Thursday, March 13, 2008

Basic Food Styling / Food Plating (Part 1 of 2)

I've recently attended a 2-day Food Styling Seminar conducted by Chef Anna Limjap Park of Culinary Productions Inc. The culinary module involves basic food plating philosophy and techniques which are further segmented into 4 parts: a) basic food preparation, b) plating, c) styling and d) practical application. The workshop taught us how to transform a basic commodity into a desirable necessity via the added value of design and visual appeal. I would say it's a perfect training to let the creative juices of Professional Food Servants like us flow abundantly. We were essentially a team of Food Technologists and Chemists; in other words technically equipped people transforming foods into commercial food products to make them readily available and shelf stable for the consuming public. If the Chefs own the kitchen, we have our food laboratory as home base. Do I say this training is relevant and useful for my work? Definitely yes, what more to inspire and stimulate a passionate foodie in me.
Food Styling or Food Plating is defined by Chef Anna as the way "how food is arranged on a plate and garnished. It is here where a plate of food is treated like a painting and the rim of the plate is frame". The cook or chef is encouraged to create the "artist" in him. There are three important elements in Food Plating. One, is the proper selection and cooking of food. Next, is the plate selection and last, the equipment.

In Food, the color, shape, size and texture will play vital roles. It's necessary to think of different accompanying colors and possible cuts in one thousand and one ways. Just bear in mind that meats and poultrys have their own standard cuts, it would be better to play more on hard vegetables. What is key, is to achieve variety and balance. On cooking the food, basic rules must come like a mantra.

Meats - tougher parts (muscled / exercised) must be cooked in moist heat. Less exercised parts are normally cooked in dry heat (e.g. pan-frying).

Poultry - white meat cooks faster than dark meat. Fry skin-down, high heat at first then low on the other side until the juice that comes out is clean.

Seafood - it's cooked as soon as it turns pink. Boiling is a no-no, just simmer.

Vegetables - must be crisp and tender. Cook one at a time. Pre-cooking or blanching is used as a normal technique.

Pasta and other Starches - cook aldente meaning "to the tooth". Wash the cooked starch immediately and oil it a little.

Sauce - use just to enhance not key.

Garnish - anything to enhance the look of the food but should always be edible and tied up with the dish. The size must be just right (not too small not too big) enough to be mixed and eaten with the food.

On Plate Selection, white is the basic and the best available. "It provides a clean and unobstructed canvass for food. The important rule is to not overcrowd it. Again, don't make it too busy!" It should be multidimensional also, add some height etc. The most common technique is to clock it. Usually, the starch is placed at ten o'clock, vegetables at two o'clock and proteins at six o'clock. It will add more drama if a focal point of the meal is created. Moreover, a concept of geometric contrasts will provide a good arrangement and presentation. Slight mess is allowed but must be controlled. Generally, the rule of thumb is to make it simple and realistic. This is where the artist in the cook/chef will play a substantial role.

On Kitchen Tools, the basic must haves are butchers knife (for meats), Chef's Knife (for all kinds of chopping), vegetable knife (for peeling), serrated knife (for bread and some fruits), filleting knife (for fish) and meat fork.

These photos show some examples of garnishes. The first photo above has sugared fruit (strawberry and grapes), scored citrus slices (orange), citrus twists (lemon) and melon or mango balls. These garnishes can be used to dress up cakes or puddings, fish, salads, drinks and desserts. The second photo has strawberry and mango fans. These are commonly used in cakes, pies and milk shakes. The beautiful tomato rose below is perfect for any type of dish either savoury or sweets.


The idea of Food Plating left a very stimulating experience in me. Now, I find it an integral part of the food itself. Who would be enticed to dig into a plate that presents a food in its utter mess look? Of course, we all want that impression of delicate cooking onto our food. Inevitably, the manner it is presented reflects much of how it's cooked and prepared. Thus, at the very least the food presentation must exude all delightful culinary senses to last down to the very end of the bite. The challenge therefore is to create innovatively like a scientist do. Cook, the finest chef way and work like the greatest painter of all times. There will be no reason then for the plate to be left untouched.

2 comments:

Cubangal said...

hi my name is nory and im at the LATTC culinary curse and i love your plating. Im from cuba and I was searching for ideas for food plating and i like yours. Im looking for books because at the school we do not get a intensive food plating class and i would love to get one

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