Plate Presentation & Food Styling Tips

09/23/2016 04:39 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2016

Good plate presentation is what makes the difference between a cook and a chef. The first way we enjoy a dish is with our eyes – it’s all about impressing the diner and making the plate look so visually enticing that they just have to dive straight in.

Classic food styling was all about hosting three key elements: the main ingredient which was set at 6 o’clock, the starch between 9 and 12 o’clock and the vegetable between 12 and 3.

This is still valid today but the key thing is to be creative, think about your plates and plan what it’s going to look like in advance. Ultimately remember that this is your plate of food – it represents you – so you decide what you want to put on it!

Here are some essential plating hints and tips to help you on your way.

Top tips for professional food presentation

Here are some essential hints and tips to help get you started and plating like an expert.

Think about the plate

Image via Tamarind Collection

● Serve hot food on a hot plate

● Serve cold food on a cold plate

● Size of the plate affects perception of portion size – fill the plate for a hearty effect, or leave a lot of space to appear minimalist

● Shape of the plate will frame your dish in a certain way

● The usual advice is to use a plain white plate, but think about the colour of your dish and whether a different choice could make it more visually appealing

Have a focal point

Image via Tamarind Collection

The main ingredient on your plate should be the largest portion with everything else there to highlight and compliment it

● Don’t overload the plate as this will always look messy

● Arrange things in odd numbers

Balance every element

Image via Tamarind Collection

● Balance bright and neutral colours to avoid food looking too plain or garish

● Include complimentary textures, e.g. soft and crisp, smooth and crunch

● Make sure elements are evenly spaced

● Add some height to avoid a totally flat plate

● Use a variety of shapes

Keep it clean

Image via Didriks

● Wipe the plate of crumbs, sauce and finger marks

● If cooked in oil, use kitchen paper to dab away excess oil or liquid

Garnish with purpose

Image via Tamarind Collection

Don’t include garnish for the sake of garnish – use a garnish that looks good but also makes sense to have on the plate. Some chefs are firm believers in only using ingredients to garnish that have been used elsewhere on the plate. Personally I think it’s up to you as the cook.

Use liquid elements wisely

Image via Tamarind Collection

With any liquid element don’t just pour it all over, as this will hide all the work you have put into the meal.

You could put it on your plate first and build the meal around it – although you have to work fast though as the sauce will lose its optimum temperature.

You could also serve it separately in individual spouts, take it to the table for a little theatre, or add dots and swirls for artistic flair. Be careful with this last one though, as messing it up could potentially spoil the whole look of the plate.


Seems like an obvious thing to say, but practice really does make perfect. Try out different arrangements for the same dish, stick them on your Instagram, as people what they think.

I have also created an amazing Plating Guide for you to down load or print so you can use it wherever you need to impress!

<a href="" target="_blank">Plating Guide</a>

Happy plating!

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