Chef Barry plates holiday dishes with pro techniques.

Pro Plating Tips for Holiday Hosting

Perfect presentation makes meals all the more memorable and festive.

If you’re taking on the challenge of hosting a holiday meal this year, Director of Culinary Research and Development Barry Tonkinson will explain how to manipulate your wonderfully cooked food to plate like a pro. With all of the vibrant colors and array of shapes due to make a star appearance on your plate, there are five factors for picture-perfect presentation.

  1. Choosing your plate:

    This step is quite often overlooked. Choosing a perfect canvas will allow you to create contrasting colors and shapes and enable you to provide maximum exposure for your food. Color and shape will let you display your food items best. Choosing a contrasting color palate will work to enhance your dish. For example, I like to use a dark, slate color for my Thanksgiving plate to show the contrast of the light-colored meat and the wonderfully colorful vegetables on offer. Raised edges will create a framework of sorts for your dish, and a large plate will allow each item to stand out, avoiding the overcrowding, which is all too common.

  2. Size matters:

    Take the time to separate your food items and understand how best to use their size and shape when visualizing your dish. Larger items should in general be placed at the back with smaller, more delicate items at the front. This will allow your guest to see every item clearly.

  3. Colors:

    Layering colors will add a vibrant visual aspect to your plate and show off each menu item. Put oranges and yellows against paler colors and greens against the reds and oranges. Each corner of your plate should pop with a new and exciting color profile. 

    Chef Barry plates holiday dishes with pro techniques.
    Chef Barry plates holiday dishes with pro techniques.

  4. Texture:

    Allow for contrasting textures. Here, I have plated crispy parsnips with soft creamy sweet potatoes along with sautéed cavolo nero (black cabbage) with crunchy toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. A good variation of textures allows the palate to be interested throughout the meal.

  5. Be prepared:

    With the hustle of getting everything ready to host the perfect holiday, don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time. Your sides preparation, such as delicious cranberry sauce, can be done well in advance. This will give you all the time to concentrate on basting your bird or preparing your main course and giving it all the attention it should receive. When you pull the turkey or main dish from the oven and leave it to rest before slicing, you can then begin to reheat your sides and put your sauces together.

Learn the science of professional plating with FOH dinnerware in ICE's culinary arts program.

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