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Presentation of your food is very important. For your guests, the actual taste of the food will be their last sensory experience of your dish. They will smell your cooking first, then see it, and then finally taste it. Smell can affect your guests the moment they step through the front door. But after time, the aromas are no longer striking to the senses. Minutes or hours can pass before you actually get to the table.

But it is just then, that first sight of your dish, that will be moment of excitement to trigger the anticipation of tasting your culinary creation. “Soon,” your eyes will say to your waiting stomach.

So the visual impact of your food needs to be on your plate as a consummate foodie. Just look at that pasta above. It has appeal. You’re ready to grab that fork, right?

In her encyclopedia Food Styling, Delores Custer works every aspect of food presentation. True, her book is oriented toward food photography. But many of her lessons learned do apply to each of us every day. You want the food to immediately appear attractive. You are striving to inspire the instinctive parts of the brain. No need to think. Just enough time to  say, “Yummy.”

One of Delores’ key principals is evident in the photo above: use a small plate. The plate size here makes the food “seem” abundant. Those pasta spirals seem ready to roll right off the plate. The red pepper slice is perched high above. Or so it seems. Thanks to a small plate that is not too deep, and careful “piling of the pasta.”

Delores has other recommendations for food stylists that can help you in plating your own dishes, too.

  • Bold prints on either the plates themselves or on the surfaces [your tablecloth] will distract from the food.
  • There are many shades of white. Look for a warm white, not a blue white, to make your food look best.
  • If you are going to be photographing your food, think about how it will sit in or on the plate. A flat plate is important for a cake being photographed with a slice taken out. A plate with an elevated rim is likely to cause that cake to cave inward and spoil your shot.
  • And, finally, if you are going to photograph your food, plates that have tall sides or rims make shooting at a low angle difficult. Look at the photo above, with its short rim that enables the low camera angle to capture food and not plate.

Delores’ book is filled with great tips for food stylists. I’ll be passing along more ideas that can help you, the local chef, create beautiful looking dishes.

Source: Food Styling by Delores Custer