March 29, 2010

Plating Basics: Cashew-Peanut Puree and Raspberry Preserves with Root Vegetable and Whole Grain Artisan Mash Bread

That's right folks.  PB and J with carrot sticks!  To show that presentation is a huge part of any appealing gourmet dish, I used a recipe that was so simple and so common that you can practice plating with any meal or snack.

I recently attended the Asheville Bread Festival in Asheville, NC where I had the opportunity to take a workshop from bread master Peter Rhinehart.  He actually discussed plating and said that he always looks for four things:

-Balance--Does the dish look balanced?
-Unity--Does the dish appear unified or does it look like you just went through the buffet line?
-Focus--Does the dish have focus and is the focus on what's important in the dish?
-Flow--What is the energy and spirit of the dish?  Did you capture it?

BUFF.  These are relatively subjective assessments, but it gives you an idea of what the pros look for when it comes to plating.  Here are my tips:

-Construct something--Find an interesting way to create something visually that people have never seen before.  There is as much art in presentation as there is in the cooking.  In our picture above, we elevate peanut butter and jelly with carrot sticks to a high art through presentation alone.  This dish could easily be served in a high end restaurant or it could end up in a school cafeteria based on presentation.  Find the art in your food.

-Look to add contrasting colors and flavors--Garnish and toppings are essential to any dish and are meant to be eaten.  Here I added a small sprig of Chinese broccoli flowers from my garden to draws the focus of the dish from the bottom to the top.  It also adds a floral hint to it all.  Use your imagination.

-Find the canvas--Don't try to add garnish where it won't be seen.  We eat with our eyes before it gets to our mouth.  Find the areas of your dish that look visually bland and find a way to add color or contrast.  Here the peanut butter is tan and the bread is brown.  It's very monochromatic.  So, we offset the peanut butter with the jelly and the bread with the flowers.  Suddenly, the dish has "flow" and energy.

There are no hard and fast rules here.  Play around.  See what looks artistic.  You can't make a mistake and your skills will improve each time you are intentional about plating.


  1. I found your blogs through E2 forum. Thank you for sharing. This one captured my interest. Is there any book around that you would recommend about plating?
    Keep on blogging. I will follow your blogs.

  2. Thanks Breezy! I appreciate it! I haven't seen any books on plating but there must be one somewhere. I would suggest looking at art and architecture books with an eye toward food. Plating is more about visual art than anything.