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FEATURE

Quintessence of Plating

Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 15:20 Hrs  [IST]

Food plating and presentation are essential components in modern day dining. However, plating is often overlooked by chefs who are either too busy or more concerned with the taste of their dishes. People eat with their eyes first, therefore creative and thoughtful plating enhances the interest in the food. Focusing on presentation also allows chefs to showcase their creativeness and demonstrate to guests that they’re getting their money’s worth. Asmita Mukherjee explores the importance of plating and presentation in modern dining.

Food presentation is as important to the success of a dish, as its flavour, and taste. The arrangement of food elements on a plate tempts our visual senses and makes us want to taste it, which is a critical success factor for restaurants. Scientific evidence collected through neuroimaging also supports the importance of plating by showing that the sight of our favourite meal leads to a 24% increase in cerebral blood flow when we are hungry. Therefore, understanding the finer nuances of food plating and presentation is essential for the hospitality industry, in order to provide adequate satisfaction to their diners and guests.

Influence of Food Plating and Presentation
Several social media platforms like Instagram have introduced us to pictures of beautifully decorated food plates termed as Gastroporn or Foodporn. This concept of food as a means to arouse the visual sense has only grown more prevalent over the years, combined with our overall addiction of photographing food and gazing at pictures of food online and on mobile devices. Elaborating on the influence of food plating in social media, Nitin Mathur, Executive Chef at Taj Santacruz, Mumbai commented, “Most of the diner decisions are based on a picture of the dish they might have come across on a friend’s Instagram account or on any other social media platform. It has become imperative to captivate their attention at a time when a picture speaks louder. We have witnessed a tremendous change in the way a diner views the entire culinary experience for the last couple of years. It is safe to say that they enjoy the recipes as much with their eyes as much with their mouth. However, it is equally important to maintain the authenticity of the dish being served on the table.” According to Hiroki Arai, Speciality Japanese Chef at JW Café by JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, plating and presentation of the food creates a first impression for the food that is offered to guests and thus can hugely impact the overall taste and perception of food.



The food industry relies heavily on efficient plating and presentation methods, as is echoed by Manushi Jain Baldawa, Director of ThinKitchen by Seeba Life-Styles Private Limited, “As a key player in the industry we have seen a change over the past few years, the food industry has been heading in a new direction. Chefs are constantly innovating and creating new opportunities for the restaurant industry by designing enticing dining experiences thus providing a bit of inspiration for everybody! It’s said that 20% of our appetite comes from the presentation of a dish, so if it is poorly presented, it will affect the enjoyment of the food. As it is popularly said, we eat with our eyes first, so the presentation, no doubt, has to be great and immaculate!”



Important FaFactors in Plating
Some of the important plating and presentation features are cleanliness, timing, balance between variety and contrast, garnish, portion size, and the occasion itself. Chef Arai opines that the total balance of one plate is a key factor. Japanese cuisine is often served on unusual, asymmetric dishes of varying materials and textures. The idea of perfect food alignment is also considered boring and predictable. Instead, a slightly askew look can actually encourage engagement with the dish and an overall sense of peace while eating.



Planning is yet another factor which is essential for effective plating in order to complete the final step in the labour over countless hours that chefs put in their food creation. Arindam Bhattacharya, Executive Chef of Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa, lists the most important factors in Effective Plating, as Planning, Choice of ingredients, Cooking Technique, and choice of plate. Planning for food presentation must include, what will be on the plate, and also, how the plate will be set up.

The importance of correct plate selection cannot be underestimated in food presentation. To achieve a well-presented dish, the plate must be in harmony with the food and the garnishes. Also, the plate must be appropriate for the type of food being served. According to Sarika Kamble, Executive Chef of Crowne Plaza Pune, choosing a perfect plate which complements the dish in terms of size, and colour is one of the most important steps in effective plating.



Plating styles in vogue
A number of plating styles are used by chefs across the world, but all of them follow the common theme of functionality and practicality. Some food plating styles have lost their sheen over the years, mostly due to changing diner preferences, and food variety. According to Chef Mathur, “the traditional French presentations of starch items at 10 O’clock and veggies at 2 O’clock don’t do well these days. The plating needs to be 3 – dimensional, with a combination of colours, cuts, and flavours. While the styling needs to look artistic, it needs to stay true to its roots”. Some of the current presentation styles followed by chefs such as Chef Bhattacharya include constructed, deconstructed, locally inspired, mono portion, individual glasses, and jars. Further, presentation styles are also influenced by the region of cuisine. Plating styles differ from chef to chef and hotel to hotel. As Praduman Bisht, Executive Chef at Marriott Suites Pune says, “We use many kinds of plating and presentation styles such as, traditional Indian ware like Brass Uruly, Copper Deghchi / Handi and Clay Pots for Indian food, Classic Pans, Pots & Bone China for Continental & Oriental buffet, Molecular Gastronomy styles and ingredients for theme specific foods & events. We also use wooden platters, cheese boards & other old school plating techniques for rustic theme food & buffets”. Chef Arai throws light on another important factor of presentation style, namely simplicity. He says, ”I follow the Japanese authentic plating style, as food presentation is a crucial component of Japanese cuisine. The way the food is shaped, coloured, set and garnished can make a huge impact on the impression of the dish. The idea is to keep the dish moderately simple, polished, and keep colours like red, yellow, and green. I follow the rule of three when plating Japanese dishes, to make the most of the original taste of local ingredients”. Amit Dash, Executive Chef of The Westin Pune Koregaon Park, thinks that recipe dictates the plating and presentation style. He elaborates further by giving the example of a meat course, which requires starch, veggies, and sauce to complete the dish. Although market trends spell the plating styles, the usability of the decorative items also plays a big role in the plating and presentation. Chef Kamble says, “I usually follow the market trends and experiment with abstract, alternative plating, stacking of food and tantalising fresh colours.” She also adds that everything on the plate, even decorative items, should be edible as far as possible and should complement the dish.



Tools and Technologies of the Trade
Plating food is a refined art that takes time to master. And while perfecting plating is down to technique and practice there are also a few food plating tools that are essential for finessing the finishing touches. Having the proper food plating and presentation tools is crucial to high-quality plating. Prem K Pogakula, Executive Chef, The Imperial, New Delhi, informs about the various tools used for food plating like, Decorating Brushes, Moulds, Plating, and Precision Tongs, Plating Wedges, Shavers, Spoons, and Squeeze Bottles.

Chef Kamble mentions that the current trends in modern food plating techniques include everything from unique types of gelling and thickening agents as well as techniques used to hydrate chill or heat. She thinks, that the impact of these techniques and ingredients play a major role in the final texture and plating of the dish.

The chef directs food plating according to their own sensibilities, traditions, and cuisine. Today, many chefs also incorporate styling based on trends such as molecular gastronomy. Chef Bisht elaborates on the modern tools and technologies of plating by saying,” Along with the traditional tools and technologies of basic kitchen gadgets, sauce pipettes, and molecular tools are also being used for the purpose of food presentation.”

Although various tools and technologies are used for the purpose of plating and presentation, it should be kept in mind, that to achieve a well presented dish, the plating must be in harmony with the food and the garnishes. As Chef Nitin says, “Molecular gastronomy is one of the many ways to achieve improved textures, though the usage needs to be appropriate”.

In Japanese cuisine, presentation is as important as the taste of the food. Thanks to Japanese knives, a beautiful appearance and intricate details can be achieved. Sushi chefs typically use between 5- 7 knives to prepare their dishes, and each one has a specific function. A sharp Japanese knife leaves the slices with clean edges, retains the flavours and makes the food look better. According to Chef Arai, “Japanese kitchen knives are the primary plating tools. As you may know, Japanese knife is very sharp because we sharpen it every day. If we take care of our knife properly, we can arrange all ingredients as we want and the shape size we desire. Be it slicing very thinly, cutting or chopping to exact same size. And I think it will lead to make my plate more palatable.”



Future trends
Food plating and presentation styles have witnessed a number of changes over the years, but diners remember a delicious meal that’s plated with creativity and originality. As diners become more appreciative of different plating techniques, chefs are encouraged to experiment with different styles leading to new trends in food plating and presentation. Chef Dash shared several interesting futuristic food plating ideas, which he wants to implement such as Zero Gravity Plating, Scaling, 3D Printing Moulds, Fan Effect, and Monochromatic Dishes. Anand Kumar, Executive Chef of Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks puts forward his thoughts on the future food plating styles and trends, “I feel key future trends in plating will be taking inspiration from landscape gardens, using modern crockery to enhance the presentation in a simplistic way, using slate and stone as a plating device, and also organic materials such as wood”.



Chef Pogakula raises a concern about future food plating trends based upon the busy lifestyles of today, by commenting, “I think the major trend that will impact and evolve the plating and presentation aspects of the food business is food delivery, since home delivered food has minimal human interferences and is mostly served as a one pot meal with no presentation.”

asmita.mukherjee@saffronsynergies.in

 
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