Three Plating Secrets for Making Your Food Pretty.

Chicken / March 14, 2016

“It needs some bows er somethin’…” quips Joan Cusak’s character Cyn on the move Working Girl, when her Brooklyn style mentality is challenged by Melanie Griffith’s choice of a simple, elegant cocktail dress. I love this line, (and this movie for that matter!) because it explains our desire to just keep adding one more thing based on our personal sense of beauty. Constantly seeking balance we just can’t help ourselves!!

But sometimes more is not more. And it can ruin what would otherwise be the perfect … whatever. So how do you know when you’ve done enough, especially when it comes to plating food in a way that sets your style apart?

 I mean, if a bow had been added to that fabulous, expensive, black, sequined dress, Harrison Ford might not have fallen in love with Tess McGill quite so hard, and Sigourney Weaver’s “bony arse,” might have stayed on the 50th floor until she started collecting a pension!! So many VARIABLES!!!

I have a simple formula for you, at least when it comes to composing a plate. It is a 1, 2, 3 process and should give you an excellent set of guidelines whether you’re a novice or an advanced cook. I use this method often and if you look at my photos you’ll see a pattern that employs this logic.


By alternating heights, this little bit of pickled radishes on top offers the plate a sense of sculpted elegance.

So, here’s my advice:

1. Don’t crowd the plate. As American’s we feel cheated if we don’t have a Big Mac sized meal before us. Even though we know the last bite will leave us feeling like we’ve swallowed a basketball. I’m not talking miniaturizing your portions (although it’s not a bad idea,) I’m just saying leave some white space around the plate so your food looks more appetizing and then more healthy as a bonus. We do it in design all the time. White space offers relief, it focuses the eye, and shows intention.

2. Think 3D. When adding each element think about what can you stack. Ask yourself what you can prop up against something else to create varying heights? Stop and think about how colors and textures create beauty and compose accordingly.  — Hmmm. I hear ya. You’re telling me you can’t even draw a stick figure. But you can use a spoon, right? And you’ve stacked checkers before, yes? Well, then! You can do it with your food.

3. Crown it with Glory! As I’ve become more adept at creating and serving fine food, I realize the line between great and va-va-voom is usually only one spoonful away. I am constantly thinking of ways to create an imaginative garnish to bring it over the top. Try a few caramelized onions like the photo at the top. Crunch, interest, height and of course flavor are yours! Or the quick, pickled radishes also shown above. And check out the other examples below for even more ideas! See what happens when you mould your food into a cylinder. Try larger pieces of herbs for impact, or even a twirly swirl of sauce!

​It’s easy to create beauty on a plate. Just start practicing today!


Using a mould I placed several different flavors on top of each other to create the ultimate tower of flavor!


Just a few strands of tarragon and a lemon slice do the trick on this plate, and help the lemon relish to shine!


Don’t be afraid to create a painting on the plate. Simple plum sauce with dots of Sriracha do the trick nicely.

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