Spring into easy food preparation.
Article by Chef Martin Lopez
As a chef who works year-round creating beautiful menus for events and holidays, one of my favorite seasons is springtime. It is bright and colorful, with flowers blooming – a new beginning, and fresh air. It’s the perfect time to incorporate brilliant colors into your food, create wonderful aromas using delectable spices, and let the food do the talking. Your preparations and presentations can be as easy and fresh as spring feels.
When I have an event or a party on my plate, I work very closely with the coordinators, directors, and hosts to create a magnificently tasty experience for them. Now I’m privileged to be working with you to bring the bloom of culinary color and flavor to your events. Together, we can create classy and amazing presentations. Remember – people “eat” first with their eyes.
As planners, we know our clients can be pretty picky about food. So much of our focus tends toward health concerns, including the creation of gluten-free and sugar-free dishes, and the omission of ingredients or foods we’re accustomed to using. It’s really important not to undermine the visual impact and great taste of the food while you are trying to please the client. When food is visually appealing, it stimulates our digestive juices, which helps us maximize the body’s absorption of nutrients while enhancing the pleasurable experience of eating. It’s not just a nicety – proper food presentation actually can aid your digestion!
So, how do you combine gorgeous presentation and enticing flavor to create magnificent dishes? I’ll give you some simple food presentation techniques you can use to craft visual and flavorful delights that your guests will talk about for days.
The shape and color of your dishware is very important for plated meals and buffet services. Brightly colored food looks beautiful on white china, which allows the food to “pop” – whereas colored or patterned dishes can visually compete with the food. On the other hand, if the food is a uniform color, such as a cream soup, then a patterned dish can offset it nicely. I also like to use colored and clear glass plates and platters, especially for chilled foods.
If the meal itself isn’t that colorful, adding garnishes can increase its appeal. You can use fresh herbs, spices and zested citrus to make the food look brighter and the plate presentation pop. Always try to incorporate bright colors into your dishes — think reds, greens, yellows, blues, and purples. These come most often from roots, vegetables, berries, and proteins. This technique offers you the benefit of good nutrition as well. Each color represents a different set of nutrients, so when you “eat by the rainbow,” you’re ensuring your body gets the widest variety possible.
Serve food on warmed or cooled dishes as appropriate; proper presentation isn’t just a visual thing, it also appeals to the other senses. If you’re serving a cold salad, it will taste much better on a chilled plate. Not only does it “feel” better, it also helps preserve the salad’s freshness before it reaches the guest. If you’re serving a warm soup or entree, preheating the bowl or plate adds an extra layer of comfort.
If you are serving a plated dinner, stacking the vegetables on top of the starch, and the protein on top of the vegetables, will give your dish a three-dimensional boost that adds appeal and transforms a simple meal into something fancy. You also can crown your plate with fried leeks, noodles, or onions to give it height. I always say, “The taller, the better.” And don’t forget herbs, ever so lightly sprinkled.
One of the simplest methods for building beautiful dishes is to “shape” your food. Shaping tools can be found among everyday kitchen items, including measuring cups, ramekins, measuring spoons, ice cream servers, or any other basic tool that can be used as a mold. For example, you can use a measuring cup to mold your quinoa or rice into a magnificent round shape. If you’re concerned that the food will stick, grease the mold lightly with coconut oil or olive oil, depending on the flavor of the dish. High-end cooking sprays also work well.
Finally, food is much more appealing and better received when it is served in small portions. So just remember, less is more. It’s always better to serve elegantly and conservatively, then allow people to go back for more if they wish. Food is meant to be a focus of gatherings and events, so enjoy the process and be creative. When you keep in mind its effects on all the senses, you will be amazed at the beauty you can cultivate on a plate.
To learn more about Chef Martin Lopez, visit his website at www.ChefMartin.net.