Food Plating for Culinary Arts
Did you ever notice how the way your food is plated changes your perception of how the food tastes? Food plating is a fun and essential addition to your Culinary Arts class because it applies to every day as well as creating an art form. It is the art of placing food on a plate in a way that is visually appealing while enhancing the presentation. There are many different ways that you can incorporate this in your classroom, let’s look at some food plating ideas.
They say “You eat with your eyes first”. Many teens, may not have had the luxury of being presented with a beautifully plated meal. I like to start by showing them a video or 2 on food plating to hook their attention. This one has no words but is pretty to watch:
1- Show them a video of professional food plating to give them some ideas and inspiration. It also helps them to understand the purpose and importance of food plating. Often, I find that showing my students videos to introduce to reinforce a concept is the best way to show visuals. This video shows top chefs and the ways they work with the appearance of food.
Also, have a discussion about the biggest mistakes when food plating to improve the appearance of a main dish including:
- Cluttered Plate: Overcrowding a plate with too many elements can make the dish look disorganized and unappetizing. Leaving some negative space on the plate, especially on the edge of the plate can help the dish stand out and highlight the key elements.
- Mismatched Colors: Color is an essential aspect of plating, and the wrong combination of colors can make a dish look unappetizing or unappealing. Aim for a harmonious blend of colors that complement each other, such as contrasting colors like green and red or complementary colors like yellow and purple.
- Messy Plating: A messy plate with smudged sauces, unevenly sized or shaped items, and untrimmed edges can take away from the dish’s presentation and make it look less appetizing. Make sure to clean the plate before plating and trim and shape the ingredients perhaps with smaller portions as needed for a clean and polished presentation.
- Uneven Portions: Portion control is essential in plating to ensure that each element is balanced and visually appealing. Uneven portion sizes can make the dish look unbalanced and unappetizing. Use measuring utensils or scales to ensure that each element is evenly sized and distributed.
- Lack of Attention to Detail: Little details can make a big difference in plating. Neglecting to wipe the plate’s edges, the shape of the plate, using mismatched cutlery or plates, or failing to garnish the dish can detract from the overall presentation. Make sure to pay attention to these details to give the dish a finished and polished look, this can make a huge difference.
By avoiding these common plating mistakes, students can find the best possible way to display their dishes and create visually stunning plates that are as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate.
2- Have them practice on paper – Give students some freedom to draw ingredients or dishes that you assign or they create on paper with colored pencils and have them create a beautiful dish. This is a creative way to help them to practice the proper food plating techniques. When it comes to a visually appealing plate, contrast is one of the most essential factors! Who wants a meal that is all brown or all green? I like to show students meals that are all one color or all one texture. We have a free food plating worksheet here that allows your students to analyze plates of food.
Using paper will also let them use vibrant colors they may not be able to use depending on your food budget. They can also play around with various shapes, modern garnishes, and their own culinary creation. If they do not like to draw, they can create one in Canva or PowerPoint with images from the internet.
Here’s a free food plating worksheet.
3- Let them practice with food- The Twinkie plating challenge where students have to plate a Twinkie with garnish and appeal or a brownie plating challenge where students make brownies and plate the dessert with some of the principles they learned.
Students love trying some hands-on food plating practice using different shapes and practicing a visual presentation that won’t take much time. You can have classroom guests judge the best-plated dessert! If you are in a budget or time pinch, purchase store-bought brownies or brownie ingredients and a bunch of dessert garnishes like chocolate syrup, sprinkles, powdered sugar, ice cream, cocoa powder, caramel, etc. A squeeze bottle is great for the use of sauces and decorating the plate.
Real Food Plating Ideas
To take it a step further, here is a list of ingredient ideas for food plating ideas that could be found at fine dining restaurants.
- Grilled chicken breast
- Steamed broccoli florets
- Roasted red peppers
- Sliced avocado
- Cooked quinoa
- Baby spinach leaves
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Diced tomatoes
- Chopped cilantro
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Toasted almonds
- Fried shallots
- Balsamic glaze
- Lemon wedges
- Sriracha sauce
- Grilled asparagus
- Sliced radishes
- Roasted sweet potato cubes
- Crispy bacon bits
- Toasted pine nuts
These ingredients can be combined in various ways to create a visually stunning and delicious dish. You can also adjust the ingredients depending on the theme or style of the plating challenge you have in mind. Remember to encourage students to be creative and think outside the box when it comes to plating their dishes.
4- Have students create fruit and vegetable art for more food plating ideas. This is a great way to allow students to use colorful ingredients which would look great on white plates that don’t require a ton of food items. Students can cut fruits and vegetables in appealing ways and present them on a plate. It is fun to let their classmates or other class periods judge their plates and have winners based on visual appeal. This will encourage them to create a well-plated dish while using the right plate size based on their ingredients.
Focaccia Bread is a fun food lab for practicing presentations. Read more about making focaccia bread with culinary arts students.
5- Using Food Photography. With the rise of social media, students have all seen food on their favorite social media platforms. Have them join in the fun and photograph their plated meal. You can even have them create an Instagram post with the picture and include a caption. This can be done on the computer or on paper and can be displayed for the class as a Gallery Walk.
You can show and teach students how to create high-quality images with even their cell phones (they may be able to teach you a thing or 2 as well). Discuss with them the importance of lighting, angles, and props to create a visually stunning photograph. Encourage them to experiment food plating ideas with different plating styles, color scheme, and presentations for their photographs.
6- Research a Plating Trend– Start the lesson by introducing the concept of food plating trends and discussing the importance of staying current with culinary trends.
First, assign each student a different food plating trend to research or allow them to choose. Some current food plating trends include:
- Geometric plating
- Minimalistic plating
- Deconstructed plating
- Rustic plating
- Monochromatic plating
- Natural and organic plating
- Retro-inspired plating
Encourage students to research the history, origin, and food presentation techniques behind the trend with new recipes, as well as notable chefs and restaurants that are known for using them.
- Presentation: Have each student present their findings to the class, including examples of the trend in use and their personal opinion on the trend. We have them use Google Slides for activities like this.
- Plating Challenge: Assign a plating challenge to the class based on the trends they researched. For example, if the trend was minimalistic plating, challenge students to create a visually stunning plate using only three ingredients.
- Feedback and Critique: Once the plating challenge is complete, provide feedback and critique on each student’s plate. Encourage students to offer constructive criticism to their peers and ask for feedback on their own plates.
- Reflection: End the lesson with a reflection on what the students learned and how they can apply their newfound knowledge of food plating trends in their own cooking and plating style.
By researching food plating trends, students can develop a deeper understanding of the culinary industry and learn to think critically about the presentation of food. It’s also a fun and engaging way to keep students up-to-date with the latest culinary trends!
7- Hold a Blind Plating Challenge: In this free-form plating challenge, students will be blindfolded and asked to plate a dish using only their sense of touch. Divide the class into teams and provide each team with a selection of pre-prepared ingredients for the best results. Blindfold one member from each team and have them feel the texture, shape, and size of each ingredient to create a plate. The other team members can guide and assist their blindfolded teammates.
After the challenge, have each team present their plate of food and discuss the choices they made. This exercise will help students develop their tactile skills and challenge their creativity when plating a dish.
This challenge can be adapted to different skill levels by providing varying levels of instruction and guidance for food placement. For example, for more advanced students, you could provide a selection of ingredients with varying textures and shapes, while for beginners, you could provide a more limited selection of ingredients.
Overall, this activity is a fun and interactive way to engage students in learning about food plating and help them develop their plating skills and plate presentations.
We have a full lesson on food plating including a slide show on food plating, guided notes, student questions, and more in both PowerPoint and Google.
Grab our full Food Plating Lesson Plan from our TPT store!
Here are some food plating videos that may be helpful for high school students:
- Food Styling by Bonus Basics by Babish
- The Art of Plating with Chef Michael Rollinson
- THIS ISN’T FOOD, THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE ART– a fun video about the amazing art that some chefs make with food.
These videos can serve as valuable resources for high school students to learn about food plating techniques, styles, and best practices. They can also inspire students to get creative and experiment with their own plating styles.