Creatvity unleashed on a plate! -By Aruna Rathod
Food styling makes an appetising dish appear artistic.
The best compliment for chefs is when a dish is first appreciated for its ‘looks’ with an exclamation:“how could I even think of eating it, it looked so beautiful that I just kept staring at the dish!”
Vijayan Gangadharan, General Manager, Four Points By Sheraton, Pune states that food styling is creativity unleashed. “It could be truffle samosas in the case of fusion of flavours and textures, or using liquid nitrogen used to freeze ingredients (such as berries, citrus, herbs, and honey). Foam, air and bubbles are a great way of adding a molecular touch to any cocktail. For instance, in case of a strawberry martini, you can add ‘coriander’ in the form of a nitrogen bubble, so one has the fragrance of the coriander and the taste without the real coriander leaf!.” Nitrogen is used to make some ingredients so cold and brittle that they can be broken into tiny pieces, or even crushed into a powder (currently very trendy at haute cuisine spots).welcome to the world of styling – visually, with flavour and taste!
Plating adds a WOW factor to food. Chef Robin Batra, Executive Sous Chef at Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai observes, “Plating gives a new dimension to the food being served as it is said that we always eat with our eyes. Plating creates interest in food and the food has to look the best without any compromise on the authentic taste.”
While the sense of sight influences our perception of food, Chef Mayank Kulshreshtha, Executive Chef – ITC Maratha says, “The secret of delivering delectable food is the way in which it is presented. Presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing manner enhances the overall experience of a dish and also elevates the diner’s rating of the flavour of the dish.” While European cuisine has always been presented well, Indian cuisine, popular the world over for its taste and variety, is almost there. “With Indian food becoming global and its taste being accepted by most nationalities and countries, it was but natural that it has to be presented well,” says Batra, adding that with the advancement of social media, cooking
shows brought in the concept where Indian food started to be plated like western food. The advantage of Indian cuisine is the variety of ingredients and concepts, making it easy to be plated and presented.
Basics of styling
Once upon a time, maybe 10 years ago, plating food meant a fixed place for the meat, starch and accompaniment, without any reason for it. “Modern concepts of plating do not follow any rules. Rustic, colorful, emphasis on taste and texture, nutrition and eye appeal is what it’s all about. It’s important that plating takes the dining experience from good to ‘Incredible! Spectacular! Unforgettable,” says Chef Batra.
Chef Mayank Kulshreshtha has a few basics for food styling. “Layer the food and play with contrasting colors and textures to increase its visual appeal. Make sure that texture and colour of the ingredients go hand in hand,” he advises. Other pointers he adds are: Ensure the garnish harmonizes with the dish; Limit portion sizes. Ideally, fill about two thirds of each plate with food; Convenience of eating should be taken into account while plating the dish and authentic taste and flavors must be maintained.
Styling is an art, hence it can be enhanced with either the food itself or colours, textures and placement. “I would say one doesn’t require elaborate equipment but excellent crockery - plates to small and big cutters, special spoons to pour sauces, squeeze bottles to make sauces flow on plates, smoking guns to add smoke to dishes, siphons guns to make foams are required,” says Batra.
Kulshreshtha is of the opinion that besides the different types of plates, brushes, spatulas, tweezers, squeeze bottles, etc. the final product is based on the quality of the ingredients and the chef’s innovation and creativity. Gangadharan adds that it could be any equipment that catches the fancy of the chef. “Knives, skewers, brushes, tweezers, paper towers, glycerine – some are used in preparation for the dish and some are used for food photography.”
To put it simply, food styling is a culinary experiment with unconventional ingredients for an artful display.