How to Improve your Food Plating Skills and Presentation

We eat with our senses and our first impression of a meal is its appearance. If you are a keen foodie, Instagrammer or planning to start a food blog, your plating skills and food presentation are essential! If you own a fine dining establishment or an eclectic café it is important to find a style that reflects the identity of your chef and establishment, and if you are a home cook, thoughtful and attentive plating will improve the appearance of your dish and impress your family and friends.

food plating skills

Tip #1 – Get the recipe and envision all the ingredients

It is important to know how many ingredients are required for the recipe. Choose your main ingredient and garnishes and have everything ready before beginning the plating.

Tip #2 – Knife skills

When cooking, a good knife and knife skills are important, and it is essential to present ingredients accurately and symmetrically.  Cutting ingredients to the same size as well as careful slicing and mincing of ingredients will look attractive.

cutting a brunoise

Tip #3 – Choose the perfect plate

Think like an artist; the plate is your canvas and the food your medium. The plate should be big enough for the food to stand out but small enough, so the portions don’t look too small. The colour of the plate is also significant depending on the dish you serve. Avoid bright blue plates because it is not a natural food colour, whereas red increases appetite. White plates are popular as they are neutral and dark plates might provide a good contrast for light-coloured dishes.

Tip #4 – Balance is important

Each ingredient needs its place on your canvas. Less is more! Keep it simple and don’t overload your plate as it will be easier to style. Start focussing on the main ingredients as the ‘hero of the dish’ and plate with a clock in mind. Protein should be between 3 and 9, the starch between 9 and 12 and your veggies between 12 and 3. If you are serving bite size food like shrimps or scallops, always serve odd quantities; 3,5,7 will create a more visual appeal.

Tip #5 – Create height on your plate

Don’t just stack ingredients but balance taller ingredients by leaning long flat items against them. Build from the bottom up and if necessary, get yourself some rings or moulds to create structure.

Tip#6 – Design and create with sauces 

Use squeezy bottles or a spoon as a paintbrush. Dots and drizzles in different colours are popular nowadays, but the smeared sauce technique is also still a good way to display a sauce. Swirls bring a dish to life and are easy to make with the help of a cake turntable. Foams add texture and are easy to apply too.

use of squeezy bottles

Tip#7 – Choose edible garnishes

The garnish should always be edible and have a purpose. Garnishes finish the dish but should also complement the flavours. Avoid cluttering the plate with garnishes and place them with intention. We also advise avoiding large garnishes and those with a strong odour, choose herbs wise.

Food plating tools

Plating is an art and learned through practice. However, there are a few tools that make the process easier:

  • Kitchen tongs and tweezers – every chef has at least one pair to place delicate or small items on the plate.
  • Brushes – brushing a sauce on a plate, whether small or large strokes, is easy with a decorating brush. 
  • Moulds – rings are helpful to create height and structure. A puree or vegetable stack in a particular shape adds to that very important first visual impression.
  • Squeezy bottles – these are essential to create precise dots and drizzles without splashing the plate.
  • Microplane graters – also called shavers, allow you to shave or grate cheese, truffles, lemon zest or other final decorations over the dish.
  • Invest in a plating kit – a set will have all the necessary tools to develop your plating skills. 

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