There is no doubt that the visual component of dining can have a big impact on what we think about the food that is presented to us. Some experts tell us its influence can be as high as 50 percent of the process of forming an opinion. Think not? How do you feel when you cut into a fish and realize it is raw on the inside? How does a steak that bleeds all over the plate make you feel? See what I mean?
Long gone are the days when most restaurants just slap food on a plate, and, in fact, a sense of composition is a necessary skill for most chefs. And it isn’t all fine dining either. I do know a few chefs that are true artists, like Chef Alex Perry of Vestige, Chef Austin Sumrall of White Pillars and Chef Matt Killinikos of Thirty-Two, there work is so amazing I have been organizing a photo exhibit of their work for a local art gallery for some time. Food is art. But pleasing presentation has become so important, restaurants of all ilk make it an everyday practice.
So, what’s stopping you from presenting your family with plates that have been composed with some thought and artistry? It won’t take that much time, just give a thought or two to the colors you are using, the structure of the plate ,like architecture, and height is always good (by the way, that’s why taking a picture from the top looking down on a plate drives me nuts! Why make everything look flat?).
Colors should go together, but form some contrast. A green salad becomes something altogether different with a few slices of green avocado and red tomato. You don’t have to have a squeeze bottle to make swirls or interesting little paths of droplets of sauce on a plate, but it doesn’t hurt! A cheap plastic bottle with a small, screw on top, with a small aperture, will do nicely. You can create height by stacking those fried green tomatoes into little totems, put grits into small ramekins, and let them firm up, then pop them out and anoint them with sauce, or just top with a fried egg. See? It really isn’t that difficult and your family and guests will love it.
You do not have to recreate a Monet watercolor, just take a few minutes to think things out, show a little pride in what you are serving, and your Thanksgiving table will be a happier place!