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Plating & Presentation - Making Food Palatable to ‘Eyes’

Plating and presentation has emerged as one of the important factors while dining in a restaurant in the recent years. People eat with their eyes and post it on their social media walls first before they actually get into eating from the plates in the mobile era. Kathryn B K writes about the significance of plating and presentation in the modern dining.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017, 16:58 Hrs  [IST]

In today’s world which is majorly influenced by social media, what you see is what sells. And it is the same with regards to food. One eats with their eyes first. Nowadays, people click pictures first and put it on various social media platforms before eating. So, unlike earlier, today chefs have to plate and present their dish in such a way which will appeal to the eyes of the customer and not just prepare tasty, delicious food. Plating and presentation plays a key role as people are tempted to eat a dish which is well presented and plated.

Ashish Bhasin, Executive Chef, Trident, BKC, Mumbai

Started off as to bring out the creative side of a chef, today plating and presentation are of utmost importance. It is as important as preparing a delicious meal. Ashish Bhasin, Executive Chef, Trident, BKC, Mumbai agrees, “In my opinion, our sense of vision plays a very crucial role in stimulating the appetite. The visual sensation of a dish that comes to the table is just as essential as its taste and flavour. While planning the ingredients and combination of flavours are the key drivers of a successful dish, plating and planning of tableware comes a close second.”

Chef Bhasin personally prefers to keep it minimalistic, crisp and uncluttered and sometimes he bends the rules and tweak in an unusual approach to the same plate.

Prashant Tikadia, Executive Chef of Meluha The Fern An Ecotel Hotel

Plating and presentation is an art. An art that can make any dish a success with its first impression. Nobody would ever want to taste a dish from an unclean plate or a broken plate, no matter how tasty the food is.

Presentation is not only about making your food look good but it’s all about the right timing. If you offer your diner a beautifully presented dish at right temperature then it’s called perfection, says Prashant Tikadia, Executive Chef of Meluha The Fern An Ecotel Hotel.

A diner comes to have a great experience at a restaurant. With good food, great ambience and excellent service, his experience also includes eye catching presentation which is appetizing to the eyes and tempts the diner to consume it.

Sudhir Pai, Executive Chef, Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport says that molecular gastronomy has been on the rise as people like a dish which is well presented and plated. A picture posted online stays there forever and for thousands of (potential) customers to look at. Even a small effort like tableside flambéing/ live personalised cooking or eccentric plating can go a long way in enhancing a diner’s experience.

Though the conventional white plates are still in fashion, we can see today food is served in almost anything from boxes to slates to boards, shoes, tiles, etc. While all these new plates are welcomed by the diners, what the chefs need to keep in mind is the proportion of food served on a plate. A small portion of food cannot be served in a large plate as it will look scant and similarly a good amount of food should not be served in a small plate as it will look crowded and messy.

Sudhir Pai, Executive Chef, Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport

Chef Pai says, “The plate should enhance the appearance of the dish and not take it away or create a distraction. It should be easy and non-messy to eat from the plate; small rimless tiles serving humongous portions of a gooey dessert are a complete no-no. Huge ceramic sculptures, cages, lamps bearing one small piece of food hidden somewhere are also quite unnecessary. I follow simple rules while choosing my crockery - pretty and cheerful to look at, unique, simple to eat from, easy to maintain and right crockery for the right kind of food.”

For Chef Tikadia the most important factor is balance of right contrast and right texture of the entire ingredient on a plate. Another important aspect is to match right portion size with right plate; a very small portion on big plate is failure of the presentation.

Type of food item served on what kind of plate is also an area to be looked into. A hot dish shouldn’t be served in a cold plate and vice versa. The reason behind this is that a hot dish will remain hot while the diner is eating if served in a hot plate and the same goes for a cold dish.

Chef Bhasin throws light on another important factor. He says, “It is very essential to visualise the end product before we start plating. Along with the visual appeal, the consumption experience must be comfortable for the guest and at no point should it hinder his meal experience. Everything has to harmonise while we keep it simple. A plain white plate encourages visual focus on the dish and also adds an element of contrast, but it is the playful attitude of plates in various shapes and sizes that gives monotony a skip.”

A painter has a canvas on which he paints, colours and various tools like brushes, likewise a chef has a plate which is his canvas, food and ingredients that are his colours. Now for a chef to draw on the plate with various ingredients, he too requires his tools.

Designer plates, squeeze bottles, spray guns, spoons, cutters, moulds, stencils, tongs, brushes, silicon plating tools, dropping bottles, etc are the various tools used while plating. What is important is the technique and knowing where to stop. Going too overboard with colours, patterns and creating a crowded plate is blasphemy. Even one simple puree or a sauce and a spoon can create several beautiful patterns. All you need is practice and precision, explains Chef Pai.

Parimal Sawant, Executive Chef of The Lalit, Mumbai says, “Trends nowadays are a reflection of the ever changing and ever evolving times, hence we use silicone plating brushes, plating wedge set, garnishing kit, craving tool set, fruit/vegetable garnishing kit, etc.”

Though the traditional white plate is still trending, there are many new kinds of plates with different colours, shapes and patterns that are in trend. While plating and presentation help chefs to bring out their creative side, selecting a plate that is out of the box yet going well with the dish served on it also shows the chefs creativity.

Deepak Agarwal, Director, Clay Craft India says, “The major change in Indian hospitality industry is for casual dining joints which includes cafes, tea bars, restro-lounges, etc. The owners of these joints are well travelled and are excited to experiment with the table setting and food presentation in their food joints. India has seen introduction of coloured dinnerware, matt finish potteries, rustic stoneware look as a rapid trend. A combination of metal, wood and ceramic is the ongoing trend. A lot of millennial restaurant owners are introducing rustic or hand-painted crockery into their serving.”

Handmade tableware is in and subtle differences of textures and designs in similar pieces are celebrated. Asymmetric bowls intentionally chipped or artistically broken plates, etc are quite in demand. There is also a trend towards handcrafted, recycled and vintage piece, says Chef Pai.

Parimal Sawant, Executive Chef of The Lalit, Mumbai
Deepak Agarwal, Director, Clay Craft India

Hotel The Lalit Mumbai believes in being eco-friendly, Chef Sawant says, “We ensure that there is a minimal usage of products which pollute our environment, hence we consciously strive towards making use of eco-friendly products which include – wooden planks, slates, edible spoons which are now trending on a global footing as the concept is ‘eat with it and then eat it’.”

Chefs across the globe are getting plates named and patented after them. Also, another very interesting trend that is gaining popularity is using props to plate and serve particular kinds of dishes. Along with fusion cuisine and molecular gastronomy, deconstructed cuisine is yet another head-turner as it is inspiring to see the visual creativity inbuilt in these recreations, says Chef Bhasin.

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