Let’s face it: There are many varying degrees of “foodies” in the world today. There are the ones who can truly whip up a five-course meal, the ones who fall somewhere in between by ordering Blue Apron for some meal prep assistance, and those who read up on every new restaurant opening to be the first in line, but when it comes to home cooking tend to opt for a microwave rather than a stove. No matter which category you fall into though, the art of making your food look great—whether it’s just for you or for the world—is no simple task.
That’s why we employed the help of Eden Grinshpan, a talented chef in her own right (and graduate of Le Corden Bleu in London). Eden currently hosts Top Chef Canada and is well-known on her various social media channels as @EdenEats. Plus, she’s currently working on opening her own Middle Eastern themed restaurant later this year with ESquared Hospitality’s Samantha Wassar, called Dez. Below, Eden breaks down the basics to plating all different food types—no matter your skill level.
Let's start with the "basics." First of all, is there a rule of thumb for color coordination on a plate?
There is no rule of thumb, but it's always important to give the plate a pop of color. You eat with your eyes first, and I always keep that in mind.
What about with food textures? If you're dealing with things like soup or hummus, what can you add to the plate to liven it up?
I love layering flavors and textures. A great way to do so would be through herbs, nuts, spices, fresh lemon zest, a drizzle of olive oil to finish things off...etc. There are so many ways to liven up dishes.
When dealing with meat like chicken or steak, what's the best way to display it and show off your handiwork?
It really depends on how you cook it; if it's roasted, I like to layer it with a grain or a vegetable and top with either a herbed vinaigrette or just fresh herbs. The steak is always best served after rested and sliced against the grain so you can see the beautiful pink inside. Serve it with roasted veg, a salad, and again, a fresh herb sauce like chimichurri.
Pasta often gets a bad reputation as a messy food, but chefs can make it look oh-so-clean on plates. What's the trick?
The trick is to sauce the noodles before plating. Place the al dente pasta in the sauce on the stovetop, and place each pasta one at a time—or, if it's spaghetti, toss in sauce and twirl in a big fork and place directly on the plate to serve. I always love to finish my pasta off with freshly grated parm and a drizzle of olive oil.
Are there any tricks you can share for upgrading the plating of simple foods like sandwiches or finger foods?
When plating, I like to give my food height, which makes the food look fresh and alive. Layer the sandwiches in a way that one is propped up on the side of the other, and always, always garnish with a fresh salad, vegetables, or fruit.
And finally, do you have anything else that you think you've found helpful along the way to make tricky foods look great on a plate?
Never underestimate the power of fresh herbs.