Whether you’re serving up fine cuisine or modest fare, it’s important to make sure your food looks just as good as it tastes. Therefore, it’s crucial for chefs to master the essentials of food plating. Learn these basic techniques, then use your creativity to conjure up attractive works of culinary art as you keep experimenting and working on your craft.
The 5 basic elements of plating
1. Create a framework
Start with drawings and sketches to visualise the plate. Find inspiration from a picture or object. Assemble a “practice plate” to work on executing your vision.
2. Keep it simple
Select one ingredient to focus on and use space to simplify the presentation. Clutter distracts from the main elements of your dish and might make it confusing for the diners to figure out what to focus on.
3. Balance the dish
Play with colours, shapes and textures to ensure diners are not overwhelmed. The presentation should never overpower flavour and function.
4. Get the right portion size
Ensure that there is the right amount of ingredients, and that the plate complements the dish – not too big or small. Strike the right proportion of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables to create a nutritionally balanced meal.
5. Highlight the key ingredient
Ensure the main ingredient stands out, but also pay equal attention to other elements on the plate such as garnishes, sauces and even the plate itself.
Basic food placement
The image below shows a classical plating technique that uses the three basic food items of starch, vegetables and main in a specific arrangement.
A simple guide to a classical plating is to think of the plate as the face of a clock.
Using the clock analogy, this is how you should arrange individual food items:
- Main: Between 3 to 9 o’clock
- Starch: Between 9 to 11 o’clock
- Vegetables: Between 11 to 3 o’clock
Plating Asian dishes
Asian dishes are unique in look, style and how they are eaten. Take note of these tips and plate your Asian dishes accordingly.
Sharing food is common in Asian culture.
Though slightly more challenging to plate, you can still use aesthetically pleasing garnishes and interesting bowls or containers (such as steamboats, dim sum baskets and even banana leaves) to heighten the food’s presentation.
For fusion dishes that would like to adopt more modern, Westernised styles of smaller, individual servings, you may opt to adopt Western presentation techniques.
Local favourites such as nasi lemak are complete meals. The starch is usually plated in the centre, topped with protein and vegetables placed around the sides. For such one-dish meals, balance the colour and texture to make them more visually appealing.
Keep these tips handy when planning and practicing your plating techniques, then showcase your talents when plating your unique creations.