WATCH NOW: Grand Forks chefs dish on food arrangement and placementAnyone who’s flipped through a food magazine or visited an upscale restaurant knows that preparing and serving food isn’t just about taste. Presentation plays a big role in the overall experience.
By: Jasmine Maki, Grand Forks Herald
Anyone who’s flipped through a food magazine or visited an upscale restaurant knows that preparing and serving food isn’t just about taste. Presentation plays a big role in the overall experience.
“People eat with their eyes first, so you need to make it look good,” said Joe Hanson, head chef at Sanders 1907 at 22 S. Third St., Grand Forks.
Kim Holmes, owner of Sanders, has worked in the food industry since he was in high school. He first learned the importance of plating when he worked for a catering company in California in the mid-1960s. He later went to Europe, where he worked for a year in Italy and four years in Switzerland, further developing his culinary skills.
Now, Holmes passes on that knowledge to his chefs at Sanders, making sure they, too, understand the importance of presentation.
“The actual visual of the plate helps make it look and taste better,” he said.
If the presentation of the food isn’t visually appealing, the customer will think the chef didn’t pay much attention to the preparation either, he said.
Whether it’s an appetizer, entree or dessert, it all starts with a plate.
While some may be inclined to choose a colorful plate with a fancy design, Sanders 1907 and many other upscale restaurants stick with all-white plates, which act as a blank canvas for the food.
“I like a white plate because it accentuates the food,” Holmes said.
But, an-all white meal such as a white fish, a white potato and cauliflower, disappears on a white plate. These meals can be served on different colored plates, or on a white plate on top of a colored sauce to help make the food stand out.
The type of plate can play an important role, as well. Hanson prepared Sanders’ house pate and antipasto appetizers on two completely different plates. The antipasto, which is an assortment of cold salads and aged cheese, was served on a divided plate. On the other hand, the house pate and crackers were served on a flat round plate.
For serving entrees and other hot dishes, Hanson said warming the plate is a nice touch as it can help keep the food warm.
Along with choosing the color and type of plate, placement is important, as well.
“If it’s an appetizer or a salad, you want it to be the center focus,” Holmes said. “You might have a little garnish around it, but it’s right in the middle of the plate.”
The same goes for serving an entree. Holmes said you want the entree in the center with the sides surrounding it. For blue marlin, Hanson cut against the grain, sliced and feathered the pieces over top a creamy, brown sauce for a more interesting presentation.
Hanson suggested running a knife through the layered sauces to create a design.
As far as placement order, Holmes said they start with the entree, then the starch and finally the vegetable.
“And, then, you set it in the window, they wipe the plate and garnish it appropriately,” Holmes added.
For seafood, Sanders uses a lemon or lime garnish. For other meat, they almost always garnish with parsley.
“You want everything on the plate to be edible,” he said.
Holmes said another thing to keep in mind is the rim of the plate, which needs to be clean, so the chef can easily grab the plate without having his thumb go in the food.
“You don’t want things falling off the edge of the plate,” he said. “You want to keep them in the center.”
Have fun with it
Aside from a few simple rules or guidelines, Holmes said food plating is fairly easy. “It isn’t rocket science.”
At Sanders, Holmes and his chefs stick to simple plating, but he said people can really have a lot of fun with plating for dinner parties.
“It’s easier to do a private party because people have their favorite plates; they have certain dishes they like to bring out when they have parties,” he said. “They can get much more fancy with presentation and plating than I do in a commercial application,” Holmes said.
His final piece of advice was, “Just have fun with it.”
Quick tips to food plating:
• Start with a blank canvas. A clean white plate will help accentuate the food.
• Pool the sauce. Place the food on top of the sauce rather than vice versa.
• Create focus. Make the entree the centerpiece with the starch and vegetables on either side.
• Consider portions. Modest portions will allow guests to enjoy the progression of flavors without feeling bloated at the end of the meal.
• Add color. Use vegetables to add bits of color to the plate.
• Choose an edible garnish. A lemon, lime or parsley is the perfect edible garnish to finish the plate.
Maki covers Arts & Entertainment and Life & Style for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1122, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or email@example.com.