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Enhancing Food Presentation

Enhancing Food Presentation

Planning a design before arranging a spread will greatly enhance the visual appeal and practicality of a buffet presentation. (photo by the CIA)

Culinary Institute of America

The Role of Design

When we like the way many elements are combined together in a single display, we use a variety of words to describe the effect: simple, elegant, balanced, integrated, unified, organic, or even synergistic. The banquet chef’s task is to exploit the full sensory potential of every dish to create a presentation that is practical, functional, and appealing to all the senses. Planning a design that enhances food presentation is an important way to highlight the work of the garde manger and to benefit from the special skills that go into planning and producing a unified, thematic, and successful buffet.

Judgments about what is fashionable or beautiful are subjective They change over time, sometimes quite rapidly. However, the basic principles behind good design and presentation remain constant, even if the specific expressions of those principles keep evolving into new styles and trends.

One of the primary purposes of food presentation is to be functional and practical Enhanced food presentations integrate all aspects of the buffet, including the theme, the menu, the style of service, and your clients’ expectations. The goal is never to simply meet those expectations and standards, but to exceed them. A well thought-out and executed plan is a distinct advantage in any successful buffet. It is important to remember and always think of these techniques as enhancements to the food’s appeal; the real importance and focus of the food should always lie, ultimately, in its flavor and texture.

Balance, as it relates to the work of the banquet chef, is achieved by combining the physical aspects of food in the context of specific design principles Food supplies the important visual elements: colors, textures, and shapes. Additionally, the foods you serve also supply two important, but non-visual, elements: aroma and flavor. The design principles at the chef’s disposal include symmetrical or asymmetrical compositions, contrasting or complementary arrangements, and the use of lines to create patterns or indicate motion. In creating a balanced presentation, be sure to also take into consideration the accessibility of each item to be placed on the platter. Place larger items in the rear and lower items in front. Items such as sauce boats should be kept in an area that does not disturb the design, but allows the guest easy access.

A certain amount of regularity and repetition is comfortable and appealing, but too much of anything becomes monotonous, whether it is an ingredient, a color, a shape, a flavor, or a texture. Introducing contrasting elements adds energy and motion to an arrangement. However, when every element seems to stand on its own, the effect can be chaotic.

Throughout menu development and buffet design, record information about each menu item. Include not only estimates of amounts to prepare and portioning information, but also colors, textures, and other important characteristics. You can use this information as you plan the layout for individual platters or other displays.

A food’s natural color is one important tool in platter presentation The color of a food can be used as an element in design. We associate with colors in very specific ways. Greens give the impression of freshness and vitality. Browns, golds, and maroons are warming, comforting, and rich. Orange and red are intense, powerful colors. Colors that harmonize are those that touch each other on the color wheel (for example, green, blue, and violet are complementary colors, while blue and orange are contrasting). Clashing colors are rarely a problem. A more common concern is the overuse of one color on a single display.

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