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What's that doing there? Or "too many things on the plate"

I blame the cooking shows on TV, where they are always itemizing the 57 ingredients they put on the plate. In the hands of a great chef, layering and contrasting ingredients can be amazing, but in the hands of a not-so-great chef, it's just bizarre.

A recent example: I ordered grilled lamb chops. The lambchops themselves were excellent, as was the bed of polenta they were sitting on. But what was with the "orzo salad" (I usually like orzo, but this had way too much cucumber, sort of a chopped cucumber-tomato salad with orzo) and why were there four big scoops of it? Even more puzzling, if you're going for a Greek (or at least, Mediterranean) themed plate, what the hell did the herbed creme fraiche have to do with it? And why was it sitting in a little stainless steel cup wedged onto the plate overflowing with chops, polenta and orzo salad?

KISS: keep it simple, stupid!

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  1. They would have lost me at polenta *and* orzo salad.

    I, too, blame food tv to an extent because everyone thinks they can pull it off like a trained and talented chef.

    One word: edit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monavano

      Right. Lamb chops with polenta OR lamb chops with orzo would both have made sense (even if the orzo was not to my taste). And the herbed creme fraiche might have made sense with potato gratin or something. But the Italian-Greek-French combo was nonsensical!

    2. I use to be guilty of putting too many things on the plate. Now before I design a menu I always ask myself what can I remove from my dishes rather than "what can I add?"

      1. Yes, that makes you wonder what were they thinking but consider other cuisines. For example, the Hawaiian lunch plate with rice & macaroni salad. To me, that's odd but I'm in NC where a plate with two carbs like mac & cheese and potato salad pair perfectly with fried or bbqued meats. However, these sides accompanying those lamb chops you described would be out of order for me. Go figure. I guess you never know what is in the mind of the person putting the dish together.

        1. I think restaurant (and home) cooking went through a phase of over complicating dishes during the 1990s. Foams for foams sake, if you see what I mean. Mercifully, cooking seems to be returning to an earlier time of taking good ingedients and not doing very much with them. Everything on the plate should be contributing the whole.

          1. Your "recent example" sound very odd Polenta and Orzo on the same plate? Crème Fraîche with Lamb?
            I have found that "Too Much Stuff Syndrome" it is usually a sign of an insecure or/and inexperienced Cook/Chef.
            May be it is TV, like people needing to swerve to the right before making a left ,like they see in the Movies. Dead Stupid

            1. I think a lot of it is percieved value for the customer. A plate of polenta and lamb doesn't sound as "expensive" as it does with the additions- even if they are weird and don't work i think the restaurant is able to price that dish higher (even though cucumbers and orzo are fairly cheap)

              1. Every now and then Chefs will try to be clever in the Kitchen.I suppose with the Herbed cream to the side was meant to be a good addition if you chose to use it.We ordered a Pizza once and the cook decided to be clever and top the Pizza with some strange cheese.I believe it was Fetta Cheese.

                1. When it comes to food, one can never have too much on one's plate.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: beevod

                    I know thats right.My stomach is like a bottomless pit when it comes to good food.If the food isn't good I wonder if I might teach the cook a thing or two.Hey someone got taken to Judge Ross court about inviting themselves to teach the cook.

                    1. re: beevod

                      There's a difference between "too much" and "too many things" though!