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Glam up the grub

I truly believe in the saying, “You eat with your eyes”. This was something I learnt way back when I first started off making gelato at Mama Mia! Just like a bit of hair styling and makeup can transform an ordinary looking person into a model, it takes simple food styling tricks to make “aloo gobhi” look glam!

In today’s culinary world, serving food on anything but a plate is considered ‘cool’. Restaurants are getting very innovative in their food presentation and we all love it. Wouldn’t you like to impress your guests at home and take your food to another level? Here are some simple tips which will go a long way in adding that ‘wow factor’ –

Mono portions

I prefer serving appetizers and desserts in individual bite size portions. These look very elegant, don’t leave the dish looking messy after the first couple of guests have dug into it and save the hassle of passing around a heavy platter in the middle of social chatter. Use shot glasses, espresso cups or transparent disposable cups for mini salads, dips, soups, hot appetizers and desserts.

Adapt the size of the individual serving based on whether it’s a buffet or sit down meal. Take into consideration the rest of the menu. This is a classic gazpacho (cold Spanish soup made with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers) served in two sizes - the shot glasses can be had while standing around whereas the larger glasses are perfect for the first course of a sit down lunch.

Serve ware and Crockery

Has anyone ever told you “white suits you a lot” or “you should wear blue more often”…?

Well, the same applies to food. The serving ware used can make or break the visual appeal of the food on it. I recommend sticking to neutral colours like grey, black, white, navy blue and earthy colours. Any material will do although my personal preference is ceramic, clay and stoneware. This will make the rice, curry or salad the real star. Avoid crockery with patterns on them and platters with a dominating design. Ideally, you want people to say

“Wow that looks delicious” rather than “What a nice plate. Where did you get it from..” and all your hard work in the kitchen goes unnoticed.

For a rustic look, use wooden chopping boards. They are not very expensive and you could even get them made by a carpenter in various sizes.

Bright coloured plates may work with cakes and desserts as long as they go well together. In this picture, the turquoise platter blends in with the pink, green and white on the cake without stealing the thunder. However, I’m not sure a red plate would have looked as great.

Garnish and finishing touch

You don’t put anything on the plate which is not edible or doesn’t taste nice. This mistake sent many a contestant home on Masterchef Australia and is a rule of thumb that is well embedded in my head. I was a judge at a cooking competition last month and a particular team made a delicious vegetable and rice dish but garnished the plate with raw eggplants and potatoes cut in fancy shapes!!!

Save some of the cooked veggies that go into your pasta sauce or curry and use them to decorate the top of your dish when serving. This gives a visual idea of what is inside and stimulates the taste buds even before smelling or tasting.

Fresh herbs are the best garnish as a spurt of green is always therapeutic, not to mention their lovely scent. However, wilted and stale green leaves are an eye sore. Keep herbs fresh by dunking them in some ice water while you are cooking. Store them in air tight containers in the fridge and you will have pretty perky leaves for days.

Sliced raw vegetables add a burst of colour while providing a delicate fresh look. I love making thin discs of red radish, turnips and beetroot with a carving knife or a mandolin. Thin strips of red chilies and spring onions add a nice finishing touch to Asian and Indian cuisine.

My top tips to bring out the chef in you!

1. Add a drizzle of oil or melted butter to your dish for some gloss

2. For buffet layouts, play around with heights by placing platters on upturned bowls of various sizes

3. Use unusual props for presenting your food. Muffin tins make fun trays.

4. DIY cake stand- place a plate on an upside down cake tin or for a rustic cake stand

5. Less is more. Leave space around the food. Refill the serving dish later if you have to.

6. When planning the menu, play around with colours, textures and tastes for maximum appeal. We all love variety.

7. For appetizers with a dipping sauce, place a dollop of the sauce below or above the piece. This saves the sauce bowl from becoming messy with crumbs.

8. Food presentation is a form of art. It’s all about making beautiful dishes with your imagination and creativity. I learn and try something new each day. Look around for inspiration and add your own personal flair. You will soon be creating culinary art as well!

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