The Art Of Food Presentation — Plating Like A Pro

Professional chef reveals food presentation pro tips. This guide shares creative strategies for visually stunning culinary showpieces that delight customers.

I’ve learned that food presentation is just as important as taste. When it comes to creating memorable dishes that wow customers. While taste is paramount, how the food looks on the plate is almost equally as important.

The visual presentation delights customers’ eyes before they even take their first bite. An artful presentation demonstrates care, creativity, and skill. It can turn an enjoyable meal into an unforgettable dining experience.


In this blog post, I’ll share my tips and tricks for plating and presenting dishes. I’ve been a chef for 20-plus years and have learned a thing or two about plating food. Master these techniques to wow patrons and create Instagram-worthy culinary artwork with every meal.

Plating Like A Pro The Art Of Food Presentation


Food Presentation Plating Like A Pro

Throughout my career as a chef, I’ve come to view each plate as a blank canvas. Waiting to be turned into an edible work of art. While the flavors and textures of a dish are crucial, elegant, and enticing.

The presentation takes the meal to the next level, delighting customers and showing them you’ve put care into every component. As any successful chef knows, food presentation and plating skills are well worth developing.

Start With Quality Ingredients

Truly, exceptional ingredients make the job easier. The freshest, properly butchered proteins and peak seasonal produce. They showcase their natural beauty with minimal preparation required. While technique is important, sourcing the best seasonal ingredients gives you an advantage.

Focus on Color And Contrast

One of the keys to eye-catching presentations is playing with vibrant colors and bold contrasts. I like to feature ingredients with bright natural hues like:

  • Deep Greens — Spinach, arugula, fresh herbs, lettuce leaves, zucchini, fresh peas, and green beans.
  • Rich Reds — Fresh tomatoes, red bell peppers, English radishes, red beets, radicchio, red leaf lettuce, and sliced red meats cooked med-rare.
  • Sunny Yellows — Squash, yellow zucchini, golden beets, corn, and yellow beans.
  • Earthy Browns — Mushrooms, jacket potatoes, taro, Jerusalem artichokes, and seared or slow-cooked meats.

Contrasting colors help each component stand out. For example, I’ll place a seared med rare red meat like beef rump next to arugula or roasted potatoes to make both stand out. Varying colors excite the eyes and spark joy on the plate.

Mid-Rare Rump Steak Salad With Roasted Vegetables
Mid-Rare Rump Steak Salad With Roasted Vegetables

Chefs Pro Tip — Use colorful ingredients to your advantage. Don’t complicate the process, when preparing each ingredient keep it fresh and simple. You will be amazed at what plating designs you can create.


Find Inspiration In Nature

I find endless inspiration for plating designs by observing the visual beauty inherent in nature. Notice compositions like seashell spirals, patterns in flower petals, or leaves fanned on a platter. Mimicking nature’s artistry through food is a constant source of ideas.

Allow Simplicity To Shine

Sometimes simple is best if I don’t overcomplicate a presentation. When the star ingredients speak for themselves. A pristinely seared fillet of salmon needs little more than an herb oil drizzle and chive garnish to impress. Allow quality ingredients and elegant simplicity to shine when appropriate.

Draw Plating Inspiration From Anywhere

I find plating inspiration almost everywhere. Nature, artwork, and even well-designed retail displays. Study what paints a pleasing visual picture and think about how to replicate it on the plate. Inspiration is endless for those with observant, creative eyes.


Pay Attention To Shapes And Height

When conceptualizing a dish, I always consider the natural shapes and heights of each element I’m including. Mixing and balancing the shapes and vertical dimensions makes the presentation more dynamic.

For instance, balls of zucchini are cut using a melon baller. Potatoes are cut into rectangular shapes. Spears of grilled asparagus can provide vertical lines next to rounded potato rosti. Or combine the height of a vegetable salad with the low profile of a sliced seared beef. Defining individual shapes gives a satisfying composition.

Classic Pot Roasted Beef With Savory Herb Rub
Classic Pot Roasted Beef With Savory Herb Rub

Food Presentation Go Vertical

Height adds drama and excitement to plated dishes. I build upwards with stacked ingredients like potato gratin, blanched broccolini, and a confit duck leg placed on top. Salads become more dynamic when ingredients are arranged vertically rather than tossed haphazardly across the plate. Reaching upwards with towers and heights naturally draws the diner’s eye in.

Incorporate Odd Numbers

When garnishing and portioning ingredients. Odd numbers do wonders when it comes to food presentation. Artful plating incorporates variety. Odd numbers of components like three ravioli or five haricots verts are more interesting than even pairs. The unevenness creates movement and delights the eye as it flows across the plate.


Play With Proportions

I carefully consider proportion when food presentation is the focus. The star of the dish is featured prominently with supporting sides artfully framed around. For example, an ample tenderloin takes center stage while the potatoes and vegetables are thoughtfully portioned as accents. Getting the proportions just right ensures an ideal bite each time.

Leave Negative Space

Don’t overcrowd or clutter the plate. I remind myself to leave ample negative space between the ingredients and leading up to the edges of plates and dishes. Negative space focuses the diner’s attention exactly where you want it. It also allows you to thoughtfully frame each component within the surrounding clean plate.

Consider Texture Contrasts

Beyond colors and shapes, textures add tactile variety and entice the appetite. I purposely pair contrasting textures like the juiciness of fresh tomato against the creaminess of mashed potatoes. A crispy crystalized chicken skin is another favorite. Varying textures excite both the palate and presentation.

Roasted Crispy Skin Chicken With Mashed Potato
Roasted Crispy Skin Chicken With Mashed Potato


Drizzle With Intent

One of my favorite plating techniques is taking advantage of the beautiful trail left when sauces and vinaigrettes are artfully drizzled onto the plate. I get creative with smears, straight lines, dots, and other patterns to adorn proteins or seasonal vegetables. Drizzling brings elegance through both taste and presentation.

Garnish With A Purpose

No plated dish is complete without a perfect garnish. Sprigs of fresh herbs, edible flowers, chopped nuts, and microgreens. These are my go-to garnishes to provide the final touch. I carefully select and position garnishes to complement other components. This is like a frame that completes a painting. This thoughtful detail finishes the food presentation.

Insanely Good Chocolate Mousse
Insanely Good Dark Chocolate Mousse

Use Plating To Tell A Story

In my view, the best plating tells a thoughtful story. The ingredients, flavors, and preparation involved in crafting the meal are conveyed through a harmonious arrangement. Seasonality and passion come across in the details. This storytelling instills pride and attention to detail in my cooking.


Experiment With Plate Styles

An often overlooked plating tip is choosing plates, boards, and surfaces that complement the food. Patterns on plates can frame simply presented dishes. Wooden boards offer rustic charm while sleek slate can modernize a presentation. I get creative with my “canvas” to enhance the overall dining experience.

Medium Roasted Lamb Served On A Wooden Board
Medium Roasted Lamb Served On A Wooden Board

Develop Your Own Style

Just like with cooking techniques, plating has recognizable styles. Find what you love by looking at inspirational photos and experimenting. Over time, my personal plating preferences emerged into my signature style. Then I refined and perfected it. Maybe you prefer minimalist plates or architectural presentations. Your unique style is part of the art.

Practice Plating At Home

Even during home-cooked family meals, I practice plating in ways that feel fun and creative. The more you deliberately compose dishes with care, the more second nature beautiful presentation becomes. Use low-stakes at-home meals to hone your skills.


Invest In Quality Tools

Having quality tools at your fingertips facilitates plating success. I recommend investing in small spoons, tweezers, squeeze bottles, a melon baller, and other specialty items. The right kitchen tools allow you to intricately stack, drizzle, and embellish with ease. They’re essential for every aspiring platter.

  1. What Are Some Basic Plating Tips For Beginners To Improve Presentation?

    Some basic plating tips are to start with evenly portioning ingredients. Use odd numbers for garnish. Use height to add dimension, and incorporate contrasting colors and textures. Leave negative space around components, and pay attention to the plate style. Even simple improvements can make a difference.

  2. What Are Common Plating Mistakes To Avoid?

    Here are some of the common plating mistakes to avoid. Crowding the plate, not leaving negative space. Lack of color contrast, sloppy or uneven drizzles. Overcomplicating the presentation, and poor proportions that don’t highlight the star ingredient.

    A common mistake I see when cooks are plating food is the lack of height. They place everything on the plate which makes the dish look one-dimensional and boring. Another common mistake I see is minimal to no garnishes.

  3. How Do I Come Up With Unique Plating Ideas?

    Ways of coming up with unique plating ideas are drawing inspiration from nature, artwork, and other chef’s plating ideas. Also, telling a story about the dish’s flavor profiles can guide the presentation.

Final Thoughts

Perfectly executed taste with artful presentation creates a sensational dining experience. Mastering plating techniques demonstrates a passion for food and visual aesthetics that diners notice and appreciate.

I encourage all cooks and chefs to view every plate as a new opportunity to create food into an artistic showpiece. With practice, you can learn to plate dishes as skillfully as you craft the flavors. Turn every meal into a visually stunning culinary delight for patrons.

Skillful food presentation makes for an exciting dining experience. It touches all your senses and demonstrates the care and creativity the chef has put into the food. Food presentation it’s easier than you think.