A Feast for the Eyes

They say we eat first with our eyes. The colors, textures, and presentation of a dish are the first things that register, whetting our appetites long before we ever taste a bite of food. Top chefs and food stylists know this, and they focus on plating our meals in ways that entice us. You can follow some of these simple steps at home to elevate the presentation of your dishes.

Use Props

Homemade applesauce tastes amazing, but you wouldn’t know this just by sight. It lacks color and there’s no visual hint of the cinnamon that warms it and flavors it. Placing a few props, such as these cinnamon sticks, on the plate provides visual interest and signals the diner about the ingredients in the dish.

Reconstruct the Typical Salad

When is a beet and goat cheese salad no longer a salad? When it’s turned upside down into a napoleon. In this stunning presentation, the dramatic color of the beets is offset by the white goat cheese while the greens provide contrast.

Stack for Visual Appeal

Some restaurants have taken heat for going a little too far in stacking food upright, but this method does provide structure and visual appeal. Instead of hiding spinach underneath a piece of chicken, use it as a vibrant topper to the chicken florentine that’s perched on a bed of rice. Note: If you’re serving a sauce with a dish like this, spoon it around the food instead of on top, where it would blur the presentation.

Don't Forget Color

A sautéed chicken breast with a lemon sauce is visually dull on its own, offering very little color. Highlight bland-looking dishes with herbs and other condiments like this lemon slice and lemon zest to provide color on the plate as well as to provide hints about the flavor profile of the dish.

Find the Right Garnish

Often, simple garnishes like the mint leaves on this chocolate cake help finish the look of a dish. Garnishes should be subtle, complement the dish—mint and chocolate in this case—and should always be edible.

Delight with Details

An apple pie that’s a bit irregular and oozing with apple juice can certainly look homey and possess charm. But the intricately detailed flower pattern of the apples in this classic tart provides stunning beauty to a table or buffet before it’s ever served.

Use Single Servings to Entice Your Guests

Sometimes a large bowl of food can appear drab and uninteresting. Instead, create single serving portions such as this shrimp ceviche served in wonton cups and then line them all up on a platter to entice your guests. The replication of multiple single servings is pretty, and a single-serving presentation invites the diner to pick up the food and eat.

Pick Unexpected Utensils

Using a Chinese soup spoon to serve appetizers is playful. As an added bonus, guests can easily enjoy the food with a single hand. Another option is to serve soup in shot glasses, eliminating the need for spoons.

Use White Right

Food stylists all know that white plates allow the food to take center stage without competing with the design of the plate. This shapely square salad plate also provides visual interest and can be contrasted against a round dinner plate or charger. If you're serving a dish with very little color, use a solid colored plate to offset the white plate.

About the author: Michele Morris leads cooking dinner parties and teaches private and group cooking classes for both kids and adults. For more great recipes, cooking tips, and resources, visit her website www.cookingwithmichele.com.

Categories: Entertaining, Kitchens, Recipes