To be clear, this is not food porn or food styling that this article will delve into, these are means by which gourmet chefs can incorporate tried and true methods to make themselves and artist while still delivering delicious, yet edible food. These are not means by which food photographs better where it is cooled, painted or delivered in a fashion that is done simply to make food look better. Rather, these are techniques that showcase the chef’s abilities in a matter that makes people not only eat with their eyes but each of their senses.
Let them watch
The open kitchen and table side preparations give the chef an opportunity to act as a performance artist. While the open kitchen may seem a touch passé, how would you like to go to a circus where half the performance is held behind a closed curtain? While you can still enjoy it the performance, something is inherently lacking. The sounds of meat hitting the grill, the flourish of knives that need a quick sharpening, the deglazing of a pan with alcohol that immediately erupts in flame without burning the dish should never be discounted as part of the experience. This is also how bartenders have become mixologists, or baristas become artists. Someone misspelling your name on a paper cup in a busy Starbucks is a long ways from an artist using a spoon to give you a “float” of Monin hazelnut syrup in a well-chosen glass, before lovingly topping it with whipped cream and sprinkling the top with crumbled cacao nibs.
Plate as canvas
Perhaps the biggest canvas a chef has available to them to show there artwork is on the plate itself. Plating, or more specifically, truly unique plating is the best place for a chef to show his craft as an artist. Simply selecting the “plate” for a meal is no different than an artist choosing the size of his or her canvas before the first brush stroke is made of ingredient reaches the plate. The use of negative space, color, depth, are all available to the chef with the simple selection of a unique delivery vessel. This works at any part
Everyone loves flowers
The use of edible flowers and micro-greens tweezed on to a plate shouldn’t be discounted wholesale. The use of a white coffee flowers, or chrysanthemums on a dark dish of braised or lacquered short ribs, serves two purposes. Each of those ingredients can substitute for a desired peppery finish while providing a colorful contrast to the dish itself. While a still-life of a bowl of fruit may be trite, Monet’s “Water Lilies” still packs museums when it travels.
From smooth to rough, food as a golf course
No matter your personal feelings on golf, an aerial shot of a golf course is a beautiful thing. The juxtaposition of a manicured green against the ruggedness of nature is beautiful thing to behold. The use of texture is another means to make someone eat with their eyes and relish their first bite, the smooth texture of a lamb’s tongue looks a masterpiece with the velvety texture of the protein meeting the visible crunch of a chick peas, the crumbles creaminess of feta and the contrast of vibrant red pepper puree shows a chef working in acrylics rather than watercolors in a paint by number affair at a senior center.
While these suggestions hardly run the full gamut of occasions where a chef’s creations show off his or her flair, it’s a start for both the gourmet chef or the home cook trying to get their children to eat broccoli by making it fun.