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A Picture Perfect Plate

It’s a simple fact: we eat with our eyes first. Beautiful presentation allows you to begin anticipating the flavors of a given dish before you take the first bite, heightening anticipation and the overall dining experience. Which is where the importance of plating comes into play. 

There's so much consideration that must go into every aspect of successfully creating the perfect plate, from the size of the components on the dish to the type of cut to the color and consistency of sauces or toppings. Photo courtesy Amber Kispert. 

There's so much consideration that must go into every aspect of successfully creating the perfect plate, from the size of the components on the dish to the type of cut to the color and consistency of sauces or toppings. Additionally, plating can also play a key role in how much you can charge per guest, which has become ever-more important as guest lists continue to remain low. 

Chef Keith Lord from Strateje Fourteen, put the focus on plating during Catersource + The Special Event during two seperate sessions: Breaking the Culinary Rules: Adding Cash—and Cache—to Your Menu Offerings, and then again during Hands-On Elevated Plating Techniques.

Chef Keith Lord, with Strateje Fourteen delivered a Hands-On Elevated Plating Techniques session during Catersource + The Special Event. Photo courtes WTA Photo via SpotMyPhotos.

"With a simple tweek of the plate," Lord said, "we can keep people excited about our food." 

Time to think differently

When talking about plating, there are a few elements that can almost be found on a plate: a protein, a starch, a sauce, a vegetable and, a garnish.  

"But we can do a plate differently," Lord said, "just by adding a touch." 

One alternative to a traditional plate is to place the sauce center plate as the main focal point. Photo courtesy Amber Kispert

During his session, Lord emphasized the need to think outside of the box with your plating. For example, maybe put a sauce center plate as the main focal point. Or maybe use a blueberry brach rather than a traditional bamboo skewer. 

Chicken, polenta and olives plated two different ways. Photo courtesy Chef Keith Lord.

"At the end of the day, it’s a chicken skewer and sauce," Lord says. "But, it makes way more impact." 

Chef Keith Lord utilized a branch from a blueberry bush for a chicken skewer, accompanied wtih a blueberry sauce. Photo courtesy Chef Keith Lord. 

And who says you can't upsell the root vegetable or starch? 

"Why does it have to be like it was before," Lord says. "We can look at things differently, we can look at our menus differently." 

Added value 

Beyond thinking beyond the traditional placement of food on a plate, Lord also emphazied that small touches, such as garnishes, can help enhance plates in order to exceed guests' expectation. Unusual ingredients coupled with beautiful garnishes and flourishes add cache and increased value.

"It's figuring out what else can I do a plate that is not only a perceived value, but also is value," Lord said. 

A mussels, green curry and eggplant dish, one with the shells and one without. Photo courtesy Chef Keith Lord.

For example, if you're serving muscles at an event, consider taking them out of the shell prior to plating. 

"With minimal effort to pull the muscles out to the shell, but there's a bigger impact," he said. "I don’t know about you, but I’d pay a little more money for that." 

Color can also give guest's the preception of added value. Photo courtesy Amber Kispert.

Another way to add value to your plate is through your garnishes. Rather than a traditional micro green or edible flower, why not think about adding some caviar. 

"It'll be a very decadent and extravagant plant, event its just a piece of fish with a little butter," he said.   We can't be afraid to use decadent things." 

Sturgeon, sea urchin butter and caviar. Photo courtesy Chef Keith Lord. 

So, how are you going to up your plating game? 

"I'ts all part of retooling of what we knew before, and what is going to help redefine us," Lord said. "We have a chance to reinvent what we do together." 

You can access Keith Lord's sesion, "Breaking the Culinary Rules: Adding Cash—and Cache—to Your Menu Offerings," by purchasing a Catersource + The Special Event On Demand Pass. 

Amber Kispert

Content Producer

Amber is the Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.