Properly plating your food so it looks like a top chef prepared it is pretty easy, if you know the tips and tricks. Picture: Supplied
Properly plating your food so it looks like a top chef prepared it is pretty easy, if you know the tips and tricks. Picture: Supplied

Simple tips on how to plate your food like a master chef

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Jan 14, 2021

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We can’t help getting a little envious when we see the beautiful dishes plated up on shows like Top Chef, Chef’s Table, or MasterChef.

Professional chefs and gifted cooks make it look so easy. But you can also make your food look pretty.

It’s important to note that you do not have to be a professionally trained chef to plate your food at home like one. Properly plating your food so it looks like a top chef prepared it is pretty easy, if you know the tips and tricks.

So, how do you give your meals the aesthetic boost they need? We found the answers on wikiHow, which detailed that your goal should be to make the food look attractive and appetizing.

Start with beautiful food

Avoid a monochromatic colour scheme. A plate of food looks most appealing when there's a high level of contrast in colours. Imagine being served a bowl of plain oatmeal or a dish of pasta without any sauce. Even if the oatmeal or pasta has been dressed with flavourful ingredients like butter and spices, it looks like a plain dish of starch. Serve the same bowl of oatmeal with fresh red berries and a swirl of amber maple syrup, or plate the pasta with a healthy drizzle of green pesto and chopped cherry tomatoes, and you've created a wholly different dining experience. No matter what you're serving, think of ways to add more colour contrast.

Sear your meat and let it rest

Many meat dishes look most appetizing when the meat has been seared. The sight of a steak or piece of grilled salmon with a brown, crispy sear will make your dinner guests' mouths start to water. In addition to searing your meat, you should let it rest for several minutes before cutting it. This allows the juices to absorb back into the meat so that they don't end up running all over the plate.

Cook fried foods carefully

Underdone or overcooked fried foods are difficult to present appealingly. Fried foods can look beautiful on a plate, but it's important to fry them well and have a plan for dealing with the oil so it doesn't muck up the rest of the dish. Cook fried foods until they're golden brown, then let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the extra oil. Otherwise, the food will leave streaks of grease on the plates.

Experiment with interesting shapes

For example, cutting your vegetables into interesting shapes can make the simple special. An ice cream scoop can be employed to make domes of rice or mashed potatoes. You can cook and serve vegetables, desserts, pot pies, and other foods inside unusually shaped dishes to create attractive shapes.

Plating it with care

When in doubt, choose white plates. White plates don't compete visually with the food you're serving. They provide contrast, making colours appear brighter and textures more interesting. For this reason, white dishes are the standard choice for chefs in restaurants all over the world. The shape of the plate doesn't matter as much as its colour.

Limit portion sizes

Only fill about two-thirds of each plate with food. The rest of the plate should be left empty. The negative space will provide contrast with the food, making it look more appetizing. If the plate is loaded with food, the food itself won't look as visually pleasing. Keep standard serving sizes in mind and aim to serve just the right amount of each part of the dish.

Follow the rule of odds

Having an odd number of elements on a dish is more visually appealing than having an even number. It creates the impression that a piece of food is being framed by others. Keep this in mind whether you're serving different types of food or more than one piece of the same food. For example, if you're serving scallops, serve either 3 or 5 instead of 4.

Use sauce wisely

If you're serving a curry, stew, or soupy casserole, you might want to drain the food of its sauce before serving, then pour on just the right amount when you plate the dish. That way you can control the amount of sauce and use it to make the dish look decorative. A soupy dish on a flat plate looks messy unless it is reined in with something such as rice, pasta, or potato, or served in a suitable bowl or deep dish.

Keep up with food styling trends

Remember that styles change within a few years or even months, so keep up-to-date by checking out cooking magazines, cooking or foodie websites, and cooking shows for current ideas. Complex garnishes have had their time in the spotlight, and towers or stacks of foods were all the vogue at one point, too. However, tricky, hard-to-pull-off trends tend to fade eventually, while the classic tenets of plating food so that it looks fresh, appetizing, and delicious never go out of style.

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