Plating has become a huge part of our relationship with food. From taking pictures that will induce envy from our social media friends, to watching online videos with tips showing how to plate like a pro.
It has changed the way we approach food- we go to the restaurants where our friends post these works of art and it's something that chefs have picked up on and over the years most have worked hard at making sure their plates are Michelin star restaurant quality.
Chef Sbu Nhleko, who was recently appointed the Head Chef of Big Easy Durban by Ernie Els at the Hilton Hotel, has worked hard to make sure his plates impress his patrons. Last year I attended a champagne dinner he cooked for and was impressed by his plating, as where the other guests. And yes, the food didn't just look good, it tasted amazing, too.
"It's become even more important for chefs to focus on how the food is presented. With social media being so popular and with people sharing their meals on the internet, the pressure is on to make sure the food looks and tastes good, and the standards are upheld at all times. There's also rife competition, so chefs need to be always on their toes when it comes to their plating," he said.
A chef for 17 years, Sbu is a product of the Food Preparation and Culinary Arts at the Chantecler Hotel School of Food and Wine. Like all chefs, he has worked through the ranks, holding Sous Chef and Head Chef positions at a number of leading establishments in Durban.
I spoke to Sbu on the basics of getting your food to look even appetizing and he also gave tips, which you can use to impress your Valentine on February 14.
Watch The Elements On The Plate
"Before you do anything, you need to think about the elements. Does everything go together? Will the flavours complement each other? Do the colours work? Will the plate look good, like a work of art? Those are the most important things you need to think about while planning your meal."
Pick The Herb That Will Make Your Dish Look Fresh
"Garnishing has always been one of the mainstays of presenting food and it's now become as important as how the food tastes. I always say that simple is good. Simplicity helps because it reins you in and you don't go overboard. So herbs like pea shoots, thyme, rosemary all work with making your dish look fresh."
Know What Your Valentine Loves And Then Impress Them
"It's important to know what your partner loves eating, their favourite colours and flavours. From there you can then build a meal and also get the right elements and colours that will help you plate like a pro. I love using bright colours when plating- it makes the food look delicious. So if your partner loves bright colours, then have your reds, greens that will make your plate pop. Let your plate come alive and burst with colour. Let your love shine through on your plate."
So armed with these tips, you can easily impress your partner on Valentine's Day with a well plated, delicious meal. Chef Sbu prepared a Fillet Mignon with beetroot crumbs, sautéed carrots and pea and spinach purée.