having a lot of "white space" around the food gives one a lot more to work with in terms of presentation.  Also, another thing I see a lot of is dishes that are plated in deep "bowl/plates" with broth around them instead of a sauce.

slkinsey,

Absolutely on the nose there.... in the notes section of the course, I talked about dead space around the items that you are sesrving. This is very imporant, and almost acts as a matte for a picture around your food. I am a very big fan of large plates with smaller amounts of food on them, as it allows focus to be directly on the food, not the table cloth or serviceware. Thanks for the great tip!!


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Ok, here we go, some of my not-so-hot dishes....

gallery_23382_1001_122681.jpg

Grilled Airline Breast of Chicken with Steamed Red Bliss Potatoes, White and Green Asparagus, and a Caramelized Shallot Cream Sauce

This is probably the dish that I am embarassed about the most. The chicken breast was an airline cut (with the wing still attatched....why? I have no idea), and it was over charred on the grill. The dish is presented upside down, and looks too put together, like someone thought about it WAY TOO MUCH!!!! The sauce is wrong, a caramalized shallot cream sauce, the potatoes were overcooked, and the asparagus? What is with the alternating???? Poor plate selection, not to mention that the photography doesn't do it any justice either. Boo..... :huh:

gallery_23382_1001_324972.jpg

Seared Foie Gras with Toasted Crumpet, Micro-herbs, Roasted Black Mission Figs and 25-Year Balsamic

This is a dish that we actually served at the school, a poor plating if you ask me. Yes, there is height, there is color (although the pic is a poor indicator of that, bad light), there is texture, and great flavors. Just a poor plate selection, and too centered, with the tadpoles not extending and being too set in their place... none of that randomness that we talked about.

gallery_23382_1001_494283.jpg

Tabasco Potato Gnocchi with Butter Poached Lobster, a Pepper Jack Mornay Sauce and Roasted Corn

This dish was a dish that I made in college a few years ago for a Tabasco recipe contest. I placed second in the nation in the student division. At the time, I thought I was the dog's bollocks, and the truth of the matter is that after I sauced the gnocchi, I couldn't get them to stand up in the ring mold that I used, so I froze them overnight in the mold, and torched the outside the next day to get it to release. The sauce kept breaking (becuase pepper-jack is a highly processed cheese containing lots of oils), so that is nothing more than thickened cream on the plate, and my cilantro on the top looks as fresh as Kirstie Alley after a trip to Krispy Kreme. I don't even want to discuss my choice of presentation plate.... a rippled glass plate that was like 20" in diameter? Oh, I am glad I am out of culinary school.... :hmmm:

So there you go, some of my disasters. I am not above it, and in fact, I do it all of the time. I am just lucky enough to be able to play with the dish for a lot longer. I have the resources to do that, I have the time to take 10 or 20 different pictures in a play session. It's cool... don't worry, don't freak out, and don't be intimidated....if you need to, go back and read the last line of my lecture notes. :wink:


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Hi Tony,

I have really enjoyed this thread. Here are a couple of pics of my plates. They were taken before I read your posts so I am looking forward to trying things your way! Thanks for doing this! It will help me alot!

Edit: These were just cooked at home, not in a restaurant.

Salmon, leeks and couscous

2.jpg

Chicken breast, Puy lentils and mixed wild rice

1.jpg

Pork filet and roasted cauliflower

3_1.jpg


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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Swiss-Chef,

Great looking food!! There are only a few things that I see. I know that not everyone has white square china at home for their own personal use, but I think that it is very hard to plate patterned china, as discussed in our thread. Your food looks like it is cooked well, the cauliflower might have gotten a little bit dark though. The salmon makes me drool, so good job there!!! With the chicken breast, just be carefull, it looks like you dind't rest the chicken breast enough, some liquid has seeped onto your plate.

The biggest thing about your plates, and the only thing that sticks out in my mind at all is the use of the flowering chives. Just be carefull about using something for garnish that is not completely edible or functional. OTher than that, your stuff is pretty good. Try plating on white though, I think you will be suprised how much better your food looks.


Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Swiss-Chef,

Great looking food!! There are only a few things that I see.  I know that not everyone has white square china at home for their own personal use, but I think that it is very hard to plate patterned china, as discussed in our thread.  Your food looks like it is cooked well, the cauliflower might have gotten a little bit dark though.  The salmon makes me drool, so good job there!!!  With the chicken breast, just be carefull, it looks like you did't rest the chicken breast enough, some liquid has seeped onto your plate.  

The biggest thing about your plates, and the only thing that sticks out in my mind at all is the use of the flowering chives.  Just be carefull about using something for garnish that is not completely edible or functional.  OTher than that, your stuff is pretty good.  Try plating on white though, I think you will be suprised how much better your food looks.

Thanks Tony,

WHAT? YOU DON'T LIKE MY ANTIQUE ROYAL WORCESTER!!! :shock:

LOL, actually I went to Ikea and bought some 99 cent simple white plates last week and the food does look better on them. I guess our hand painted reticulated Dresden is totally out of the question!? Seriously though, since my first profession is really an antiques dealer, how do you make food look good on plates like these? At about $500 each it's a shame to put them in storage.

PS: I think the cauliflower tastes better really dark.

DSCF0053.4.JPG


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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