Module 10 

A Guide to Food Presentation

Goals & Objectives

10.03: Food Plating Techniques

An understanding of food plating techniques will help you to improve overall presentation and enhance the dining experience for you and your guests. Check out the video below on food presentation for a visual guide:

10.04: Before Plating

Before you begin preparing your dish, you should consider the kind of food you are serving. Are you making a steak dinner, or are you preparing a side dish or appetizer? You can't start building your plate until all of your flavors are finalized, so it is always wise to have your ingredients prepared before you begin the actual plating process.

Additionally, you will need to consider portion sizes before you begin plating. Focus on balancing your protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable to create a nutritionally balanced meal. Ultimately, carefully placed ingredients create art, but presentation should never overshadow the taste of your dish.

10.05: The Elements of Plating

1. Choose the Perfect Plate

Choose the Right Design
One way to conceptualize plating is to think of yourself as an artist, the plate as your canvas, and the food as your medium.


Choose the Right Size
Choose your plate wisely by making sure it is big enough to allow your food to stand out, but small enough that your portions do not look too small.

Choose a Complementary Color 
The color of your plate is also important. White plates are popular because they create high contrast and provide a neutral background. Utilize white space by thinking of the rim as your frame. Then consider using the rule of thirds to highlight your plate's focal point(s).

2. Proper Placement

Plate with a Clock in Mind 
As you begin plating your ingredients, picture the face of a clock. From the diner's point of view, your protein should be between 3 and 9, your starch or carbohydrate from 9 and 12, and your vegetable from 12 and 3.


Use Moist Ingredients as the Base
Another rule of thumb is to plate moist or runny ingredients first, since they tend to move during delivery. One way to anchor runny ingredients is by placing other foods on top of them. 


Serve Odd Amounts of Food 
If you are serving small foods like shrimp or bite-sized appetizers, make sure to give guests odd quantities. Serving 7 red potatoes instead of 6 creates more visual appeal.


Place Food to Create Flavor Bites
Flavor bites are forkfuls of food that combine all of the ingredients in your dish into one bite. Creating flavor bites is the perfect accompaniment to creative plating - - it pleases both the eye and the taste buds.


Don't Overcrowd your Plate
Keep it simple by focusing on one ingredient - - typically the protein. Finding a focal point also ensures that the accompanying ingredients will play a complementary role.


3. Pay Close Attention to Details

Think about Color and Contrast
One of the best kept secrets to beautiful plating is paying attention to all of the details. While your focus will be on the protein, considering how the other elements of the plate create color and contrast is also very important. You can create an elegant background for the plate by adding green vegetables or brightly colored fruits as accent points. Additionally, try to pair ingredients with complementary colors as this will further enhance the dish's visual appeal.

Create Height on the Plate 

Creating a tall plate can go a long way towards enhancing visual appeal. You can also balance out taller ingredients by leaning long, flat items against them. For example, you can plate your steak on top of mashed potatoes and place asparagus spears against them at a 45-degree angle.

Use Texture to Enhance the Dish
Contrasting a smooth vegetable puree with crunchy onion straws or topping a steak with crumbled blue cheese creates appealing texture combinations that are classic in high end cuisine.

4. Design, Create and Utilize Sauces and Garnishes Purposefully

Once you have plated your main ingredients, you are ready to top your dish with delicious sauces. Don't just pour the sauce recklessly all over the plate, though. Instead, think of your squeeze bottle or spoon as a paintbrush, and your sauce as a medium. Then, use them to enhance your plate.

As you finish plating, don't forget to add garnishes. Remember, however, that garnishes must be related to the dish and should always be edible. They are ultimately designed to enhance and complement the flavors of the entree, not distract from them.

10.06: Plating Tools

There are a broad variety of tools that are used for plate presentations including squeeze bottles, spoons, thin-offset spatulas, and brushes for applying sauces on the plate. Tweezers and chop sticks assist in placement of components and delicate garnishes. Slotted, flexible fish spatulas work well for delicate fish and similar items. Stacking rings and geometric molds help to keep the food contained and add height to the layout. Although tongs are useful for sturdy items like steaks and chops, small serving spoons should be used when plating delicate foods including vegetables.

10.07: Plating Styles

Plating styles are plentiful and have many wider applications including buffet display and shop windows. Like any art form, influences can be drawn out from the most abstract stimulus and there is always room for fresh ideas.

Vertical Forms

One of the best known plating trends, vertical forms can include sculptures, and foods built up in layers to create height. This plating trend is a very striking way to present your food to diners. But it can be applied to almost any dish, for example vegetables or shrimps can be layered over a piece of meat, fish or polenta at a 45 degree angle to create this effect. 


Another popular food plating trend is a technique which involves arranging food into a pattern similar to the scales of a fish. Some examples of scaling use potatoes, fruit, thinly sliced fish or flower petals carefully arranged in layers to give this appearance.


Classical plating presents the food simply by using a clock face as a guide. From the diner's point of view protein is between three and nine o'clock, starch or carbohydrate from nine to twelve and vegetables from twelve to three.


Taking inspiration from landscape gardens not just a plating trend but has also been the influence for many items of tableware. Nature is beautifully simple yet complex the more you look, and this approach works incredibly well in food plating.

Free Form

Free form plating is the ultimate abstract form of food presentation, best compared with the style of painting. There are no rules when it comes to free form, but it involves plating a dish in a seemingly random but intriguing way.

10.08: Review/Critical Thinking

Please complete the following questions. It is important that you use full sentences and present the questions and answers when you submit your work.


Go to the Assessment area in the course to complete the assignment Review and Critical Thinking and submit the work as a file attachment.


The answers to the Review and Critical Thinking Questions are worth 10 points.

10.09: Cooking Assignment #10

For this assignment, you will create a dish of your own and choose a plating style from above to showcase your meal. Your dish will need a protein (main), starch and a vegetable. It is your choice as to what you want to make, but be sure it is something that you and your family will enjoy. Submit a video or photos of you preparing your plate along with things you liked, disliked, would change if you had to do it again, etc.  Submit this assignment in the assessments area when complete.

Plating Your Dish

10.10: Module 10 Quiz

Before you take the quiz for this unit take a moment to review what you have learned.

When you feel that you are ready to complete the Module 10 Quiz, A Guide to Food Presentation, click HERE.

A Guide  to Food Presentation

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