What Is Plating, And Why Is It A Key Element In Gastronomy?
Image Credit: Plating | Image Credit: Unsplash.com

The modern culinary landscape is mostly driven by visual content on sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and others. Engagement on these platforms accounts for a large portion of the interest that drives customers to various types of culinary enterprises today. Clearly, the importance of a visually appealing product is greater than ever. Whether it's a beautifully displayed dish at a fancy dining establishment, a tasty-looking cross section of a croissant or sandwich, or even latte art, Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the significance of aesthetic attractiveness as a determinant in the overall dining experience. The area has been thoroughly researched from a variety of approaches, ranging from quantitative and qualitative client preferences to recognizing aesthetic trends.

Context is critical in understanding how food presentation influences the ultimate customer. Consider fast food and fine dining through the lens of symmetry and expressivity as a major visual aspect to demonstrate this. In a fine dining restaurant, an intricate dish comprised of a variety of skillfully prepared foods does not have to be symmetrical to be appealing to a customer. Negative space, random splashes of color from sauces and infused oils, and even varied shapes assembled in a highly expressive manner can be used on the plate. Expressive plating is utilized in fine dining restaurants to generate a sense of excitement and surprise, as well as to tell a story, where the plate can also be considered a component of the composition. In contrast, traditional plating is employed in a regular restaurant to provide a sense of familiarity and comfort for the client, and the plate is viewed as a functional element. In a clockwise direction, you may find a piece of meat, some veggies, and a carbohydrate such as mashed potatoes or bread.

One of the most well-known dishes from the fine dining world is "oops I dropped the lemon tart" from Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy; regarded as the world's No. 1 restaurant at one point in time, it seems to capture the relevance of an experimental and expressive approach to plating style.

According to research published in the Food Quality and Preference Journal, "classical" aesthetics are favored at typical casual dining facilities with symmetrically arranged plates, whereas the converse is true in contemporary fine dining establishments.

Beyond personal preference, the impact of visual display can influence elements such as portion size, flavor, and even nutritional value. A well-plated dish can make the food look more enticing, which can improve its taste. Another study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference in 2014 discovered that when food was presented in a visually appealing and arranged manner, participants assessed the food as tasting better than when it was presented haphazardly. A study published in the journal "Appetite" in 2011 found that visual signals such as the use of bright and vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables can promote the notion that a dish is more nutritious and healthy. Furthermore, the way food is presented in terms of portion size can influence how it is perceived. According to a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2020, presenting a dish on a small plate can create the perception that the portion size is smaller and more reasonable, making it appear healthier.

The history of plating may be traced to the 19th century, when French chefs began to focus on food presentation and plate arrangement. The classical plating style, which emphasizes symmetry, balance, and the utilization of traditional techniques, was formed with this. 

With the rise of nouvelle cuisine in the 20th century, contemporary plating began to emerge, emphasizing the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients and a focus on the natural qualities of the food. This plate style is characterized by its simplicity and minimalism, with a focus on the quality of the ingredients rather than the presentation.

Plating has evolved in recent years, becoming even more imaginative and artistic.

Modern trends include the use of unusual and unexpected ingredient combinations, highly expressive and experimental plating techniques based on ideas such as negative space, an emphasis on local and seasonal products, and the use of natural and sustainable materials.

As a key component of the overall dining experience, plating has evolved into an essential feature of gastronomy. It has evolved into an art form that allows chefs to express their creativity and technique while also telling a story through the cuisine they serve.