How can I learn how to plate prettier?
Any sources (ideally online) for a non-artistic person to learn how to plate better?
I'm not great with plating. Always feels like the plate doesn't look as good as the food tastes! I regularly host dinner parties in my home, and I like to do a lot of different courses -- sadly, I usually end up with 5-7 courses of just the food in the center of the plate because I have no idea how to nicely arrange things or put a decorative garnish or sauce somewhere.
Anyone on CH an artistic plater? Tell me your secrets!
I would suggest you just look at some pictures of your favorite restaurants online on their websites. as they usually have photo galleries.of their menu items. If that's not possible, just look at pictures in food magazines. That should take care of placement ideas.
The real secret of plate presentation is the way you prep the items.....beef or fish cuts, vegetable cuts and your starch. By showcasing your knife skills with food preparations, you can attractively place the cooked/prepared results onto any dis, e.g., Thinly sliced pork loin which you can fan out 3 or 4 slices, or julienne cut vegetables.
Last, learn how to contrast the colors between your protein, vegetables and starch.
For something online, you might want to try browsing through Tastespotting.
You'll have to sift through a lot of closeup shots of the "featured item", but there are quite a few submissions that show "plated" shots .
The upside of going there (or foodgawker.com) is that after something has caught your eye and you've figured out why you said to yourself, "That looks good" you can then click on the picture to get the recipe.
Bourdain famously wrote that all you need to do pretty plating is a metal ring and a squeeze bottle.
Rather than the usual "pie chart" arrangement on a round plate, divide the plate in longitudinal thirds - e.g. three 3" wide strips for a 9" diameter plate. If you place the vegetable in the middle and the meat and starch on either side, you'll have the additional benefit of automatically making the vegetable the largest portion on the plate, which is what most of us should be doing to eat more healthfully. Visually, it's more interesting because it's unexpected, and if you rotate the plate you get different looks.
Also have a sketch book and a camera (take photos of everything you make, take photos of everything someone else makes, take photos of everything you order etc).
You can always practice before the big event and say cook up portions of the recipe and try them out.
I agree with Aravisea/Bourdain (metal ring and squeeze bottle) and Monavano (white plates), and would add - garnishes. A sprig or sprinkling or something in a contrasting color does wonders for making a plate look finished - of course parsley is tried and true, but there are many other options. If I have used a fresh herb in the preparation I like to use that as the garnish as well - rosemary, sage, and mint all work wonderfully. Slivered or chopped nuts also work, as does a thin wheel of citrus or a dollop or drip of something white, like creme fraiche, sour cream, or yogurt.
Not to digress, but - I find that more and more I lean toward going family-style at my dinner parties. My guests are always friends and family, and I just like the ease and intimacy of passing dishes and letting people take as much as they want rather than plating each individual dish. Lately, I seem to tend toward restaurants that do this as well (e.g. Craft), which I think has boosted my confidence that it's a good way to go.
A few things that work for me:
1. Negative space. This holds for individual plates and platters. Make sure your food is coming to the rim of the plate. Try and make sure there's some space between things.
2. Big bunches of things. Do you ever watch Barefoot Contessa? Her big thing is to not have little bits of things here and there on a platter. For example, in a cheese plate, have a pile of cheese in three different corners and then in between them pile one big bunch of grapes in one spot, a pile of strawberries in another part and figs in another part.
3. Contrasting colors. If you have something that's one color, add a garnish that is a contrasting color. For example, a big piled of cut turkey needs some herbs in the corner of the platter or even a pile of cranberry sauce in a bowl ON the platter to set off the turkey.
4. Height. That's where those ring things help, but layer things in in contrasting colors. One a single plate you can do a glob of polenta topped with short rib and then with parsley sprinkled on top.