One topic that has fascinated me since I really got into the culinary world is the art of plating. In culinary school, this was a confounding subject to me. What did it really mean to be artful? Some of my fellow students were naturally beautiful plate designers. But what did that mean? Sure, I’d been to snooty restaurants where the food looked too good to eat. But what I was being taught was that every plate, no matter where you eat, should be at least thoughtful if not artful. We were taught about BUFF: Balance, Unity, Flow and Focal Point. I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I can’t really define what this concept means today. My school chefs commented that my food looked like “airplane food”. I graduated from Culinary School about a year ago and this should be second nature but through my course, I feigned its understanding. Sorry, professors. I was a good theory student but as an artist, I was weak. You knew it. I knew it. I still search for knowledge and understanding.
When I have guests over for dinner I try to add some kind of plating design. Not until I came across an article sent to me via Linked In through a website called Chefs-resources.com did I understand the basic components for plating design. It finally resonated with me! Pause for angels singing…. The article talked about when cooks are plating, thinking of the end result, how your plate is going to look when presented to the customer/guest. But beware readers, if the plating is not bested by taste you needn’t knock yourself out. Food should taste better than how it looks. If it doesn’t, why bother?
For small dinner parties it’s nice to have an artful look to plates even if to “up” your guests. I belong to a dinner club here in Bobcaygeon. My advantage is my culinary training. But without a true understanding of the art of plating and the heartful knowledge that taste wins all the time, my co-members will best me every time. READ: I am ultra competitive. I LOVE it when others wow me at their homes but then the pressure is on. How do I respond when my turn comes back around? It’s petty, I know but I want to “up” my game whenever I can so that I grow as a culinary professional and provide a good experience when guests come to my home. The competitive among you will also read that I WIN.
And this is truly digressing from the very reason why I do what I do: create meals that every person can enjoy. Really, the beauty of being a cook is to create flavour combinations that will make people stop in their tracks and think, “this exceeds my expectations”. This is how I rate a restaurant. I’m that eager patron that studies the menu prior to going to a restaurant the first time. I select my menu options and then choose my meal depending on how I feel when I get there. Honestly,this makes me a horrible patron. I can scour the menu countless times and still not have a menu order when the server comes to the table because I don’t want to eliminate anything. I’m one of those deplorable people that has to hear what everyone ELSE is ordering so that I can strategically “off” order as to effectively cover the menu well. Yes, it’s exhausting and oh so STUPID. I should order what I want but my judgment gets clouded under pressure. I try to have an entry plan, hence reading the menu prior but that rarely helps. So when I finally order from the menu, I have a certain expectation. When a restaurant exceeds these I rate them extremely high. Believe me; I don’t eat at Fine Dining establishments very often for this reason. I have very high expectations and these kinds of restaurants RARELY exceed what I’m expecting. And frankly they’re expensive. If I don’t feel that the VALUE is there. In my opinion, the best restaurant finds are those unassuming private restaurants that blow my mind because of their flavour combinations and yes plating designs; simple or complicated. A recent example of this is a local Sushi restaurant in Lindsay On. I happened upon this place because it’s located beside my dentist. I was skeptical upon entering because, let’s face it, Lindsay isn’t close to a major fish wholesaler nor a major city. Anyway, I placed my order: sashimi and tempura. The plating design knocked me out AND the flavour bested that design! This restaurant continues to be a favourite of mine today: Teriyaki Town in the Westney Centre, Lindsay, ON
At Culinary Edge, our gourmet meals delivered will always look tasty. Our catering meals will continue to improve but they will always be outdone by flavour. If you’re interested in learning how culinary artists create their plates, click on the link below for a beautifully written and very understandable description of different plating styles. It could change your next dinner party.