The icing on the cake
“Patients being treated in hospital deserve tasty, attractive and nutritious food served at a time that suits them.” – Loyd Grossman
Not limited to five-star gourmet houses, distinguished a la carte menus or Michelin masters expertly skilled in the art of mise en place, well presented food can swiftly transform patients’ eating experiences. We’re instantly impacted by the appearance of our food before we even take the first bite, so how food looks really can influence our enjoyment of it. The presentation and taste of food are interlinked and this is important because it actually “flavours” our expectation of the taste, and can stimulate or suppress our appetite. We turn our noses up at lasagne that looks like a pile of mush or porridge that looks as if it could be used as wallpaper paste, and for all we know it could be the best we’ve ever tasted. The fact is we eat with our eyes. We get heaps more pleasure and satisfaction out of eating food that’s well presented and arranged on our plate. The more presentable it is, the more appetising it is. Spaghetti Arrabiata with just the right amount of cheese sprinkled on top, a dusting of coco powder accenting a luscious slice of chocolate cake, or a fresh slice of lemon perfectly placed on top of crisp battered cod…need we say more?
So, how food is presented makes a big difference to patients’ experience of meals, and is very important in relation to eating, nutrition and health as well as making patients feel valued and looked after. Given how much care, time and hospital spending goes into providing food and drink for patients, putting a few finishing touches to meals and snacks is truly the icing on the cake. Here’s an ideas’ buffet to help you add pizazz in your pizzas and verve to your veg!
- Each dish is shaped to look like the original ingredients. For example, puréed chicken can be thickened and shaped so that it looks like a chicken breast rather than brown mush. Purée moulds are available from here.
Enhancing the attractiveness
- Herbs from the ward herb garden used to decorate the mash potato.
- A simple sprig of basil or parsley works wonders.
- Funky stencils are used along with cocoa powder or icing sugar or even paprika.
- Patients finish off their dish with a little garnish/flourish made in the cooking group.
- Classes on food art and garnishes delivered by the OT.
- Patients design their own pizzas, including recreating a tomato, cheese and dough version of their pet (or consultant?)
- Each ward was entered into a Christmas cake competition.
Taste the difference?
We eat with our eyes via the food’s colour, texture, shape, design, and presentation.
- Baking cakes was one of the better things experienced.
- Producing food means making food look good, as well as tasting good.
- It means the placement, the color, texture, and temperatures have to be correct and functional.
Fundamentals of Plating
- It is said the plate of food is the picture and the rim is the frame, but simple is the way to go. Do not get too carried away.
Three essentials of food presentation:
- Good preparation and cooking techniques
- Professional work habits
- Visual sense
Colors and Shapes
- Two or three colors on a plate are more interesting than one.
- Many foods like meats, poultry, and fish have little color other than shades of brown, gold, or white. An appropriate addition of color will make these plates sparkle.
- Even the simplest addition of a sprig of parsley or watercress adds a lot.
- Shapes: plan for a variety of shapes and forms as well as colors. Remember, you can prepare vegetables to give the plate more eye appeal.
- Have to be properly prepared but can be made more attractive by cutting or molding them into various shapes
- Garnishes should be simple, edible garnishes that have a close kinship to the dish
- Garnishes are totally visible, but need to make sense to the tongue
- The old “KISS” principle is important when considering the type and scope of garnishes
- Some foods can be molded by using metal rings, circular cutters. These molds can create height and keep the plate neat and clean
A very important consideration
- If a plate is too PACKED it looks overcrowded, jumbled, and messy.
- If a plate is too large, the portions look skimpy.
- Match portion sizes and plates
- Balance the portion sizes of the items on the plate.
Recommendations for Plating Attractively
- Keep food off the rim of the plate
- Arrange the items for the convenience of the guest
- Keep space between the items, unless stacking
- Maintain unity
- Make every component, including the garnish, count
- Use sauce and gravy attractively, and don’t drown every plate in sauce or gravy
- Keep it simple (KISS)
- Serve hot foods hot, on hot plates
- Serve cold foods cold, on cold plates
The word garnish is derived from a French word meaning to adorn or furnish. A garnish should fit the plate and the color scheme
Read the entire presentation at: http://www.slideshare.net/rafgriep/the-importance-about-garnishing
If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant, you’ll know that fabulous WOW! Moment when your food arrives looking something gorgeous like:
Exceptional artistry with everyday veg! But a quick (but obviously very safe) twirl
This is a fun and easy way to decorate food and make it look more attractive!
Edible rice paper
Perfect for the next ward jubilee party / queen’s birthday!
Edible printer ink!!!
Why not print an image of the patient’s fave football team, pop star or consultant (maybe not) onto rice paper sheets!
Yes…this printer ink is edible!
Edible ink pens
Patients can doodle on their homemade cakes, sausages….
Edible Wafer Flowers
Lovely for making cakes (or fruit!) look instantly smart and delightful. Most large supermarkets have a great range of instant cake garnishes and flourishes.
Abstract from here
It was hypothesised that consumers’ expectations of liking for a food would be affected by its appearance both when raw and when cooked and that the impact of these expectations on actual liking for the product after eating would vary with consumer awareness of internal body states (private body consciousness). We found that consumers’ expectations of liking for the food generated by the appearance of the cooked product was related to expectation of liking from viewing the raw product. Under some conditions, consumers liked a food less after consumption if a raw product that generated low expectation of liking had been presented beforehand. There was no evidence that private body consciousness modified the consumers’ susceptibility to expectation effects. It was concluded that expectations of liking for a food generated by appearance both when raw and cooked influenced final evaluation of the product during consumption.
Food supplies the important visual elements: colors, textures, and shapes. Additionally, the foods you serve also supply two important, but non-visual, elements: aroma and flavor. The design principles at the chef’s disposal include symmetrical or asymmetrical compositions, contrasting or complementary arrangements, and the use of lines to create patterns or indicate motion. In creating a balanced presentation, be sure to also take into consideration the accessibility of each item to be placed on the platter. Place larger items in the rear and lower items in front. Items such as sauce boats should be kept in an area that does not disturb the design, but allows the guest easy access.A certain amount of regularity and repetition is comfortable and appealing, but too much of anything becomes monotonous, whether it is an ingredient, a color, a shape, a flavor, or a texture. Introducing contrasting elements adds energy and motion to an arrangement. However, when every element seems to stand on its own, the effect can be chaotic.
How to Plate Food for Presentation
Read more here
Presentation is an important part of a memorable meal, and many home chefs pay close attention to both the taste and display of the food they serve. In addition to using some simple techniques to style the food, a unique table setting is also helpful when dressing up dinner. With some thoughtful menu planning and creative food placement, dinner itself becomes an eye-pleasing and tasty work of art.
- Choose a serving plate big enough to allow for larger food items, but small enough that the food proportions don’t look scant. Although any color of plate can be used, a white dish is best, as it provides a simple backdrop for variations in food color.
- Arrange food in a clock-like pattern, placing a carbohydrate such as rice or pasta at the 11 o’clock position, vegetables at 2 o’clock, and the protein at the 6 o’clock position when viewed by the diner. Proportion wise, the vegetables should cover half the plate, with starch and protein each covering one-fourth.
- Use an odd number of food items. For example; if you are serving prawns, place three on the plate rather than four. Plan a menu that contains foods with two or three different colors, and use a variety of food textures, avoiding similar soft foods.
- Use height in your plate presentation. If you serve rice or mashed potatoes, use an ice cream scoop to present the food in a ball and surround it with vegetables.
- Finish the plate using an edible garnish that complements the flavor and look of the main dish.
Read more here
1. Serve the food on plain plate
White plates work well with most foods, but not all, so consider the colour of the food and also the type of dish that you are serving. A prawn-filled tortilla would look much more at home and delicious on a rustic terracotta plate, whereas a slice of dark chocolate torte would go perfectly on white.
2. Size of plate
Think about the size of the portion that you are going to serve, it doesn’t always have to relate to what you’d actually eat! An over generous wedge of gooey cake looks much more appealing than a calorie conscious slice! The general rule of thumb is to use a smaller plate, where the food fills it, so that the food is the main hero of the photo and not your best china.
3. Plate presentation
Make sure that the plate you are using is scrupulously clean. Rinse it under hot water and dry it with a clean tea towel, then put in position without leaving any fingerprints on the edges, as these or any grease marks will show up on your photo. If you move the food around the plate when serving and leave marks these can easily be removed with kitchen towel or a damp cotton bud – the invaluable tools of a food stylist!
4. Star of the show
Make sure that the main part of your dish is at the front of the plate. Place any accompaniments or garnishes to the side or back so don’t steal the show. When placing the food on the plates, get the star into place first and then add the rest afterwards. Leave off any items that don’t add anything to the overall look of the main feature.
Keep garnishes nice and simple and make sure that they relate to the food and that the colours compliment it. A sprig of fresh coriander can really bring a creamy chicken curry to life. If using salad leaves pick out the best ones beforehand and leave in a bowl of cold water in the fridge, then gently shake them dry in some kitchen towel and arrange on the plate just before serving, and the general rule with salad leaves is that less is more!
6. Dishing up
Some dishes look great as a portion on a plate, whereas others work so much better served whole in the dish they were cooked in. A great example of this is lasagne – all golden and bubbling straight out of the oven, but a bit of a mess as a portion. So before you dig in take a picture of the whole dish, and then take out a spoonful and see what you think – a picture with a scoop out is often the best, as you see the golden top, but also the creamy white sauce oozing into the meat and tomato layers beneath.
Get all your food into position, including garnishes but before you pour the sauce think about where you want it to go on the food and also where it will fall on the plate. Add a little at a time, as you can easily add more (but it’s very hard to take away!) You don’t always have to add the sauce to the food, if you have a perfectly griddled salmon fillet with a creamy sauce consider putting the sauce in small bowl on the plate with a herb garnish to make the best of both.
8. Tricks of the trade
Mix a little olive oil with warm water and lightly brush any food that has been sitting for a while and lost it’s shine. A soft paintbrush is ideal for this. You only need a light brushing, too much and it’ll looked varnished, but a slight hint and you’ll restore the food to it’s just-cooked glory.
9. Spritz away
Lightly spritz vegetables and salad leaves with water to ensure they look freshly cooked or picked. A small perfume atomiser is great for this. If using green vegetables, undercook them slightly to ensure they keep their colour and plunge into cold water after cooking to help them stay that way.
A plate on its own can sometimes look a little bare, and the addition of a few props can make all the difference. It could be a folded napkin tucked under the plate, a fork laid casually next to the slice of cake or a glass of wine in the background. Whatever you use, make sure it looks natural and goes with the food you are serving – a red and cream tea towel wrapped around that dish of lasagne would be perfect.
The Influence of Colour on Taste Perception
Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation fascinatingly describes how the colour of food affects how people experience its taste:
‘Studies have found that the colour of a food can greatly affect how its taste is perceived. Brightly coloured foods frequently seem to taste better than bland-looking foods, even when the flavour compounds are identical. Foods that somehow look off-colour often seem to have off tastes. For thousands of years human beings have relied on visual cues to help determine what is edible. The colour of fruit suggests whether it is ripe, the colour of meat whether it is rancid. Flavour researchers sometimes use coloured lights to modify the influence of visual cues during taste tests’.
Resources & References
Food Presentation And Garnish
Raf Grief. Culinary Director, Intercontinental Al Khobar
Eating with your eyes: effect of appearance on expectations of liking
The importance of how food looks
Enhancing Food Presentation
How to Plate Food for Presentation
Ten tips to making your food look good enough to eat
The Influence of Colour on Taste Perception
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Is Visual Taste Perception Coloring Your Appetite?
The National Health Service Recipe Book
As part of the Better Hospital Food programme a range of recipes was developed in 2001 by a team of leading chefs, led by Loyd Grossman, food critic and broadcaster.
“Better Hospital Food us not only about the food on the plate. It is about presentation, about when the food is served, and how easily available it is”. – Alan Milburn, former Secretary of State for Health
Yes, this is recipe book dedicated to hospitals put together by top chefs. Amongst other elements it includes advice on presentation and many tasty and cost-effective recipes.
Downloadable from: http://www.hospitalcaterers.org/better-hospital-food/recipes.php
Fabulous range of edible art products for stencilling, drawing, even printing!
Shaping pureed and other soft food and stencilling
Some cool cucumber garnish tips can be found at:
Food Presenting Secrets: Creative Styling Techniques Jo Denbury, Cara Hobday
Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation. Christopher Styler
Garnish and Decorating Made Easy. Georg Hartung