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Q&A: Plating and Presentation


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Ya, I cooked, plated, photographed, and ate it! Thanks for the encouraging comments!!

It's actually not too hard to plate this dish, as the potatoes provide a solid base to put everything around. I wasn't going for the vertical thing but it was the only way of keeping the bones clean.

I mirror what previous posters have said, I totally avoid all garnishes that are non-functional, hence I omitted the almost ubiquitous rosemary sprig...

Edited by doctorandchef (log)
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Any thoughts on this? Pistachio and panko crusted Ontario Rack of Lamb, rosemary jus,  Maple-Soy Asparagus, and truffled mash potato.

Great looking dish!!! Plating is nice, simple, and the food looks well cooked. Perfect! Very nice job....

I mirror what previous posters have said, I totally avoid all garnishes that are non-functional, hence I omitted the almost ubiquitous rosemary sprig...

Doctor,

Thanks for the omission of the sprig, I can't stand that... :laugh:

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I have not been plating much lately as I am away from my own home, but I have been paying much more attention to plating in food magazines. I have noticed that in the two Italian cooking magazines I recently bought, white is rarely used. Red, ochre, soft green, and earth coloured plates, platters and bowls are in evidence. They are rarely patterned and are heavier than one sees in most fine dining rooms.

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)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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Tonyy13 et al:

This is a wonderful thread. I am considered a good cook among my friends and family, but presentation has never been paramount to me although I love to see it. Now that my kids are grown and I am helping my husband lose weight and control some health issues, I am looking at presentation as well as improvements in flavor, nutritional value and portion size.

Instead of just cooking the usual things in the usual ways, I am researching the creation of satisfying textures and flavors, presented in appetizing and stimulating ways, in smaller portion sizes. This seems to me to be much more fun than diet food.

I have to tell you, the food on this thread looks wonderful, even that that the critics (usually self) panned. I applaud the efforts and thank you for the ideas.

Doctorandchef, your chops look as good as anything I've seen in print or set before me. The color combination, pink and green, is a whirlwind favorite with me (my bedroom sings with it), and you've achieved a serendipitous perfection in this regard. I say serendipitous because even though your plate looks deliciously perfect, it is in no way plotted or proscribed. Very, very nicely done. :wub:

Behemoth, I think you are so right that white is not universally the perfect foil for food, although it is right MUCH more often than anything else. I agree with you that rustic Latin and Mediterranean food is set off to advantage by rustic, earth-toned framing.

Anna N, I have noticed the same things you have with the subtly colored, substantially built dishes in food magazines. I think the point is to keep it interesting. There is no absolute in color of serving dish. It’s art. White fish, for example, looks more appetizing on one of those thick, celadon plates you mentioned than in any other setting. Think how Swiss-Chef’s pasta dish would look on celadon!

Swiss_chef, your pasta doesn’t look dead; rather it looks eminently edible. Perhaps you could have accidentally spilled a few more capers in one or two spots around the edge of the pasta to provide delineation from the plate. I loved your family style plating, too. When I serve myself from a plate like that, I know I’m among friends.

As to plating with highly colored/patterned dishes, I am going to opine that your food impact will always be (at best) competing with the plate graphics, or (at worst) upstaged by them. The pics you offer from a cookbook of food served on busy plates are obviously designed to feature the PLATES. Some of the food isn’t even edible, like the roses.

The antique plates you have are real treasures. Have you considered arranging a wall vignette of them and some complementary ones near where you eat? That way, they are available for you and your people to enjoy, their design won’t get in the way of your food efforts, and they are safe from the breakage that can occur with regular use. Vignettes have been used for years in England to showcase their beautiful blue and white pieces, but I have seen contemporary ones done with stunning effect, using antique pieces. :smile:

Abadoozy, your plate is brilliant. Hot rich spicy juxtaposed with cool crunchy. Mmmmm. I think I would have tried to curve the flank steak slices around the salad, like a croissant? Nestle the salad in the curve of the steak. Then the food wouldn’t look like it’s trying to emulate the squareness of the plate. But keep the hot from touching the cold.

Tonyy13, your food pictures are inspiring, and I love that you did these because you had time to experiment, no other reason. Your “bad” food pictures, were I to come up with something that good, would make me very happy. I know I am going to have a lot of fun trying. You are a really magnificent teacher.

Catherine

Edited by Peachpie9 (log)
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The antique plates you have are real treasures. Have you considered arranging a wall vignette of them and some complementary ones near where you eat? That way, they are available for you and your people to enjoy, their design won’t get in the way of your food efforts, and they are safe from the breakage that can occur with regular use. Vignettes have been used for years in England to showcase their beautiful blue and white pieces, but I have seen contemporary ones done with stunning effect, using antique pieces.

Hi Catherine,

Thank you for your nice compliments. Actually plates have figured into our decorating scheme. We hang some of our 18th century Sèvres plates on the wall and display some in a glass cabinet. It was fashionable to do that even in 18th century France.

Here is a picture of our dining room in Montreux:

10.jpg

And our living room.

7.jpg

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Hello Swiss_Chef,

You have many very beautiful things. Obviously you've spent years in the careful accumulation of exquisite pieces.

The vignettes I am talking about, and I feel certain you know more about these than I could hope to learn, are the focused, ambitious ones with maybe between 12 and 20 pieces involved. The plates are arranged in a grouping, usually taller than wide, with the key peices at the center and top of the grouping. The rest of the pieces in the grouping are smaller, lesser items designed to showcase the main pieces. Usually they are consisent in color but always are different in pattern and style.

The vignette has a balance in that the count is symmetrical, but the ones I like best DON'T have the same pieces to the left and right of the key pieces. The mismatched effect IMO yields more in the way of interest and artistry.

Looking at the photos of your beautiful home, I'm not sure this concept would work. You have achieved a very formal, sophisticated classicity in which a vignette would probably ring with incompatibility. Anyway, it was an idea. Your home is stunning. I would love to cup my hand around one of those huge old crystals in that chandelier.

Catherine

Edited by Peachpie9 (log)
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I made this pasta/shrimp/capers/olive oil/butter but I am not happy with the way the pasta looks on the white plate. I think it looks anemic I wonder if pasta might  look better on a black plate?

dscf0021.jpg

I would plate this using a bowl. Maybe a japanese soup bowl or italian pasta bowl or something.

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I would plate this using a bowl.  Maybe a japanese soup bowl or italian pasta bowl or something.

Actually it is a bowl. You can kind of see it in the bowl in the background. The camara angle makes it look like a plate though.

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I  I have noticed that in the two Italian cooking magazines I recently bought, white is rarely used.  Red, ochre, soft green, and earth coloured plates, platters and bowls are in evidence.  They are rarely patterned and are heavier than one sees in most fine dining rooms.

Anna,

I asked a pro food photographer and she said that magazine photographers don't use white because when taking hi-res shots, something messes up the color and apetrure value of the pictures. She said that light is reflected sometimes differently on white with studio lights and filters. So, I wish I could elaborate more, but unfortunately, that is all the info I have regarding magazine shoots....

Behemoth, I think you are so right that white is not universally the perfect foil for food, although it is right MUCH more often than anything else.   

Great point Peach, perfectly said...

Tonyy13, your food pictures are inspiring, and I love that you did these because you had time to experiment, no other reason.  Your “bad” food pictures, were I to come up with something that good, would make me very happy.  I know I am going to have a lot of fun trying.  You are a really magnificent teacher.

Thanks, this is so much fun, I love helping out!! Plating just makes practice, and if you have had as much practice as I have had, you wouldn't be happy with them either. It is like when you exercise, how at first, you would be happy with running just a mile (at least, that is how it has been in my experience!! :raz: ), but after eight years of running, you would look at a mile and wonder how you ever only did one... (I have yet to reach this point in my exercise life..... :hmmm: ).... So keep it up, you will get there....

Edited by Tonyy13 (log)

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Well, upthread I mentioned that I would soon be doing some family-style serving instead of plating, for company... I did, and I was quite pleased with how it looked. This was a braised leg of lamb with garlic, and white beans with tomatoes & spinach. For the family-style presentation, I put it all on a big white plate and Russ sliced the meat at the table. Then we passed it around and everyone helped themselves. (It tasted good, too!)

gallery_13038_837_29803.jpg

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Well, upthread I mentioned that I would soon be doing some family-style serving instead of plating, for company... I did, and I was quite pleased with how it looked. This was a braised leg of lamb with garlic, and white beans with tomatoes & spinach. For the family-style presentation, I put it all on a big white plate and Russ sliced the meat at the table. Then we passed it around and everyone helped themselves. (It tasted good, too!)

Hey Susan,

Great photo! I especially love the various colors spanning the entire color palette.

I think one of the techniques of making food look great is to put colors from across the color spectrum e.g. if you have a green thing, put in something red or purple, and make good use of complementary colors.

WHen I worked with Susur Lee, I noticed that he subtlely added various elements on the dish whether intentionally by color scheme or just by accident, he usually has multi colored components to his dishes.

I would love to have a bite of your leg of lamb!

Raymond

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I was just wondering what you thought of apple green plates. I was trying to think of what foods might look bad on it and couldn't. It's the color of a granny smith apple. It's a hot color right now, and so pretty. It's hardly basic like white, but really what food would not work with that color? The only thing I can think of are veggies the exact same color, but you have the same problem with white rice on white plates too!

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Not speaking for Tony, but what I think is that food looks good on light or medium shades of green. They don't photo as well as white china, but I like the look of plating on green plates... so much I have two sets of green. :smile: I also like to use black plates for certain foods, but again it is not usually photogenic.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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  • 2 weeks later...
A few pics from a home cook's previous posts (embarassed to place them near Tony or Swiss_Chef's dishes) :

They all look great and you can tell that time was taken and effort was made in the preparation. Nice work! The lima beans look good...we don't get them here in Switzerland.

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I've seen some nice stuff in this post, and I've learned, too. I will post some of my comments in a little while, but first I want to post a few pictures that I took from the time I worked at Wish South Beach, Fl, over a year ago. They are not my idea, but they are my arangements and plating. What do you all think?

gallery_17386_1208_1373330.jpg

seared foie with cascabel infused bananas, brioche and pea shoots

gallery_17386_1208_600873.jpg

cachaça marinated tuna, with quina salad, seared watermelon and avocado "hollandaise"

gallery_17386_1208_460208.jpg

melting chocolate cake with coconut ice cream

my photographer skills aren't the best, but they at least look in focus :raz:

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

My Blog, en Español

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Very nice! ...Attractive, very appealing, and the plate isn't too busy. That's the kind of presentation I like. Don't worry about the photographs; this is a topic about presentation and plating, not photography, which sometimes can get confused with each other!

I like simple elegance, or is it elegant simplicity? :biggrin:

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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  • 1 month later...

My question is related to the presentation of meals that are served family style. Any suggestions about how to plate traditional Chinese, Korean etc. dishes that are just piles of stuff? I have had absolutely no success in coming up with an interesting way to plate such meals that are just composed of some small pieces of meat and vegetables soaking in sauce. I like what others have done with family style dishes that are something big...like turkey or lamb, but I have not been able to extend these ideas. Thanks!

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  • 1 month later...

hi gang,

I wanted to say hi because this is my first posting. So, hi. Where are all the pretty pictures.

I did have a question for Tony or anyone out there. In reference to white space in a plates presentation, what is the rule? Is there ever too much white space or too little? Are there any exceptions to the rules?

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  • 2 months later...
I made this pasta/shrimp/capers/olive oil/butter but I am not happy with the way the pasta looks on the white plate. I think it looks anemic I wonder if pasta might  look better on a black plate?

dscf0021.jpg

Maybe brunoise some red bell pepper and sprinkle it over your pasta dish. Then you'd have a darker red that might bring out some of the pink in the shrimp? Just a thought! But other than that it looks delicious.

WhizWit.net -- My blog on Food, Life, and Politics
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Apologies in advance if this has been covered already...

Where could I buy "rings" to plant food on a plate? I have been using empty tuna cans with cuts in both sides. However, I want something stronger.

This photo gives you an idea:

The second photo shows a ring

Anybody knows a source for professional quality ones?

I believe some people use cookie cutters. Any other "home" alternatives.

I went to a restaurant supply store the other day, but they did not have any.

Thanks in advance for any comments.

Alex

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Where could I buy "rings" to plant food on a plate? I have been using empty tuna cans with cuts in both sides. However, I want something stronger.

Alex, I'd try Hockenbergs (over off 280 west on the Kasota exit; this is a fun place to visit and pick up some things you didn't know you needed at hugely discounted prices), Kitchen Window on Hennepin or Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul. I'm also wondering if these are an item that would be available at some of those "baking" stores that populate ugly strip malls?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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