I lay a golden slice of Pommes Anna in the upper right third of the plate. Then seven sautéed yellow beans find their place parallel to the potato wedge while a scattering of bright green buttered peas are set across the beans like a bridge. I place two sautéed tournedos of beef in the bottom center and finish my canvas with a spoonful of truffle sauce. Welcome to my heaven on earth, where plate design transforms into an artistic movement and beauty is in the eye of the eater.

It’s been five straight days of plate design with Chef Mike, and I can honestly say that it’s been my favorite part yet of the Culinary Career Program. Then again, I’m the type of person who considers food as art (remember my Grilled Salmon Tranche Mona Lisa?).

But this week proved that there’s more to cooking than just preparing the food. What good is a perfectly sautéed piece of lamb if it’s sliced too thick and shingled to appear like a frowning face on your plate? As the old saying goes, we eat with our eyes, then our stomachs, so plating and presentation are of utmost importance. Chef Mike walked us step-by-step through the proper plating procedures, which taught us to plate with a sense of flavor, color, shape, balance and texture.

Forever a food styling fanatic, I took great pleasure in laying each piece of food down piece by piece on my plate. You’ll notice a careful balance of colors in the images above, which is a crucial component to plate design. Serving sautéed strip steak with browned potatoes and pan sauce? Kick up the appeal of the plate with a bright vegetable like sautéed kale or spinach. The green adds a pop of color to an otherwise monotone plate.

We’ll take Chef Mike’s tips and more into our next section of Module 3 as we enter the world of French Cuisine. From cheese soufflés and duck confit to tarte flambee and cassoulet, we’re diving headfirst into the traditional tastes of France one bite at a time.

Coming up next: Regional French Cooking from Normandy and Brittany, Alsace, Midi and Provence

A look back:

Lesson 1: Mise en Place

Lesson 5: Medium Dice & Mirepoix

Lessons 6-10: Fabrication & Stocks

Lessons 11-14: Meat Fabrication

Lessons 15-19: Classic & Contemporary Sauces

Lessons 20-24: Soups & Sauteing

Lessons 25-32: Frying, Braising & Beyond

Lessons 33-37: ‘Tis the time to tourne

Lessons 38-42: Now we’re cookin’

Lessons 43-49: France, Italy & China, here we come!

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