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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

Texture is important to the way food looks, as well as the way it feels in our mouths The surface of a food will have a tendency to either reflect light or absorb it, making some foods glossy and others matte. Some foods have highly textured exteriors while others are very smooth. The way the food feels when you bite into it is another aspect of texture that the chef needs to include in a plan. Too much of the same texture is monotonous.

Cooking technique is vital to great presentation, because no matter how artful the display, the way the food tastes is the most important element. In addition to assuring that foods are flavorful and at the right temperature, the process of cooking gives the chef a chance to enhance the food in other significant ways. “Visual flavor” is an important concept to the garde manger chef when creating a cold food display. Unlike hot foods, with their abundant aromas to entice the guest, the aromas of cold foods are less apparent, making it necessary for guests to “see” the flavors. Some techniques deepen or darken the food’s exterior; grilling, roasting, and smoking are a few examples. With these cooking methods it is also relevant for the guests to be able to see the seasonings used on the food, i.e., specks of seasonings and herbs or the shine of oil from a dressing. Other techniques introduce new elements, such as coatings or wrappers; pan frying and deep-frying are two such techniques. For an interesting selection throughout the menu, introduce a number of different techniques for a variety of flavors, colors, and textures.

The shape and height of the food is an important part of buffet presentation Food has three dimensions. Cubes, cylinders, spheres, and pyramids are just some of the shapes food can assume. Alternating or repeating shapes in a design is one way to add visual interest to food arrangements. You can alter the natural shape of a food by cutting or slicing it. To give height to foods that are naturally flat, you can roll or fold them, arrange them in piles or pyramids, or use serving pieces such as pedestals, columns, or baskets to raise foods.

A focal point serves an important function on a platter It introduces a large shape into a field of smaller shapes. It adds height. It can make the arrangement logical and sensible to the guest; one common focal point is a grosse pièce (literally “big piece”). The guest can instantly identify the food on the platter. Sometimes, in place of a grosse pièce, there may be one or more significant garnish elements. The garnish elements are things that can possibly identify what is contained in the food, such as an herb or citrus zest or other ingredient. They can also be ingredients or items that suggest a style or region where the food originated. Such a garnish functions in the same way as a grosse pièce; they too are most effective, and attractive, when they offer some information about the food instead of simply adding a spot of color.

Strong, clean lines arrange the food neatly and logically Lines can be straight, curved, or angled. When two lines meet, they create a shape. When you repeat a line, you create a pattern. The more evenly spaced the lines, the more obvious the pattern. The wider the spaces, the more obvious they are as discrete lines. In order to have a line, you need a starting and ending point; the focal point in an arrangement is that reference point. Lines can move from or toward this point and thereby introduce a sense of flow or motion into the arrangement.

The platter’s layout can be symmetrical or asymmetrical The position of the focal point on a platter or plate determines how the food is arranged. A focal point positioned off-center means that one side of the arrangement appears to have more weight than the other. The lines extending away from the focal point are of different lengths. When the focal point is positioned in the center, it gives the impression that both sides of the arrangement are in equilibrium. The lines radiating from the focal point are the same length. Asymmetrical arrangements tend to look natural while symmetrical arrangements look formal.

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