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Top Chefs Share Their 10 Food Plating Techniques and Tips

The visual appeal of food is one thing that attracts diners to a restaurant. The way the dish looks on the plate can make or break its chances of being ordered. Here, we’ll tell you food plating techniques from the top chefs.

A dish is only as good as the way it’s presented. We are constantly being tempted by what we see, smell, and feel in our world today—the more aesthetically pleasing a dish looks, the better chance of someone ordering it.

Oxford University’s Charles Spence, an astrophysicist, studied the effects of food presentation on taste. The study found that even when there is no difference in ingredients between two dishes, they are presented identically. Still, one word has an “ugly” name or picture accompanying it; then, people will find themselves preferring the more aesthetically pleasing option.

Spence gave 60 people three salads in the study and asked them to rate each one before and after eating them. The salad ingredients were all the same but arranged it mattered a lot. One person made an unappealing mess of things while another created something pleasing with consideration for appearance.

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I am going to ask you a question. Which of these salads do you think the diners liked best? 

The salad was well-designed.

In a study by Spence, 29% of the diners said that they thought it tasted better even though there were no changes to ingredients. Click To Tweet

This shows how vital plating is in food service and why customers are willing to spend more on well-plated dishes.

You might not think of a salad as a delicious dish, but it can become more appealing with some presentation. Click To Tweet

It makes the meal seem worth something.

The point of this article is to give you some plating techniques that will help your sales process.

When we talked to chefs Daniel England, Joyce Tang, Tanner Agar, Jim Solomon, and Michael Welch about their favorite food plating techniques for presenting dishes on a plate, they each pointed out five key factors: color; the arrangement of ingredients; balance in the dish’s proportions – are there too many or not enough pieces? Texture – do different textures combine well together? How easy is it for guests to eat what you have made without making an awkward mess with your presentation technique? So, how to plate food? What are the food plating ideas?

The top food presentation ideas and plating techniques

  • Create height on the plate
  • Cut meat horizontally
  • Play with textures
  • Use contrasting colors
  • When you go to a restaurant, the decor must match the food theme. For example, if there are many seafood dishes on the menu and blue colors throughout (i.e., water glasses), one should dress in more casual attire such as khakis or jeans instead of wearing something like a suit.
  • Choose the proper plates
  • Serve smaller portion sizes
  • One way to make food more appealing is by adding garnishes. These can be edible or non-edible, but either way, they are meant to add a little bit of flavor and decoration.
  • When in doubt, keep it simple
  • Express yourself

plating techniques

1. Create height on the plate

The first of our plating techniques is making height on the plate. The chef, Daniel England of San Diego’s OMG Hospitality Group, likes to create size on his plates by placing the food at different heights.

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2. Cut meat horizontally

England recommends slicing meat into thin pieces to show off its quality.

When cooking meat, one of the plating techniques is to slice at o 45-degree angle and cut against the grain for maximum tenderness.

3. Play with textures

JoyThe chief baking officer at La Chinoiserie in Oakland, California, Joyce Tang, gests adds textures to make a dish more interesting.

“I like to play up contrasting textures on my plate,” she adds. “Foams are usually really helpful in plating and can be quickly done by adding different sauces or ingredients that provide a contrast between texture.

4. Use contrasting colors

Tang also notes that it is important to be careful with colors and avoid artificial ones. She instead uses natural colorings such as matcha, powdered sugar, or fruit extracts to catch the eye more.

“Presentation is the key,” she says. “If you take your time to present each dish, it will be more visually appealing, and people will find that much more interesting.”

One of the plating techniques I have learned from Tanner Agar, owner, and chief experience officer at Rye Restaurant in McKinney, Texas that people are not just motivated by pay.

plating techniques

To add color to your plate, you can use more colorful ingredients. Agar recommends that cooks start using carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables in various colors.

5. Match food presentation to your restaurant theme

One of the plating techniques Jim Solomon, chef and former owner of The Fireplace in Brookline, Massachusetts, says is that the plating style should match what you want your restaurant to feel like.

“You can’t put a plate on the table that tries to emphasize vertical and architectural compositions in an ethnic restaurant, where it seems like grandma is cooking in the kitchen. That would be pretentious and ridiculous.”

A recent study from the Culinary Institute of America found that guests at expensive restaurants want to see a level of artistry and care taken in crafting dishes. Guests do not expect simple, welcoming presentations where flathe is stre,used but don’t want fancy food with complicated flavors.

To optimize your menu, you should think about serving the food.

Solomon believes that food should balance color, thoughtful garnishes, and an element of height or visual texture.

6. Choose the proper plates

Pacific Beach’s Backyard Kitchen & Tap has an executive chef who preaches the importance of choosing plates that are both large enough and colorful to make your food look appetizing.

“It’s not the only thing that matters, but I think it is one of those things where people are kind of conditioned to associate blue with sadness or death,” he says.

“If you have something with a lot black and white in there, maybe use white plates.” Click To Tweet

Jim Solomon echoes the importance of choosing a functional and eye-catching dishallows chefs. “Choosing the right vessel for your dishes will make it easier on you as well as any guests who are dining with you. It also gives chefs an opportunity to show off their personality in how they present each dish.”

7. Serve smaller portion sizes

In a recent article, the National Restaurant Association named smaller portion sizes as one of five top restaurant trends for 2019.

One of the plating techniques is when you’re serving food; the most important thing is to make sure that your guests are satisfied. Portion sizes vary depending on what type of establishment you run but smaller portions are typically easier to serve.

To avoid a dish looking too overcrowded, only use six elements.

Related read:8 Ways to Cut Your Food Bill in Half

8. Use edible garnishes and decorations

Garnishes and decorations are a great way of styling your dish, but there are some guidelines you should follow to ensure that they stay safe.

In the plating techniques, whatever you use, whether it be a herb or spice, make sure that the ingredient is edible. Everything on your plate should first elevate the taste and promote visual appeal.

9. When in doubt, keep it simple

Welch also emphasizes the importance of simplicity.

It is essential to keep things simple and avoid unnecessary oils or spices. Keeping it clean will make your food taste better.

Instead of adding a ton of different garnishes or sauces, let the quality speak for itself.

A well-cooked steak with fresh watercress and roasted potatoes will look better than a poorly cooked dish with too many ingredients. The contrast of textures in the different dishwordses it an appealing aesthetic.

10. Express yourself

Plating food is where chefs can let their creativity shine. This, in turn, has a high impact on how guests perceive the dishes they are eating.

Chef Brian Poe believes that chefs should approach food plating and presentation just as an artist would create their next piece.

When it comes to presenting, Poe says that there is no right or wrong way. Just take a moment to observe what others are doing and find your voice in the process.

One of Poe’s favorite approaches is to go “Jackson Pollock,” holding out the plate like a canvas and splattering it with sauce. He says that sometimes he will use one style for an entire dish, or another time he might mix two types together to get different effects.


Time-saving tools to help your food preparation 

The presentation of your food is an important detail. You want it to look great, but if you are serving a hot dish that will go cold quickly, the speed at which you plate the meal should be considered.

The process of ordering food can be a pain, especially when you have to call the restaurant and wait on hold for five minutes. However, with these three easy steps from The Ladders, chefs will have more time to prepare your meal.

plating techniques

Lightspeed POS allows for the quick and easy transmission of orders sent from servers to cooks in seconds.

Kitchen staff see orders in real-time on their kitchen display system and can notify servers as soon as the dish is ready to be run. This saves time, because by waiting for dishes at just one point instead of all points, they can focus more attention on plating food.

Good restaurant technology can make ordering and preparing food easier for your cooks, which means they will have more time to create dishes with great visual appeal.

Related read: Restaurateurs Share Their Tips for Success


Food plating and presentation matters 

When people eat, they want their food to taste good and look appealing. In addition, the ambiance of your restaurant will play a role in how satisfied they are with their dining experience.

The plating of your dishes is a primary key to success. Click To Tweet

Each element must be done well for the dish to stand out: color, arrangement, balance, and texture. If you nail all these aspects, guests will likely, rave about your food on social media.