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Cold Food Plating: Techniques and Tips

Chef Ravi Kumar Reddy Varikuti works as a Garde Manger-Chef Instructor at Culinary Academy Of India


Artistic, appropriate placement of foods, accompaniments and garnishes on a food plate – this is what food plating is about. And a creative plate of food can sometimes be all the difference between a good meal and a great meal. Food plating requires a creative, calculated approach and a lot of care goes into this process of creating the right look.


But why do we plate food? What are the goals?

Simply put, food presentation can greatly elevate or deflate your dining experience. At a core level it boils down to this - a neatly decorated plate of food increases the visual appeal, thereby stimulating appetite and increasing the satisfaction derived while eating and once done.

However, it’s not only about looking good.

One has to consider all different human senses at work and the food plate needs to add harmony across all these senses. In short, food plating always follows a very strong culinary logic.

Now let’s take a look at how food plating impacts all our senses:

  1. Sight: No one eats in the dark, that’s how important sight is to eating. From being able to spot an overripe spot in a banana to enjoying a colorful salad, light is essential so much so that even working with knives can be quite painful without light.
  2. Smell: Often the smell of a dish is enough to make one salivate. Closely attributed to flavor and its perception (why everything tastes bland during a cold), there’s a reason your nose evolved to sit right above the mouth.

3.Taste: Everyone wants to eat food that tastes amazing. But there’s also hard lines chef need to draw to assure palatability and presentation. So while plating, you can’t simply put things that look good and colorful. There needs to be a taste and flavor balance across the dish as well.

4.Touch: Sticky cutlery and crockery reduces the appeal of the entire plate, even if you’ve cooked the best looking meal and presented it well. And while plating, removing grease, sauce and oil stains and other splash marks goes a long way in reducing this unappetizing sensation.

5.Sound: Slightly away from the core of plating but equally important in restaurant behavior, especially when you consider guests order what “sounds good”. Detailing a recipe can go a long way in increasing its appeal and order rate.

To cater to your senses, there’s a lot of different ideologies you can apply. Below are a few basic ideas and techniques you could try while plating cold food:

Service Plate – Choosing the right style of plate is essential. The plate should not be too big or small. It shouldn’t be dotted or really colorful either. Table size and shape matters too.


Color – A cornerstone of good plating, fresh and vibrant colors go as far as affecting the human psychology of hunger. A unique, never seen before colored plate always looks like a must try in front of colors you’re used to seeing commonly. So be sure to add beautiful colors to your plate..


Texture – The “tongue-feel” of your plate is super important and that’s where textures come in. Texture is how one differentiates between a potato mash and potato fries, and using the same ingredient in different textures makes the plate look and taste more appetizing.


Focal point – Build your plate around a focal point. Constructing the rest of the dish around this means you’ve a great starting point to begin with. The best part, there’s no set rules about this so you can keep it where ever you’d like in whatever shape you want.


Garnish – A garnish acts as an accent to the focal point, and is always edible. Here’s where the principle of “being there because it looks good” comes in. A garnish must be present to first enhance the flavor of the dish, and never for decoration alone.


Portion Size – Never serve more. A good way to calculate this is by using the plate logic which goes, 2/3rd filled and 1/3rd empty. Serving too much, or too little can take you away from the food experience or make you love-regret each bite you take respectively. Never serve less either.

Temperature – Temperature is of paramount importance for cold plating. Keeping plates in chillers and laying out meats on ice beds can go a long way in ensuring longevity and safety of the produce.

Research has shown that the human body experiences the world sight first, and then uses the other senses to confirm or contradict what it has seen. When food is approached this way, plating becomes significantly important – and this science is why individuals are willing to pay unreasonable prices for simple foods.

It must also be said that no plating technique is perfect on its own and there’s no only correct way to plate a dish. Iterating and innovating are supremely important here, and by visualizing and drawing out a rough sketch, you can get an idea of the direction you’re heading with your plate. Just remember to keep it simple and creative.

And don’t get too attached to preserving your plating. Remember, “It’s only when plates return empty that a chef knows they’ve done a good job.”

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 BrandCai

Comments on February 06, 2021:

This is i an eye opener....very academic approach and good for students who will learn the art of making cold plates. Today when I was working on the ship I realised that plating of the food is the biggest challenges for the chefs as we have the same guests for more than a week and we have to give them different foods to make them happy. These plating trends are3 very important and also helpful. Culinary Academy of India has been a well known culinary institute and I feel proud that young faculty members do such great job in teaching others.

Shiv Thakur

Princess Cruise Lines.

ANKIT MATHUR on February 06, 2021:

It is very informative with good content.

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