The Artist In A Chef!

Cuisine and art have intertwined in such a way that the presentation of a dish says as much about the chef’s mastery of the flavors, as it does about the artist in him.

Appreciation of a dish, once solely dependant on the taste and aroma, shifted to visual appeal. In certain cuisines, attempt is even made to evince different emotions like humor or surprise.

Chefs are doing everything they can to render their guests speechless, not only with the taste of the food, but also the presentation of food, which can easily be compared to a piece of art.

If you are a connoisseur of good food, you would have noticed that any restaurant worth its salt is placing emphasis on spectacular arrangement and presentation of dishes. A successful chef is one who makes the food taste good, while retaining its flavor, texture and the practical ease of eating it. After all, nobody would want to be served a tower of asparagus that topples off the plate in an embarrassing fashion as soon as the fork touches it.

The presentation of a dish is based on the texture, color, shape and size of the food being served. The idea is to make the presentation aesthetic, balanced and cleverly placed to ensure the dish is eaten the way it is meant to be. If the dish comes with a sauce or gravy, chefs suggest pouring the sauce on the plate first, followed by the actual dish itself, topped with a little more sauce or gravy, and finished off with the garnish. And the most important aspect of presentation is to ensure that whatever is on the plate, including the garnish is edible. All this is done with artistic flair.

Professionals suggest using large plates, so that there is plenty of room and the food is not overcrowded, which can be a turnoff visually. One option is to arrange the food in a clock-face format, so you have the vegetables at 10 o’clock, starches at 2 and meat at 6. Even the most experienced chefs do admit that this is not rocket science, but the art of food presentation requires imagination, immense patience and deftness of hand, almost the same as an artist painting the curves of a beautiful woman on a canvas.

Most chefs consider the book, “Working the Plate, The Art of Food Styling” by Christopher Styler, a must-read for food presentation. This book defines the different styles of contemporary food styling used by chefs today.

Apart from imagination and deftness of hand, creating a beautiful food presentation also requires some accessories intrinsic to this art; ranging from the kitchen knives, spatulas, tweezers, froth making machines, droppers and spritz bottles. It does not end with using the right cutlery. Picking the right crockery is a must – especially plates that highlight the food’s natural texture and color – to make it a masterpiece.

It is not just about eating food that looks great. In many countries, the effort and thought that is put into the arrangement of food on a plate has cultural ramifications as well, like in some Botswanian homes. They lay great importance on food presentation. For example, if the pap (traditional porridge) is just dumped on to the plate, it may be left uneaten or the character of the person who served may be questioned.

Japanese cuisine is known for its breathtaking food presentation. They have certain rules too. The food is mostly arranged in the prime-number combinations of one, three or five ingredients on a plate. Colors play an important role and are based on the event or the season. For example, during celebrations, red and gold are used, and while, black or silver are used for somber occasions. French food lays a lot of importance on food presentation and is known around the world for its different styles. In Thai cuisine, the ancient art of carving fruit and vegetables into flower shapes is used to present a dish, table or buffet spread.

Throughout the world, food connoisseurs believe that if food is presented well enough, it can pass off as good even if the taste is not actually great. Basically, in the culinary world, there is an unspoken agreement that food today has to be presented in an artistic manner and has to be as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate.

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