They say the first bite is with the eye. In reality, visual appeal plays a part in the enjoyment of every bite from start to finish.
As a nation of food-lovers, the United Kingdom as a whole has never been more demanding when it comes to food presentation.
So if you’d like to begin having your proudest dishes sell themselves on looks alone, the following tips could come in handy:
Focus on Colour
First of all, getting it right with colour is all about balance. Simply throwing a world of bright and bold colours together doesn’t guarantee an attractive result. Consider not only contrast, but also the colours of the season, those appropriate to the nature of the dish itself and so on. If the dish is naturally devoid of vividness, a strategic splash of colour can make all the difference.
A Touch of Texture
People begin experiencing dishes long before they actually eat. And as the perfect balance of textures makes for a quality dish, the same can also be said for plating. For example, a simple dash of something crunchy – toasted seeds for example – can enhance the visual appeal of soup significantly. The addition of crunchy pickles or other vegetables to tender pieces of meat has the same effect.
If the dish in question demands a certain amount of skill and precision to prepare, it’s good to demonstrate this visually. Common examples being a perfectly cooked steak being served sliced to illustrate the perfect temperature, or perhaps a melt-in-the-middle dessert photographed burst open. And of course, the yolk of a perfectly poached egg speaks for itself!
It’s hard to create visual appeal with a dish that is two-dimensional. For example, a simply stunning risotto may deliver on taste and satisfaction, but may also look like a boring grey mass on its own. By contrast, add a couple of bright-green asparagus shoots, a few flakes of parmesan and maybe even an edible flower to the dish and the whole thing bursts into life. Rather than positioning the elements of the dish side-by-side, think more about strategic layering.
With the exception of a few dishes – mostly in the dessert category – symmetry doesn’t tend to be appealing in food presentation. Instead, dishes tend to come across more appetising if the components are presented in odd numbers and the plating as a whole is not symmetrical.
The Perfect Background
Last but not least, if you are plating dishes for the purposes of taking photographs, the background and surrounding elements you choose can have as much impact as the dish itself. Depending on the dish, you could enhance its appeal by placing it on a farmhouse-style wooden board, surrounded by homemade preserves on a classic checked tablecloth. For grilled meats, nothing beats the great outdoors. The way you frame and complement the dish with the right background and surroundings really can make all the difference.