How to Nail Plating like a Pro

Make your food photos drool-worthy on Instagram by using these food styling tips from experts.

Priya Prakasan

We eat through our eyes and nose first and that is why a beautifully presented plate of food excites us. Food plating and presentation plays an important role in the food service business. Corporate chef Ajay Thakur, Hitchki, Mumbai says, "When plating any food, the most important aspect is colour. Using colours to contrast the dishes adds vibrancy to the dish. Micro greens and edible flowers can give a nice touch but one must remember that anything on a plate, including garnishes, should be edible at all times.” The arrangement and overall styling of food can be simple or complex using ornamental consumables, edible garnishes, and other toppings If you too wish to nail the art of plating, here are tips from chefs to help you step up your food presentation game to make them more Instagram-friendly.

Minimalist approach 

Since visual composition of food on your plate is the first thing that attracts anyone, your first aim should be to make your plate visually appealing. Chef Paul Kinny, culinary director of The Phoenix Mills Ltd, Mumbai says, "Eating is about all the five sense and hence a dish should be visually appealing in order to satiate the diner. For Phoenix’s culinary brands, we follow the minimalist approach and ensure that the plate is not too crowded." The thumb rule to follow when plating the food should be to never go outside the rim of the plate, including the garnish which he suggests should be edible.  

Pay attention to details 

Choosing the right plate for a dish is very important because it can make your food really stand out. Pay attention to the details you want to showcase on a plate, visualise it ahead of the plating to get it right. Bangalore-based executive Chef Anurudh Khanna from Shangri-La Hotel says it is important to maintain the right balance of textures such as crisp, soft, crunch and foam. Experiment and play with colours, shapes and texture to enhance the appeal of the dish. Whereas Bangalore-based chef Suresh from The Chancery Hotel advises to ensure to finer details—portion size, gravy spills, unevenly cut garnish, etc—it can alter the aesthetics of the plate. He says, "Adding a surprise element to the dish increases the curiosity and enjoyment. For example—use micro herbs, edible flowers, dehydrated powders."

Avoid clichés 

To make the presentation personalized you can use different props. For instance, Delhi-based Chef Sudheer Arora from Travel Food Services swears by shot glasses as well as toys and handicrafts that will add a whole lot of drama and help you project a distinctive style. Alternatively, if you want to keep it simple, Mumbai-based Chef Amit Bajaj of Glocal Junction suggests relying solely on accompaniments such as sauce and dips.

Structured chaos 

Cyrus Irani, associate director culinary from Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai prefers minimalism, he believes less is always more. He says, "Food plating is extremely important as it psychologically influences people before they eat what has been put in front of them.” He refers to a technique called 'structured chaos', which involves laying everything on a flat surface and symmetrically arranging them based on contrasting colors and textures. It is one of the easiest ways to make your dish appear visually appealing.  “If you are employing this method for main course dishes consisting rice and gravies create demarcations with the most solid ingredient which could be rice or salad. That will ensure that the food does not seem messy,” Irani adds.

Abstract Work of Art 

The art of food styling and plating does not always have to be over the top. Play around with simple and subtle components that can completely transform the whole look and feel of the dish. Chef Priyank Chouhan from Shiro Bangalore says, "Plating today incorporates a mix of elements such as fun, fitness, fashion and festivity. Most chefs are moving towards more abstract and trendy forms of food plating and breaking old traditional ways. "

The art of elevation 

Head chef Munawar Taher Peerzade from BKC Dive is very particular about plating, " Food plating is a craft that one can master by a mere play of ingredients, colours and symmetric. Vertical plating is a trend that we have latched on to currently. 'Tower food' not only makes the food look good but also creates intrigue around it with a 3D effect and include different kinds of edible garnishes.  Also, contrasting colours and usage of right canvas is the key to a successful plating,” says Peerzade.

Photo Credits: Bangalore-based hotel Shiro, Hitchki Mumbai


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