I’VE worked as a chef for over 20 years. In that time, like any other professional, I like to think I’ve developed my own style, drawing on various influences that I’ve come across over the years. Everyone does things differently, putting their own little twists on the food they prepare. One constant across the board though, is the importance of presentation when it comes to good cuisine.
From high-class Michelin star restaurants to small cafés and diners, good presentation of food is critical as it give consumers confidence in what they’re about to eat. Also if something looks good, it tends to taste better too. It’s no secret that we ‘eat with our eyes first’, and chefs the world over know this.
I remember the first restaurant that I worked in back in New Zealand, where they told me odd numbers looked better on the plate than even numbers. Now whether or not you agree with this or not, or whether you’ve even thought about it in such detail, the point is that there was thought being put into the appearance of the food on the plate.
This is not to say that food shouldn’t taste its very best – of course it should, but the point is your mind will already have a preconceived notion of how good or bad it is based on its appearance alone. Customers are always checking out what other people are eating and scrutinising display cabinets etc when they walk into a restaurant.
An example of appearances playing an important role in how food is presented to us are those classy images of burgers and fries that are displayed behind the counter in fast food outlets. How often does the burger that you get look exactly like the one in the picture? Not often I reckon, but the pictures are enough to trigger our brains and entice us to buy based on the ‘appearance’ of the food, even if we don’t see the actual food before it lands on the tray in front of us. Another example is photography in cookbooks – a huge proportion of the budget spent in producing these books goes on high class images of the finished dishes.
As I’ve said on a number of occasions previously, the culinary world is constantly moving forward and developing. So too are the ways in which cuisine is plated up and presented to us as consumers. Whether it’s the components on the plate, the way things are cut or sliced, colour combinations, lighting or whatever, there’s a science to it, and it’s a science worth studying especially for those in the food business. All of these touches go a long way to the overall experience for the consumer, but at the end of the day, the best presentation in the world won’t hide bad food. The trick is to get the flavour right first and then do it justice by making it look great and in so doing, enticing the consumer to try it out.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for something really easy to prepare, tasty and satisfying on these cold days, have a go at this recipe for country-style fried potatoes – great with bacon and eggs!
Country-style fried potatoes
A knob of butter
6 large potatoes, peeled, boiled or steamed and cubed
1 teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of ground black pepper
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder
Half a teaspoon of paprika
1. In a large non-stick pan, heat some oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are golden brown.
3. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
4. Serve hot with bacon and eggs.
Try adding a little curry powder and turmeric to make a lovely side dish
to go with pork or chicken